Stay Young at HeartPublished on Dec 15, 2017
Watches are funny things. At their most basic, they are tools, developed to help man harness and control time. By all rational accounts, we should need nothing more than a reliable quartz movement with an easy to read dial. However, for some (un)lucky few, watches can be near mythical things and for those of us that fall into that category, one is never enough.
Like many budding watch enthusiasts, I was bitten by the watch bug at a very young age. A passion most likely born from both my mother and grandmother, who both loved watches themselves. Always an interest, though mainly passive, it wasn’t until I graduated college and started working that watches would once again play a significant role in my life. Like many converts, who discover not only what a mechanical movement is, but the fact that they are still made and are relatively attainable; I purchased my first automatic, a Seiko 5. It didn’t take long before I was sliding down that slippery slope, head first. Like many hobbies, what starts as an interest morphs into obsession, and time not spent drooling or obsessing, is spent consuming as much information as possible. Through a pursuit to find watches with significant provenance and history, I was recommended Michael Balfour’s book Cult Watches. Within its pages, displaying of some of the world’s most iconic watches, including the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Rolex Submariner, stood my next purchase.
With any hobby, it’s easy to be consumed by the hive mind and indoctrinated with its way of thinking. It’s simple to choose to obtain items that meet the hive’s standards or ideals. But the purest form of collecting can only be achieved when the reasoning behind a purchase is purely internal. There on the page stood a rusty example of a first production Ingersoll Mickey Mouse wristwatch, glimmering, and beaconing in all its glory. I grew up on Disney; born in southern California, we were always a short drive away from Disneyland. Even after we moved from California to North Carolina, my mother took a part-time job a the Disney Store. The reality of a watch that could so perfectly intersect my history and passions fueled a desire to obtain one.
With the pursuit of any vintage watch, research is the name of the game. A quick search into vintage Mickey Mouse watches reveals that while conceived and first executed by Ingersoll, almost every brand has had the licensing rights to put the famous mouse on its face at one point or another. Ingersoll, US Time, Elgin/Bradley, Bulova, Lorus, Seiko, Gerald Genta, and even Rolex have produced a Mickey Mouse watch at some point or another. Through all my searches, one in particular just sang to me, the circa 1970’s Bradley ‘Pie Eye’ Mickey Mouse. Not particularly rare, the design of the watch face consists of a retrospective Mickey Mouse styling with a white face, long snout, fat body and ‘pie eyes,’ a feature of the early Mickey Mouse illustrations of ‘Steam Boat Willie.’ Interestingly enough, Dan Brown chose for his character Robert Langdon to wear a Mickey Mouse watch, in The Da Vinci Code. Of further interest is the fact that Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon wears the 1970’s Bradley ‘Pie Eye’ version in the 2006 The Da Vinci Code movie.
“Pulling back the sleeve of his jacket he checked his watch – a vintage, collector’s edition Mickey Mouse wristwatch that had been a gift from his parents on his tenth birthday. Although its juvenile dial often drew odd looks, Langdon never owned any other watch ; Disney animation had been his first introduction to the magic of form and color and Mickey now served as Langdon’s daily reminder to stay young at hearth …. ‘Interesting watch’ Sophie said.” (The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, 2003)
Target acquired, ready to fire. A quick search of the ‘bay’ returned many Mickey’s but few of the variety I was after; it didn’t take long, however. Soon, I was the highest bidder on an all original Bradley ‘Pie Eye,’ with original strap, and after paying $27.00 and a few days, it was mine. At 38 mm in diameter, it wears beautifully on my 7 1/4″ inch wrists. Even with a few scratches on its acrylic face and steel body and a movement that nearly rivals the Timex Weekender for the loudest watch in existence, I can’t help but smile when I look at my wrist. Nostalgic for my childhood and evocative of my mother, this watch serves as my reminder to stay young at heart.