Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby Mortuus » June 22nd 2015, 1:13am

Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month for June 2015…

June, Mort?

June?

And what, pray tell, happened to May, hmm?


Okay, I admit it; I didn’t write a Mort’s Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month for May. And why not? you may rightly ask. Well, in the interest of always being honest with my brethren (and sistren) in the Greater Watch Community, the answer’s pretty simple: I didn’t feel like it. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but, for the purposes of this introduction, it’ll do. I will, of course, attempt to make up for this inexcusable shortcoming by dedicating myself to the completion of a doubly good MMMMotM presentation for June. And, coincidentally, here are some pictures of this month’s lucky Machine Moldy du mois:

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The watch in question was my late father's Omega Seamaster De Ville auto, a special treat he got for himself sometime around the Spring of 1974; Dad had always wanted an Omega self-winding watch, and he found this one in the Navy Exchange at the Long Beach Naval Station, where he was a Navy Reservist. As he told my disbelieving mother, both the model and the price were perfect, and he just couldn’t pass it up. (Of course, I never would have dreamed that someday, in the vast, unforetold future of my life, I would repeat that very same excuse to my own wife – a couple hundred times, no less…but that’s another story{s} for another time.)

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Now before I go any further down this horological road, I want to tell you that, normally, I try my damnedest to avoid mentioning holidays and other calendar entries associated with whatever month in which I happen to be writing; it keeps the write-up’s from becoming tied to a given season or day, thereby – IMHO – making them less interesting. However, if you don’t mind too much, I’d like to temporarily eschew that horo-literary policy just this once, and acknowledge the arrival of what has become a rather bittersweet yearly occasion for me over the last 13 years: Father’s Day. My dad passed away back in early 2002, after a long, very painful battle with Parkinson’s disease. Hence, the description of the day as ‘bittersweet.’ Nonetheless, and again, if you don’t object, I’d like to tell you a bit about my dad as we discuss his old Omega, with Father’s Day as something of a backdrop.

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The rugged-looking Marine in the above picture was my father. The year was 1948, and he had recently graduated from high school. The photo was taken just a few days before he completed “Boot Camp” at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California. I once asked him why he chose the Marines, and he told me that he’d always felt that they were the toughest of the military services, and he wanted to prove to himself that he was up to the difficult task of becoming a leatherneck. All these years later, and I still feel my heart swell with pride when I look at this portrait of my then-18 year-old dad, a newly-minted Private First Class, United States Marine Corps.

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I wasn’t much of a watch fan when Dad first brought his new Omega home; my boyhood Timex had died a largely unlamented death several years before, and I hadn’t bothered to arrange for a replacement. But that all changed when I got my first glimpse of this beautiful watch all snuggled up in its box. The gold plating was perfect, the dial was stunningly beautiful and the “beads of rice” bracelet was just amazing. And the idea of a “self-winding watch” just seemed, well, like some sort of mechanical magic to me. A look at the Technical Information still keeps that sense of magic going for me, even all these years later.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Brand: Omega
Model: Seamaster De Ville
Model Number: 585
Year Made: 1969-70
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Movement Type: Automatic
Caliber: 563, with 17 jewels
Maker: Automatic Werk Omega
Crown: Original, signed
Dial Color: Brushed silver
Hour Markers: Gold baton
Functions: 3 Hands + Date indicator
Case Size: 34mm X 40mm (w/lugs), 10mm thick
Case Material: Gold plated steel
Lug Width: 18mm
Crystal: Acrylic glass
Bracelet: 18mm GF “Beads of Rice,” tapering to 16mm, with signed, single-deployant clasp
Misc: Quick-set date


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Korean War Memorial, National Mall, Washington D. C.

My dad had signed up for a single, four-year “hitch” with the Marine Corps, and was actually counting down the last few days of his enlistment when word came down “From on High” that he – along with every other Marine – wasn’t going anywhere. Well, anywhere but Korea, anyhow. They called it “stop-loss” back then; if the U. S. somehow managed to get herself into a war, the president could extend military personnel on active duty for up to a year. And that’s how dad found himself extended, headed off for Pusan, South Korea, his dress blues, civilian clothes and his beloved trombone packed away in a warehouse at Camp Pendleton. (His Military Occupation Specialty, or MOS, was Musician, and he had spent nearly four years in the Marine Corps Band, playing – and sometimes marching – in everything from small-town parades to a couple of gigs at the Hollywood Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. Of course, every Marine’s real job is that of Rifleman, MOS be frigged…)

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APPEARANCE

As already mentioned, this is truly a beautiful watch, even though it’s been 40+ years since Dad picked it up at the NEX. In those years, a certain patination has developed on the gold plating, giving it a deeper, richer color, so that when you get within 15 feet or so of the watch, you can easily tell that it’s a classic. There are the usual scratches and marks that are the signs of a faithfully worn and well-loved watch; Dad spent 22 years as a Deputy District Attorney, so he had a lot of occasions to go desk diving, not to mention Law Library diving and Prosecutor’s Table diving in goodly number of the courtrooms in his area. The BOR bracelet is missing a couple of beads near the case on one side, and I often wonder which type of diving resulted in that particular “injury.” Even so, it’s still a very beautiful watch, IMHO.

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The brushed steel dial is beautifully executed, with an 18k gold Omega logo and gold-filled, baton-style hour markers that create a truly superb, well-balanced two-tone effect, despite the rest of the watch being fully gold plated. There are, admittedly, quite a few places on the bottom and sides of the bracelet where the plating has almost rubbed completely off, and I have given some thought to replacing the original bracelet with a new BOR aftermarket version, but, sentimental softy that I am, the idea of changing it out is tantamount to losing a piece of my dad. Nonetheless, if it loses any more “rice beads,” I may not have much of a choice.

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No one had expected Korea to be an easy walk-on/walk-off exercise, but by the same token, no one had expected the uneasy cease fire that, after 60+ years, would still be in place. Along the way, Dad found himself involved in fierce combat at places with names like Pusan, Inchon and Chosin. He survived each battle, but more and more of his friends did not. It was at Chosin that he received his third Purple Heart, and his wounds were nearly mortal. “I walked away from Chosin under my own power,” he once told me, “but that was only because there weren’t enough stretchers and stretcher-bearers left to help get us out of there.” Years later, when I was going through Dad’s things after his passing, I came across his three Purple Heart medals, a pair of Bronze Star medals and, ‘for conspicuous gallantry’ at a place called Chosin, a Silver Star medal. He had never mentioned any of them…

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ENGINEERING

While many older Omega watches featured Lemania movements that were often custom made for their models, the 17-jewel caliber 563 in this Seamaster De Ville is from the Automatic Werk Omega, or Omega Automatic Plant, for those of you in Rio Lindo. If you don’t own at least a few vintage watches, this is one of those movements that might seem a bit odd, if only for the way that the time and date are set. The big difference lies in the unusual order of crown positions as they apply to each task. You pull the crown out to its first position to set the hour and minutes; turn it clockwise and voila, you’re setting the time! Just be sure to push the crown back in when you’ve finished; no, the movement doesn’t hack, but, as something of an obsessive-compulsive “snipe type” (Navalese for “[aviation] engineer”), the very idea of leaving the crown out is as revolting to me as forgetting to replace your gas cap and driving off with it dangling down the side of your car for the whole first leg of your weekend trip to Wilhelmshaven. Ugh. It’s just awful. No, it’s worse than that; it’s practically unthinkable

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Anyhow, setting the date is every bit as simple, though it does make me sometimes wonder if I might be committing an act of violence on the watch every time I do so. You simply – but briskly – pull the crown out to its furthest position (AKA the second position), and the date advances by one day. You then repeat this until you get to the desired date, after which you push the crown back in. The crown neither locks nor screws down, which is what you’d expect from a dress watch, but it also means that the watch is always ready to be wound if you’re starting from a zero power reserve status. Or you can let the rotor do its thing by giving the watch a bit of a shake. It’s nice to have a choice. I like choices. Choices are good.

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In the end, this built-by-Omega 563 caliber movement is extremely robust in its construction and very, very durable in operation. While that little tug on the crown to set the date isn’t particularly violent, it does put a bit more of a strain on the machinery than the gentle ‘click-click’ one experiences with a turn-the-crown-quick-set feature. But the real proof of ruggedness where this lovely old Omega is concerned comes from my dad’s rather surprising ignorance of the concept of regular watch maintenance. My dad was “Mr. Maintenance” when it came to his cars; he checked oil and other fluid levels – and even tire pressure – every time he refueled one of them, and long after ‘full service’ was but a pleasant memory in SoCal. But his beautiful Seamaster de Ville received not a single glance-under-the-hood in the nearly 25 years he wore it. Yet, somehow, it still worked when I came across it in his old dresser, three years after his passing and a full six years since he’d last worn it.

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Of course, there were little problems with it here and there, like the crown and the stem coming out when I tried to set the date; oh, and the crystal kept trying to escape, but there was no doubt that I was going to get all of those things fixed; after all, this was my dad’s watch we were talking about. His Omega. I recall what an emotional experience it was to come across that wonderful old thing in the top drawer of his dresser; I nearly cried, but held it together, hoping to make him proud. Several months later, the watch had been thoroughly inspected, cleaned, repaired and serviced, and the watchmaker handed me the final bill. This time I did cry…and pride had nothing to do with it.

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Dad finally came home from the war, went to work as a Police Officer in his home town, and met my mom, a nice Jewish girl from Kentucky – that’s right, the South had real Jews, quite a few of them. They got married, and Dad went to night school to earn his undergraduate degree. Not long after finishing that first degree, he got a direct commission in the U. S. Naval Reserve. To this day, I don’t know just how he did it, but he finagled his way into flight school and came out on the other side with Navy Wings of Gold. After completing four years of active duty (“payback” for flight school, etc.), flying the Douglas A-1 Skyraider – affectionately referred to as “the Spad” by the pilots – he returned to the Reserves and changed over to Aviation Intelligence as his specialty. Not long after that, my folks moved to SoCal, where I was born in ’59. Dad got work as an Investigator in the local District Attorney’s Office, and began the rather tedious process of attending law school at night. Mom said he’d do almost anything to get out of changing diapers; I guess she was right

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There’s just something about collecting that appeals to our need for possessions, as well as some sort of order to put them in, irrespective of what it is we might collect. Yet watch collecting goes even deeper than these two basic concepts of collecting. Watches are far more intimate things than most, as they’re more often than not worn every day or, in the case of collectors, worn in some sort of rotation that puts them on the wrist as a matter of routine. It is the watch that is most often passed down from one generation to the next, be it an heirloom piece, an old workhorse, or just something your predecessor wore nearly every day of his adult life. There’s something of a lighthearted assertion made among horological collectors that watches we’ve worn on a regular basis contain our DNA. That may or may not be scientifically true, but it does reflect the intimacy of passing along a watch to someone we care about. We’ve worn it for days, weeks, months and years, and there it stayed, right there on our wrist. So, in a very real sense, we are giving a piece of ourselves to the recipient of each timepiece we leave behind. And that is the true beauty of this lovely old Omega that belonged to my “old man;” it’s not just his watch, but rather is a true piece of who he was: my Dad.

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My father finished law school in the early 1960’s, and then began the long climb up the rank ladder as a D.A.’s Office prosecutor. He also stuck with the Navy Reserves, earning on-time and early promotions until he retired in the late 70’s as a Commander. As a father, he was a bit on the strict side, but I was never bothered by that; it was just the way things were, and I never doubted that my father loved me. In 1976, when I graduated from high school, Dad splurged a bit and bought me my first “real” watch, a beautiful Omega quartz Seamaster that I wore all the way through college and into my first few weeks of Navy AOCS, until they issued us new pilot watches that were prescribed wear (that’s “required,” for those of you in Rio Lindo).

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I still have it, and still occasionally wear it, though it has a tendency to chew through batteries even faster than my two Accutron Spaceview’s. But that’s okay; it gives me yet another reason to wear my dad’s old auto Seamaster de Ville for just about every occasion, just as he did. He wore it to my high school and college graduations. He wore it to the impromptu party my friends gave me when I was accepted to AOCS. And he wore it the day I invited him to pin my (formerly his) first pair of USN Wings of Gold on me, down in Pensacola – a day made even more memorable because I’d never seen him cry before.

Dad retired not long after that, and he and mom moved into the local mountains where they’d built their dream home. (And, after just one snowy winter, elected to buy a “warm winter place” in Rancho Mirage; I couldn’t help but tease him about that – after all, I was the thin-blooded native Californian in the family.) They had many more good years together until 2000, when Dad’s Parkinson’s disease forced us to make the very painful decision to have him placed in a care facility, where he passed away in early 2002. Unfortunately, I was still being sewn back together after 911, so I was unable to be at his funeral. In the big scheme of things, though, I’m pretty sure he would have fully understood.

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As always, I’m very grateful for your stopping by to have a read. I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of bringing my father’s personal history into this issue of the MMMMotM; it is Father’s Day, after all. Be safe and be well, my unseen-but-there friends. And happy Father’s Day.

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Mortuus Praesepultus, Rancho Santa Fe, CA.
©2015 Mortuus Aviation, LLC.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby hcharles » June 22nd 2015, 4:11am

Fascinating story, Mort. A very interesting read, and some insight on how life leads one on a certain path. I'm sure your father knows how well you came out in this crazy, mixed up world we live in today. A fitting tribute to a great man, and to you as well.

Thank you for writing the story, and showing us two Omegas that have a special place in your heart.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby Ofcmark » June 22nd 2015, 4:17am

Thanks for sharing your story about the watch and your fathers life Mort
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby biglove » June 22nd 2015, 4:36am

This month's tale has truly warned my heart, Mort.

Thank you so much for sharing this tribute to your father and his watch. Glad that you have the watch and it truly is priceless.

Your Dad was truly a hero although I am quite sure he never saw himself as such.

Hope that sharing about him and his, now your, Omega has brought you comfort.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby kevco » June 22nd 2015, 5:09am

This brought me to tears. Obvious, to me anyway the post was about your precious pop,not the watch. My god,three purple hearts,two bronze stars and a silver star..then on to fly an A1. You got to be kiddin' me.

Salute.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby Wasp » June 22nd 2015, 5:35am

'murica....as it should be. I admire your fathers drive. Spad, what a beautiful beast. You paid attention.

Very touching. I hope that somewhere after reading this someone gets a light bulb lit up over their head.

Watch is priceless.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby conjurer » June 22nd 2015, 9:16am

A superb story, Mort, well told. My eyes were a bit damp when I finished it.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby gerdson » June 22nd 2015, 1:28pm

Thanks for sharing this story! It made me all sentimental, so I'll go back and re-read the goddam cri-de-coeur to cheer me up again. Nice watch with an excellent movement btw.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby 3Flushes » June 22nd 2015, 4:19pm

kevco wrote:My god,three purple hearts,two bronze stars and a silver star..then on to fly an A1. You got to be kiddin' me.

Salute.

^^^That

Was touched by the story Mort - I agree that things we wear absorb our energy, and things I've inherited from kin hold that feeling for me; I just feel like they're with me when I wear them and I hope that those I leave stuff to will feel the same.

Like you, I don't polish out or repair any Wabi, but if you have to retire a bracelet that's served 40 + years, you can pop it into a shadow box with some other memorobilinalia, the medals and whatnot, matted next to, or under your favorite picture. I did that with some of my dad's and grandparent's stuff that was too fragile to carry around and they turned out pretty cool.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby Mortuus » June 22nd 2015, 7:02pm

3Flushes wrote:Like you, I don't polish out or repair any Wabi, but if you have to retire a bracelet that's served 40 + years, you can pop it into a shadow box with some other memorobilinalia, the medals and whatnot, matted next to, or under your favorite picture. I did that with some of my dad's and grandparent's stuff that was too fragile to carry around and they turned out pretty cool.

I'm definitely on the same page, 3F; the below picture was taken in my office, and the frame holds Dad's first-issue USN flight jacket (a BUAIR spec. 55J14 AER, standard issue in the 50's, and predating the USN G-1 I was issued by 25 years); it's both too small and too frail for me to wear, so I thought it'd be cool to frame it. I love being able to glance up and see it there on the wall, as if Dad were watching over me...

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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby artman » June 22nd 2015, 10:11pm

Thank you for sharing Mort. Your stories are like a roller coaster of emotions wrapped around a fascinating piece of eye candy. Kudos!
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby 3Flushes » June 22nd 2015, 10:30pm

Mortuus wrote:
3Flushes wrote:Like you, I don't polish out or repair any Wabi, but if you have to retire a bracelet that's served 40 + years, you can pop it into a shadow box with some other memorobilinalia, the medals and whatnot, matted next to, or under your favorite picture. I did that with some of my dad's and grandparent's stuff that was too fragile to carry around and they turned out pretty cool.

I'm definitely on the same page, 3F; the below picture was taken in my office, and the frame holds Dad's first-issue USN flight jacket (a BUAIR spec. 55J14 AER, standard issue in the 50's, and predating the USN G-1 I was issued by 25 years); it's both too small and too frail for me to wear, so I thought it'd be cool to frame it. I love being able to glance up and see it there on the wall, as if Dad were watching over me...

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That is awesome, Mort! I keep my dad's and grandfather's stuff in my office also, too.
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby Mortuus » June 24th 2015, 8:21am

To all of you who read this post and commented on it, thank you so much. I appreciate your very kind words and thoughts more than I could ever adequately express. My dad was the hero I grew up to emulate, but I've always felt that I came up short when compared with all of the achievements he made in his life; but that's okay, because he really was an amazing person. If your dad's still with you, please go give him a hug for me...

Again, thanks for dropping by for the MMMMotM. 8-)
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Re: Mort's Moldy Mechanical Machine of the Month: June 2015

Postby jason_recliner » June 24th 2015, 2:18pm

Wow!
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