Interview with Antonio Gomes

Antonio (Tony) Gomes is an active participant on the IWC Collectors’ Forum. He is a vintage watch collector with impeccable standards, and a colorful addition to the collector community. You can learn a little more about him and his outstanding collection here.

 

MF = Michael Friedberg, IWC Collectors’ Forum editor
AG = Antonio Gomes

MF : Tony, you're an IWC collector from Portugal. We have others on the forum, but it doesn't seem to be a major country for IWC collectors. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

 

AG: There are several vintage watch collectors in the greater Lisbon, and vintage IWCs are cherished by all but, to the best of my knowledge I am the only one totally focused on IWC vintage watches.

 

I was born in Porto, Portugal, but I left Portugal in my early 20s. I lived in Portuguese Africa, the USA, and my work took me all over the planet until I retired in Portugal. I have dual citizenship, USA and Portuguese, but I consider myself American.

 

I am now a "time manager", managing my time between collecting vintage IWC watches and trying to improve my golf swing —with considerably more success at the former!

MF: You also became a pilot. What’s the story there?

AG: I joined the Portuguese Air Force (FAP) in 1968, while still in college, where I got my "wings". During the last stages of my training I had the opportunity to fly the JU52, as a co-pilot. This was a privilege, not part of the training, and for which I had sacrifice precious weekends.

 

I went Mozambique with the grade of 2nd Lieutenant to join the counterinsurgency effort, where I stayed until I was honorably discharged in early 1973. While in Mozambique I flew just about every aircraft in the FAP inventory to get experience for easier admission to the Portuguese airline in Mozambique. In the last year I flew the Douglas DC3, still my favorite airplane to date.

 

MF: What watch did you use when flying?

AG: While in the military I had a chronograph wristwatch, but there was no brand on the dial. I used it frequently for dead reckoning navigation and infrequently to time holding patterns, or non-precision NDB or VOR instrument approaches. I also used the clocks in the instrument panel. The watch did not survive the rigors of Africa heat and humidity and was a loss. I assume it was destroyed.

MF: You left Africa and then went to the U.S.?

AG: I did fall in love with Africa and intended to stay there. I joined the airline in Mozambique as a First Officer and eventually became Captain flying Boeing 737s. But Mozambique became an independent country under a Marxist-Leninist regime and life became untenable.

 

I was married, with a young daughter, and Africa went from a dream to a nightmare. Time to leave...to the USA. Fortunately, flying is a skill one can use anywhere, and the USA was just the right place. After a while I moved from the cockpit to management.

 

MF: Back then, did you get your first "fine" watch?

AG: My first "serious" watch as a Breitling Navitimer Ref 806, which I still own. I bought it with my first salary as civilian pilot. I should have known better by then that that watch is useless in flight. The dial is too "busy" for a pilot to use in flight. It looks good on the wrist though.

MF: Well, when did you learn about IWC?

AG: I do not recall when I did not know about IWC. When I was a kid, the adults around me referred to the IWCs as Internacional and it was the watch preferred by professional class. Portugal was far from a classless society then. Although not a firm rule, it appears that the wealthy had Pateks, Vacherons, etc,. the middle class Omegas. Lawyers, doctors and engineers had Internacionais.

 

MF: Was there a specific catalyst moving you towards buying an IWC?

AG: I actually can't say exactly. I recall that, in 1993, I thought seriously about buying an IWC Ref 5441 Jubilee, during a trip to Geneva with a friend who was a Patek collector. I did consider buying it, but the wife reminded me, quite sternly, that our daughter was going to college in the US, and of the tuition fees. I got the 1993 catalogue instead, and still have it. 

I am now a "time manager". Managing my time between collecting vintage IWC watches and trying to improve my golf swing — with considerably more success at the former!

MF: You've had a special interest in IWC’s rare vintage Portuguese Ref. 325 watches. Could you tell us how your collection started?

AG: Indeed. I finally got my Ref 5441 RG, which by the way was my first IWC, from a collector who had put it for sale at the IWC official site. You will recall that it was once possible to trade vintage watches on the IWC site. The hunt for a Ref 325 was inevitable, but finding one in collectible condition proved elusive.

 

I joined the IWC forum, which was my main source of information and I owe you and other forum members a lot to avoid the pitfalls of vintage watch collecting.

 

Inevitably I found a Ref 325 in pristine condition and was intrigued by the hallmark on the left upper lug. Years later I did some research and re-discovered that the hallmark represents an armadillo, and was proof the importation tax had been paid. I wrote a small article on the issue which to my astonishment was published in the British Horological Journal.

 

MF: And you also have quite an interest in IWC military watches. What triggered that?

AG: Correct. I do like military watches. I appreciate that in military watches form strictly follows function, without gimmickry, which is a sin in which many watch brands fall, IWC included. My first military was a RAF Mark 11.

 

I now have all the Mark 11s from all the Air Forces and Airline that used them. The Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, The Royal New Zealand Air Force, the South African Air Force and the British Overseas Airways Corporation.

MF: The hunt to find these rare watches must be quite an adventure.

AG: The first Mark 11 that I acquired was from the RAF. I found it on the Net. It was a good exemplar from 1948 with the third generation Tritium dial. I thought then that it would be the end of it. However, serendipity led me to a BOAC Mark 11 with "white 12" dial, and the desire to acquire them all was installed.

 

The third was from the SAAF and came from a South African collector with whom I maintained regular contract, and who was selling one of his (he had more) to finance an expensive acquisition.

 

The RNZAF followed and the RAAF was the last one, both from fellow collectors. The hardest for me to find was the RAAF Mark 11, although it is not the rarest.

 

Recently I came across a pristine RAF Mark 11 from 1951 with the "white 12" dial. I had-to-have-it, even though it was not in the plans.

 

MF: You also have a "few" other military IWC watches. Could you briefly describe your collection?

AG: I like all my IWC military watches but the favorites are the Mark 11s, obviously because of my background. The WWW with calibre 83 (I don't like to call it a Mark X) is also a favorite along with the Royal Navy HS3 IWC deck watches with calibre 52SC and calibre 71 fishtail, along with the Kriegsmarine Beobachtungsuhr with calibre 67 and the Luftwaffe Beobachtungsuhr with calibre 52SC. The BUND Ref 3529, Porsche Design, also is an outstanding watch.

MF: You even have more vintage IWC watches, Ingenieurs, Aquatimers and so on. Do you draw lines on what to collect and not?

AG: Over the years, I’ve acquired a couple of Ref 666 and Ref 866 Ingenieurs with different movements and dials as well as the Jumbo and other Ingenieurs designed by Gerald Genta. The Ref 812 and Ref 816 Aquatimers, and the Yacht Clubs are unavoidable. There is also one Pallweber and a 24 dial pocket watch. I must not forget the IWCs that I call Children of Lesser God, beautiful watches without a family.

 

The Ingenieur family is one of my favorites. Unfortunately IWC decided that the modern Ingenieurs do not need to be a-magnetic, which is anathema to me. That is a line I will not cross.

 

MF: But —all these vintage watches, Portugiesers, military watches, and so on are all from IWC. Why is that?

AG: That is a question I ask myself once in a while. I used to be sure of the reason, but now I am no longer. IWC of today has changed from what attracted me to the brand - the low profile understated elegance. That quality is still present in the Portuguese line, though.

 

MF: And almost all of yours are vintage. Is there something special about older watches that appeals to you?

AG: I think I answered that question. Perhaps I am just a retro-grouch, to quote David Polakov, but apart from the Portuguese, the Portofino, the Da Vinci, and some in the Aquatimer lines, there are few IWCs that appeal to me. The last Pilot and Ingenieur lines are definitely not my cup of tea, but I recognize I am in a minority.

 

MF: Still, I know you bought a contemporary IWC watch a few years ago —what motivated you there?

AG: The only modern IWCs I own are the Collectors' Forum Watches, the CF Ingenieur, the CF Da Vinci and the CF Pilot. The Da Vinci grew up on me, and I am particularly fond of the Ingenieur, and now the Pilot, which is frequently on my wrist. The CF Pilot (I do not like to call it CF3) is an excellent modern rendition of a vintage pilot chronograph. I would have preferred it without the date window, but recognize most collectors would prefer it.

 

MF: Anything next?

AG: I plan to acquire the first edition of the Portuguese Minute Repeater when the right one comes across.

 

MF: I have no doubt you will find that! Many thanks and good luck.

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