Do You Have A
N.B. #1: This is another opinion piece and has not been edited by our in-house editor.
N.B. #2: This is the longest article I’ve written so far. According to my writing software, it’s going to take you 22 minutes to read it. So hold tight!
A personal take on the definition of the sought-after GADA timepiece
It wasn’t until I had gotten into watches for a few years that I came across the acronym GADA followed by the word “watch.” A go-anywhere-do-anything watch has become my obsession (or quest, if I want to be more gentle with myself) and the main reason why I collect watches. The idea of having one watch that can rule them all is an attractive one, if not a necessity. After all, most people who ever had a watch before the advance of technology—and the fact that we all are now equipped with a smartphone that tells time accurately—would only own one watch. They needed one watch to keep them organized and keep track of time, to make sure to drop off the kids at school on time, and get to the meeting on time. In a sense, they had GADA watches, although, as we will see, a GADA watch in the sense I understand can truly do it all.
What Is a GADA Watch?
As its name indicates, a GADA watch is a watch that can be worn in any and all situations, and let’s assume, still function properly while doing just that. More specifically, it’s a watch that can be worn at the office, on the weekends, while traveling. In my definition, it’s also a watch that can withstand inclement weather (rain, snow, dust storms) and get banged around a little bit (while hiking, swimming, working in the garden.) It’s also the type of watch that passes the daily, dreadful watch collector’s self-questioning of “What should I wear today?” Yes, I do have a specific—and extreme—definition of a GADA watch. After all, this is entirely subjective and personal.
While I started writing this article months ago, I recently got into an amicable debate with a fellow watch collector about the difference between a GADA watch and an everyday watch. To him, the latter is a watch that can be worn most days (as in comfortable and versatile) while the former is one that can be used in multiple situations (e.g., diving, working, hiking.) Again, going back to my extreme definition of a GADA watch, to me both are the same. A GADA watch is one that fulfills 100% of essential functions 95% of the time. For example, showing the time and date. These are essential functions for me. If the watch can do that in 95% of the situations—working, swimming, hiking—then it’s a GADA watch.
An everyday timepiece is one I can wear comfortably everyday. So it is clear that the definitions for both a GADA and everyday watch are not clear cut. And one can be swapped for the other, and one definition can be further refined one way or another. For the sake of this article, I’ll be talking about GADA in the sense of an everyday watch as well. Because again, both things are equal to me. This is not a hot take, just my opinion. So let’s dive in! (Pun intended because a diver can be a GADA watch!)
If a watch can be worn in all situations, it means it must have a design that is versatile. Think of the kind of watch James Bond wears in the eponymous movies: a Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster. Two watches that have a certain sporty flair but that also look at home at a cocktail party. (We all know how many times James Bond is seen schmoozing at fancy parties.) It cannot be a Casio G-Shock although many people would argue it could. I think it’s just nonsense as a G-Shock is made of plastic, is quite enormous, and by many commonly agreed-upon standards does not look good with a suit. What we’re looking for here are common ground ideas of what a GADA watch looks like.
So it cannot be a Cartier Tank either. It’s just too small for many wrists, looks too fancy with its Roman numerals and fully-polished case. I am aware that there are people who can sport a Tank with hiking gear, and although it does look good, we do generally question whether or not it is a good pairing. This brings us to an important point: a GADA watch, from a design perspective, cannot attract too much attention. “Why not?” you may ask. Well, and again remaining absolutely and genuinely subjective here, a GADA watch must not stand out and instead fulfill its duty discreetly and stealthily. Going back to the idea that people used to only own one watch: you got the watch because you needed it, not because it looked a certain way.
Furthermore, I for one do not feel comfortable wearing a luxury-looking timepiece in certain situations because I would be worried about getting it stolen. In my own opinion, I should be able to wear a GADA watch and not be concerned for its safety. Hence again the requirement that a GADA watch be more discreet than the opposite.
Before watches became items that we use to signal our status or tell the world who we are, watches were practical objects for most people. Although brands have been making attractive and uniquely-looking watches for a very long time, it would be fair to say that many watches worn by everyday people were somewhat plain and discreet. Look at Seiko’s entry-level watches that don’t look like a million bucks but more like tools that fulfills a perfectly designed function: telling time effectively. Watches back then were a necessary tool to keep track of time. Brands have been going wild with designs since watches became fashion items.
It is possible, then, to narrow the design to some core requirements to fulfill a particular definition of a GADA watch. First, the watch should be properly sized for the wrist. Neither too small where it looks gimmicky, nor too big where it looks silly. I have a 16cm (6.25” wrist) and my ideal proportions are as follows: a case diameter between 36 and 38mm, a lug-to-lug distance between 45mm and 47mm, and a thickness that doesn’t surpass the astronomical 14mm (ideally between 10 and 12mm.) These dimensions guarantee that the watch looks at home on my wrist. So I can virtually shop any website and buy any watch I can afford that have these dimensions and be guaranteed a good fit. Knowing how to select the right size for your wrist is a key element of proper watch collecting.
Let’s look at the dial now. Baton-style markers work in any and all-situations. They are effective, not too extravagant, and give the dial a neutral appearance. A dial with only Arabic numerals immediately looks too sporty, with one exception as we will see below. The Rolex Explorer 1 offers the ideal balance, at least to me, of sportiness and elegance by having Arabic numerals at the 3, 6, and 9 positions and batons everywhere else. This gives the dial an edge while being easy to read. The Seiko Alpinists also offer a nice balance by having Arabic numerals on the even markers, although it does make the dial look more sporty than the Rolex one. So batons all around are better for a GADA watch.
The hands also play a role in making a GADA watch. Baton-style hands are the most versatile as they are discreet but easy to read. Cathedral Hands, on the other hand, may give the watch too much of an old-school look although they are effective at telling the time. Broad arrow handsets are very legible but are a distinctive feature of sports watches. This is not to say that a GADA watch cannot have Cathedral or Broad Arrow hands, but it simply means that from a visual perspective, baton-style hands are the most versatile. These are the reasons why the famous Rolex Mercedes hands are so popular and effective: they are rather discreet but effective. Omega also produces long and somewhat restrained broad arrow handsets that are equally versatile.
The dial finish also plays an important role in defining versatility. Matte dials are synonymous with military watches, as it is necessary to prevent light from bouncing from the dial which would make reading the time more difficult. But matte dials do give any watch a more casual look, while a lacquered dial gives any watch an air of elegance, and now that we see Rolex and Omega giving its sport watches glossy dials, we can say that it is preferable. Furthermore, glossy dials are often paired with baton-style markers while matte-dials are often paired with Arabic numerals. Maybe there is something here of being so used to seeing this kind of pairing that I automatically assimilate glossy dials to baton markers and think it’s the perfect combo.
Last but not least: the case finish and treatment. A bead-blasted case won’t work in all situations as it looks too rugged. It looks cool, however and I wish more people would think this kind of finish works at the office. (It is possible to make exceptions for example an IWC Pro Pilot.) Conversely, entirely polished cases look too snazzy and will easily show scratches, prompting most people to want to keep their watches in a watch box. The ideal case finish is a mix of polished and finely-brushed surfaces or a fine-radial brushing all around the case. This way the watch does not look either too casual nor too dressy, and the combination of finishes create interesting (and entertaining) light plays.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: what about bracelets vs. straps? This is an excellent question, thank you for asking! Again, re-assuring all of you that this is highly personal, I prefer bracelets for a GADA watch because they are sturdy, they look good both dressed up and dressed down, and offer all-day comfort as long as the fit can be micro-adjusted. Straps are great too but not as versatile in my opinion. A beautiful Horween leather strap will look good at the office but won’t sustain repeated exposures to water. Rubber straps (tropic, FKM, etc.) are great for the outdoors, getting dirty and sweaty, but won’t make it at the office, with a few exceptions. That’s why I believe bracelets are the way to go.
(By the way, I could write another 20-minute long article just about bracelets.)
I almost forgot to talk about dial color. To put it bluntly: I’m a sucker for black dials. Not only because they offer great legibility, especially paired with white indices and minute tracks, but they also offer a simple, subtle elegance that can make a watch work in both dressy situations and adventurous ones. There is a reason why black dials work and it’s because they are versatile. I would venture in saying that dark gray and certain white dials work for me as well, however, a GADA watch, as we know, must somewhat fly under the radar and a white dial attracts more attention (especially since brands no longer make many white dials.) A simple glossy black dial with white lume is somewhat the sweet spot for a GADA watch.
When it comes to specifications, a GADA watch must meet certain criteria to guarantee it will be able to be used in most imaginable and realistic types of environments. Here we are naturally talking about technical specifications such as movement, water resistance, crystal, and construction. A GADA watch is not a dress watch, neither is it a Rolex Deep Sea or an Ultra Deep Omega Planet Ocean. On both sides of the spectrum, a watch can either be underdone or overdone, and the GADA watch sits comfortably in the middle. Going back to the section above, this watch must fit comfortably on the wrist and therefore not be too small nor too big. The ideal dimensions then dictate, to some extent, the specifications of the GADA watch.
When I think of a GADA watch, my mind immediately goes to water resistance that has to be at the minimum 100 meters, not because I intend to dive with the watch, but because having such water resistance almost inevitably means having a screw-down case back and crown. Both help with water resistance, although it is known that a push-pull crown can be seen on a 100-meter watch, what it does best is to keep dust and dirt away from the movement. Since a GADA watch can be used as much outdoors as it would be used indoors—for example, hiking, camping, going to the park or swimming in the pool—the GADA watch must be protected from the elements with a screw-down crown and case back.
The movement inside the GADA watch is equally important and must be reliable and easy to service. I don’t personally look down upon any movement manufacturer, and the GADA watch could be equipped with either a Swiss movement (Sellita, SOPROD, ETA) or a Japanese movement (Miyota or Seiko,) or even a good quality Chinese movement. The key is that the movement would be easy to service and keep good time. Not looking for a COSC-certified movement, which would make the GADA watch out of reach for many, but something like a Seiko NH35, Miyota 9000 series, or a Sellita SW200. More importantly: the movement should be able to be serviced anywhere for a reasonable cost.
(Yes, I will be discussing costs later on.)
For the material of choice for the case and bracelet I would go for stainless steel, and that for three reasons: it’s solid, inexpensive, and looks good for all types of watches. Of course, there are other materials that have certain advantages over stainless steel, for example titanium that is lighter and more resistant to scratches, but also more expensive to make especially to get the case brushed and not bead blasted. Another option is bronze which also costs more and patinas over time, not necessarily the quintessential design traits of a GADA watch. So stainless steel presents many advantages and few inconveniences. A well-made stainless steel case paired with a handsome stainless steel bracelet is golden.
Staying within the registry of durability is the question of the crystal. Over the years I’ve come to love plexiglass crystals which offer a warmer feeling to the dial and resist shocks better than sapphire, however they are more prone to scratches making the watch look imperfect most of the time. (Yes, scratches can be buffed with Polywatch, however, I do not want to spend my time buffing a crystal.) The logical choice is therefore sapphire (I’ll skip proprietary materials like Hardlex to get to the point here) which does have a higher resistance to scratches therefore being more convenient for daily use. Ideally—and I’m writing this as if I was writing my wish list to Santa Claus—the sapphire will be double-domed to give some gentle distortions at the edges of the dial and add visual appeal.
One element of the specifications that may surprise you that is of little importance to me is the lume. Good lume is a plus but not a necessity for me. So far, all of the design and specifications requirements that have been listed above come from understanding what I need the most, based on my years and years of wearing watches working in an office, traveling, hiking, diving, playing with my dog, and socializing with friends. And poor lume is not a deal breaker for me. However lume is worth mentioning when it comes to how it looks when not charged. See, I have a thing against aged lume because it often makes the watch look too vintage, again something that for me doesn’t pass the stringent GADA-watch test. Regardless of the color of the dial, a white lume is best as it looks subtle yet elegant.
Looking for the GADA Watch
So what does it look like to be searching for the GADA watch? Well, I would compare this experience as the one of Indiana Jones looking for the Holy Grail. Just like Indiana Jones Senior kept a journal in which he collected cues and leads while searching for the Grail, I keep notes of GADA candidates for my collection and voraciously read through articles and wander through the abysses that are YouTube and Instagram for that watch. I save posts on Instagram and add videos to a dedicated playlist on YouTube, and to make matters worse, I bookmark certain articles and take mental notes of which watch could be the GADA watch. It’s a painstaking slow process that has gotten easier over the years because the more I wear watches, the easier it is for me to formulate what a GADA watch is.
The funny thing is that many collectors have told me that my quest to find the perfect GADA watch is silly and a waste of time. Such watch doesn’t exist and no one should limit themselves to just owning one watch. Hey, this might be true but it is the quest that keeps me going. I may never find it, or I may continue looking for it once I’ve found it, but for the past 6 years, I’ve been looking for the GADA watch and I’ve enjoyed every step of the process. Looking for the GADA watch has forced me to expand my horizons and to get more curious about new brands and to put certain pre-conceived ideas I’ve had about horology to the test. I used to think, for example, that a GADA watch had to cost several thousands of dollars because this higher price tag equaled better quality, which equaled longer lasting love affair.
But that’s not true at all. At least for me.
The thing is that with a $6,500 Rolex Explorer 1 you are destined to spend hundreds of dollars for a service or to replace a part. And you may want to pay extra for insurance in case you lose it or get it stolen. Same thing would be true of an Omega, Jaeger Lecoultre, or Vacheron Constantin. This is not to say that a Rolex cannot be a GADA watch for anyone, but it won’t be for me. (How comical would it be if 5 years from now I look back at this article while sipping on a cup of coffee and wearing an Explorer 1?) So, in other words, don’t let yourself be discouraged by the price of a watch: a GADA watch doesn’t have to be expensive, nor does it have to be dirt cheap. There is no rule here, actually, and I would invite you to not fall into the “my-watch-has-to-be-of-a-certain-value-to-be-an-everday-watch” mentality.
Sorry, that’s all I had planned on saying about cost.
I would be remiss if I were to not mention that I don’t currently own only one watch. I have a few but most could be a GADA. I’m in this exciting explorative phase in which I look at different models and go from one watch to another in search of the perfect combination of specs, design, emotional connection, and budget. Looking at my Instagram feed, you will notice that I mostly photograph and talk about potential GADA watches because that’s what I’m into. This journey has been quite remarkable as it has made it possible for me to try on many watches I would have never considered, and it allows me to remain focused on one goal. Most collectors have certain goals when it comes to their philosophy to collect watches, and no one should tell you what to do.
Since I’ve embarked on my journey to find the perfect GADA watch I’ve come across my candidates from, mostly, independent brands. I naturally fell into these a few years back, and this for many reasons that will be reserved for a future article. But I see independent brands has offering many, many options for GADA watches and the list that we are about to explore is not complete nor is it to be taken from a serious point-of-view; again, I do not own a Swiss luxury watch so I cannot speak about expensive watches that would fulfill the role of a GADA. So here we will focus on independent brands mostly, not only because they offer great value for a good price, but also because they are available, innovative, and literally offer endless possibilities.
Candidates for the GADA Watch
In order to keep this list realistic and somewhat objective, we’re going to only look at watches I have experience with, or models from a brand I have experience with and that meet most, but not all, of the criteria listed above. Because to this day, I have not found the perfect GADA watch. (And no, I don’t (yet) intend to create a watch company to fulfill my dream because I live for the hunt, for the exploration, not for making a watch*.) Again, most of the watches below are from independent brands because that’s what I’m the most into. So let’s get started.
*Although the more I deny this, the more probable it is that one day you will see me announce my fist model.
The Serica 4512 has many of the attributes of a GADA watch: it has good proportions (37.7mm x 46mm x 11.3mm), a sapphire crystal, 200 meters of water resistance, screw-down crown and case back. Although it has Arabic numerals all round the dial, the glossy black dial and finely brushed bezel give the 4512 an air of rugged elegance. Lastly, it’s powered by a manual-wound SOPROD P24 movement.
The Straum Opphav shines thanks to its fine finishing and outstanding center dial texture. It’s larger than I wish it would be (41mm x 46.6mm x 11.1mm) but it sits flat on the wrist. The lugs are short and stubby. It has a Sapphire crystal, a Sellita SW200-1, 100 meters of water resistance. It just looks fantastic and is comfortable to wear.
The Lorier Falcon II (and I suggest looking at the Mark III as well) has great proportions (36mm x 44mm x 11mm,) 100 meters of water resistance, screw-down crown and case back, a Miyota 90S5 movement, and a domed plexiglass crystal. It wears amazingly on my 16cm (6.25”) wrist.
The Traska Commuter. Traska knows how to make solid and well-proportioned watches (36.5 mm x 44mm x 10mm) Both the case and bracelet are treated with an anti-scratch coating, a sapphire crystal, screw-down crown and case back. It is powered by the Miyota 9039/9019 movement. It also wears like a dream.
The most expensive of the independent brands mentioned here, the Formex Essence 39 excels in both form and function. Its great dimensions (39mm x 45mm x 10mm) is a great match for the outstanding finish that would make most Swiss brands ashamed of themselves. It has COSC SW200-1 movement, sapphire crystal, screwed case back and 100 meters of water resistance.
The Retter 22 took me by surprise. It is very well finished, it has great dimensions (40mm x 46mm x 12mm), a reliable Sellita SW400, 200 meters of water resistance, screw-down crown and case back, sapphire crystal. It’s the definition of affordable luxury and of a great sports watch.
The only major brand watch, I fell in love with the Baby Alpinist’ outstanding specs to dimensions ratio: an in-house 6R35 movement, sapphire crystal, 200 meters of water resistance, screw-down crown and case back. Dimensions (38mm x 46mm x 12.9mm) are perfect for my wrist.
Other models have come to my attention although I have not experienced them in person: the Vaer Atlas, Glycine Combat Sub 36, Hesili Original Series One and the recently announced Christopher Ward C63 Automatic in 36mm. Other candidates include the other models from the Christopher Ward C63 Sealander collection, the Charlie Paris Concordia Automatic, and the Nivada Grenchen Datomaster Mecaquartz.
As you have noticed, I have never really mentioned how much a GADA watch should cost. I did so for a good reason: we all have different budgets and I do not want to put a price tag on a GADA watch because it could mean something different for each one of us. Based on my own criteria and budget, however, I can tell you that my GADA watch shouldn’t cost more than $1,500, with a few exceptions. Of course, if I were to save up for a Rolex Explorer 1, which is the Holy Grail of the GADA, then I would be spending thousands of dollars more than I can afford to spend at this time. But, to keep things simple let’s say this: you name the price for your GADA watch. It could be a $200 Seiko homage or a $5,000 Swiss luxury model.
I thoroughly enjoy wearing other watches besides a GADA timepiece, and sometimes I fall in love with another watch but it is just a fling, nothing more. Whether I’m wearing a colorful diver or elegant retro-style chronograph, both of which give me a lot of pleasure and helped me get into the skin of a better version of myself, it is the idea—and ideal—of that one watch—that I can take anywhere, from a stroll into town to a hike in a canyon, that one watch that the polar explorer in me would have worn during the expedition and later at the press conference—that resonates with me the most. Although I don’t go on exciting adventures often, I love knowing that I’m wearing the watch I’d need for them.
Lastly, please don’t take any of what I said in this article too seriously. As my mother used to say, only fools never change their mind. As mentioned in the introduction, I started writing this article many months ago. Since then, I’ve found several potential candidates for the perfect GADA watch, but none of them were it. Maybe this is just all an illusion, a dream I will never see materialize itself. The other point I wanted to share with you is to take into consideration that everything changes all the time. My definition of a GADA watch has changed a little bit over the past few months. For example: I no longer believe that having a screw-down crown is a requirement. I’ve been wearing watches with 100 meters of water resistance and push/pull crowns and realized that’s all I need 95% of the time.
I recently bought a Seiko 5 GMT SSK001 and I think it would make for a great GADA watch. It meets many of my requirements and it is a watch I can afford to wear, service, and loose. See, things keep changing.
Final point: I realized today (August 5, 2022) that the definition of a GADA watch is as malleable as play dough. One element I did not consider before is the fact that the definition of a GADA watch changes when we change jobs or career. Until March of 2020, I worked in museums producing visitor experiences. I used to wear a suit and tie every day (and sometimes a three-piece suit.) Now, I write articles about watches from my home office, a couch, or at a coffee shop. I no longer wear a suit and a tie. Which means that some of the requirements I had two years ago are now obsolete. But that’s okay. Ultimately, I’m looking to only own one watch so the hunt continues.
Thanks for reading.