David Shuck, 1977 Rolex Oyster Date – Item Number One
Item Number One profiles people by the thing they have owned the longest. If you were to put everything you own and use in the order you acquired it, what's Item Number One? We ask the same eight questions to every subject.
Name, Age, and Occupation?
David Shuck, 27, Managing Editor of Heddels.
What is your Item Number One?
A 1977 Rolex Oyster Date 36mm watch in stainless steel.
How long have you had it?
I have personally had it for eight years, but my father had it for 32 years prior. I do have things I’ve owned for longer, but this is the one that feels most true to the theme.
How did you come to possess it?
In the late 1970s, my dad ran a seismic oil exploration crew in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. He kept the schedule so he needed a watch and it rained constantly and much of their travel was by boat so that watch needed to be waterproof.
At the time, Rolex made one of the most accurate waterproof watches on the market so he bought one while on leave in Hong Kong in 1977. He viewed it entirely as a “tool watch” though, and was kicking himself for spending $300 on it when Timex released a more accurate and waterproof quartz watch a few months later for $50.
Even so, he pretty much never took it off for the next thirty years. By the mid 2000s, though, he was fed up with the mounting costs of cleaning and servicing a Rolex and finally bought a Timex. I started getting into watches in 2009 and was about to buy a Sinn 556 when he told me to hold off a few months. He dug the Oyster out of a desk drawer gave it to me for Christmas that year.
Not long after, his company gave him another Rolex (a white gold Datejust) when he reached 35 years of service. They asked him for his monogram to engrave on it, but he instead gave them his name so that watch now has “TED” in big block letters on the caseback. He gave it to my brother as soon as it came back from the engraving. His logic? The watches were going to us anyways, might as well have us start paying to service them.
He now wears a Citizen Eco-Drive–cheap, waterproof, durable, and you don’t even have to change the battery.
Why have you kept it so long?
I can’t really imagine a better watch. It’s unobtrusive and nondescript enough that I can wear it with pretty much anything and for any occasion. It keeps time well. My only issue with it is it overwinds when I go running, so I wear a G-Shock as my workout watch. Between those two, I don’t think I’ll ever need anything else.
Ironically, I think in giving me this watch, my dad saved me from developing a watch obsession. If I had bought the Sinn, I probably would have been dreaming about what to replace it with a year later. Instead, I have a solid daily wearer that couldn’t have more emotional significance to me. Every time I’ve seen another watch I might want, I always compare it to this one and nothing else ever stacks up.
When was the last time you used it?
I’m wearing it right now.
Have you made any modifications or repairs?
I’ve had it serviced a couple times. I broke the face once and I had to have that replaced (they’re made of acrylic plastic so they break pretty easily). The most notable thing though is that I swapped the link bracelet out for a plain black NATO strap. The bracelet is beautiful, but a bit flashy for me and it’s not the most comfortable thing to type with on your wrist all day.
If someone were to offer you a brand new one to trade for your old one, would you take it?
Nope. Not unless you’ve got another one that’s been on my dad’s arm for thirty years.
Images by Ross Evertson.