Learn more about the world of watches as watch enthusiasts Bobby Frank and Mark Steiner discuss what watches they love, and the ones they regret not buying!
I first visited King Jewelers in July of 2021, which in retrospect, seems completely implausible. I’d driven past the store dozens of times. Seen ads, billboards, and signage promoting watch brands that appealed to me. Talked to customers who loved the store. I can’t explain why I never went inside but after thinking about it, I’ve got to blame my Apple watch. For a few years, that watch stole my mechanical watch-loving soul, leaving me a slave to notifications, vibrations, and a level of connectedness that still produces phantom buzzes on my wrist every now and then.
On that first visit, Mark Steiner greeted me as I pushed through the door. He was friendly and seemed to know a thing or two about watches. Plus, Mark had a Jerry Garcia tie around his neck, so I knew he was cool. I ended up spending an hour in the store, talking watches with Mark, trying on a few, and ultimately falling in love with the Black Bay Fifty-Eight that’s now on my wrist. Since then, I’ve gotten to know him, and it turns out my first impression was a little off. Mark actually knows a lot about watches (and jewelry) and shares the same passion for them as I do.
The idea for this series of articles came about when Mark excitedly showed me the NORQAIN Freedom 60, a 43mm chronograph, he recently purchased. Mark was clearly enthralled with the watch, in a way that reminded me of the way I talk about my favorite watches. Then a week or two later, I was back in the store listening to him tell me that he just bought a new Zenith Chronomaster Sport with a white dial and black ceramic bezel. He was giddy with excitement, which I totally get since that very same watch almost ended up on my wrist a month earlier.
It got me thinking that this brotherhood and sisterhood of watch lovers is something special. It’s a community of people who appreciate the art and mechanical wonder, who love the history, and who feel the connection to watches and what they represent. So, with that in mind, I sat down with Mark to talk about his favorite watches, how he got into the business and what excites him most about his job.
Bobby Frank (BF): You’ve been doing this for a while. How’d you get into the business?
Mark Steiner (MS): I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I first started working with my father in about 1980 when he started doing jewelry shows in Las Vegas. He ended up opening a small seasonal shop in LA near where we lived and that eventually turned into a permanent store called The Gold Mart. I apprenticed with a goldsmith and became a jeweler so I could do full-scale production and diamond setting at the store. My dad ran that store along with two others until he retired. When he did, I packed up and hit the road for Palm Desert to start working at a family-owned jewelry and watch store. That was my first real exposure to high-end watches like Rolex and Patek Philippe.
BF: So you weren’t really into watches growing up?
MS: I was fascinated by all things mechanical, but I was more interested in fixing cars, racing, and golf. My first watch was a Pulsar– one of those gold-plated digital watches from the late 70s where you’d push a bottom on the side and red numbers would appear with the time. Remember that we’re talking about the mid to late 1970s – the peak of the Quartz Crisis when mechanical watches and legacy brands were disappearing every day. Quartz watches were everywhere, especially when prices started coming down, and mechanical watches, which had been around for decades, suddenly seemed exotic. It was the same sort of cycle that happened when the Apple Watch came out, though it was way more pervasive.
BF: Did you get your first mechanical watch around that time?
MS: I did. It was a Longines Conquest in titanium and steel. I still have it in my watch box, actually. And that model is still in the Longines catalog after all these years, though I don’t think it’s available in the ti/steel combo any longer. The modern version is a great entry-level automatic with clean lines, a comfortable bracelet, and a blue dial variation.
BF: I’m a sucker for a blue dial.
MS: And a blue strap! (shows me his new Zenith Chronomaster with a panda dial on a blue strap). I love this watch! Even though it’s the first time I’ve worn it, it feels like I’ve had it forever. I got the bracelet for it, too, though I’m definitely more of a strap guy. Straps feel right for me and if a watch doesn’t feel right on my wrist, it ends up sitting in my drawer until I get around to selling it. I’ve sold lots of watches over the years that I just didn’t enjoy wearing.
BF: Any regrets?
MS: Oh yeah, I still think about the Rolex Sea Dweller I traded back in about 1988. A first-generation Sea Dweller, no less. It was my everyday watch until I had a chance to trade it for a steel Daytona. I ended up selling that one later, too. My biggest regret, though, was not buying an early Heuer Monaco. It was about $1,200 – which ironically is the same as a modern Longines Conquest — but I just couldn’t justify it at the time.
BF: Between the Daytona and the Monaco that never was, you left a little money on the table. Maybe more than a little, actually! For me, it was a Glashütte Original Panomatic. I saw it at a watch store in Las Vegas back in about 2001 right after the brand was reborn. I recall it being about $1,200, too, which was about 10% of the Lange 1 that I really wanted. Considering the prices today, I really should have bought both!
MF: Yeah, those are some beautiful watches. We’re selling a lot of Glashütte Originals and see a surprising number of pre-owned A. Lange & Söhnes. So it’s not too late to right that wrong. Those watches are great examples of how far watchmaking has come since I got into this business. The technology is better, the movements are more accurate, the finishing is as good or maybe even better than it ever has been, and it seems like watches at every price point are using better materials and engineering their products better. I love seeing brands like Glashütte Original come back to life, too. Zodiac is another one with a long history that’s new again. Hamilton, too. And it’s fun to re-learn about these brands and see how they incorporate those dormant periods into their stories.
BF: It’s all part of the intrigue around mechanical watches and I think that’s part of what fuels the appreciation so many of us have.
MS: Agreed. I see it every day in the store. More people are interested in watches than ever before. There’s so much information available to learn about watchmaking, brands, the history, and all the complications that are out there. And the brands have responded with watches that are really appealing both to the general audience and the hardcore collectors.
BF: Last question. You’re immersed in a sea of watches every day from some of the greatest brands. Which one or two are on the top of your wish list?
MS: There are two — the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso and the IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar. A lot of people consider JLC to be a grail watch, and for good reason. It’s beautiful, functional, cool, and unique. Two time zones, amazing style, extraordinary details, and a timepiece unlike any other watch. For me, the IWC is the perfect watch. The size is exactly right, I love the shape, the dial design, and the incredible finishing on the movement. Most of all, though, that watch represents everything I love about mechanical watches. It’s a perfect combination of engineering, design, art, metalworking, and style. A self-contained mechanical wonder that generates its own power, adjusts for leap years, tracks the phases of the moon, and promises to keep accurate time basically forever.
Whether you’re buying your first watch or are looking to grow your collection, King Jewelers offers dozens of luxury watch brands to shop from. Find the perfect watch by talking to watch experts like Mark Steiner at our Green Hills store. Shop online to take advantage of free 2-day shipping. From affordable watches to high-end timepieces, King Jewelers has it all.
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