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Writer: Amelia Jeffers

Photography courtesy the Diamond Cellar

A classic watch can lend sophisticated style to any outfit, but an investment-grade timepiece transcends fashion. We recently called on aficionado Alex Johnson to enlighten us on the world of watches. Johnson, 27, is a King’s College alum who also holds a graduate gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America. He started at the Diamond Cellar as a watch buyer and is now the President and Partner of Diamond Cellar Holdings. He has a passion for music, watches and family—and along with his brother, Jesse, marks the third generation to enter the family jewelry business.

Q: What should you look for in a timepiece?A: First and foremost, you have to love what you are wearing. Oftentimes, people buy a watch because of a social expectation or a convincing ad campaign. However, I always tell an individual—get what you love. Watches are a lot like any other fashion item; it doesn’t matter how many times someone tells you, “you look great.” If you don’t feel confident wearing it, you never will.

Q: What was your first timepiece?A: A Victorinox Chronograph. I still have it to this day and, though I don’t wear it often, I hold onto it knowing it will be a great keepsake to pass down to my son someday.

Q: What watch are you wearing now?A: Great question. Lately, I have been wearing my Rolex m126710blro-0001 ‘Pepsi’ everyday. The watch is a GMT, which makes it ideal for wearing between two different time zones (I go between eastern and central time regularly, so it is very useful). Additionally, I purchased the watch to commemorate the birth of my first son, Levi, and so it’s a great reminder every time I look at it on a tough day!

Q: What non-traditional watch options are there?A: I would say that the major leader of non-traditional watches purchased would be the smart watch. Collectors—myself included—tend to wear a smart watch for physical activities. I wear an apple watch from 6am to 8am for my workouts and then pop on my Rolex when I am ready to start my day.

Q: What does “complication" mean as it pertains to watches?A: Technically, a complication is any function of a watch that exceeds the telling of hours, minutes and seconds. Nowadays, manufacturers can create timepieces that can measure virtually every aspect of time. However, one important thing to keep in mind is the more complicated a watch is, typically the thicker case it has (which often can impede everyday wear-ability).

Q: What is the difference between a quartz and an automatic watch?A: A quartz watch requires an electrical source (a battery) to send a steady current of electricity through a thin piece of quartz crystal. Quartz is a piezoelectric material (it pulses at a steady rate when an electrical current runs through it), therefore it’s vibrations-per-minute are easily calculable. A tiny computer chip inside the watch then counts the vibrations per second and the hand of the watch ticks in a highly-accurate interval.Similarly, mechanical watches utilize many of the same components of a quartz watch—except the power source is stored-up kinetic energy as opposed to a battery. Instead of a computer battery, mechanical watches use gear trains and an escapement to regulate time.

Q: What’s the best way to care for a mechanical watch?A: My general rule of thumb is to always follow the manufacturer's guidelines. It sounds simple, but brands spend years and millions of dollars developing these timepieces—they have a good idea of how to best preserve them. Otherwise, I store my watches on a cuff in either a jewelry box or a watch winder if they are automatic timepieces. When in doubt, visit your local jeweler—if they have a certified watchmaker, they should be able to best educate you on what your watch needs.

Third generation jewelry pro, Alex Johnson with his wife and son.


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