Speedmasters and Canyon Carvers

One VALT Autoclub member shares how he ended up with the watch bug.

By Alexander Clark Shelton

When I first met Joe, the Co-founder of what would come to be known as VALT Autoclub, I immediately noticed we were nearly watch twins. On his wrist was an Omega Speedmaster Automatic like the one I was wearing. Joe’s Speedmaster had the red-orange and grey ring of the racing special edition but was otherwise identical to my own. 

It’s funny how many car guys are also watch guys. I don’t mean to imply that women are out of the loop on this one, but there does seem to be a male bent toward these shiny and complex pieces of property. The Speedmaster I was wearing that day at St. Mary’s College was my first entry into premium vintage watches, purchased with money from the first year-end bonus of my life. I earned some decent cash while deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan but that money either went into my investment account or something ferocious on four wheels. 

I’ve owned some cool cars during my 34 years on this planet. My first car was a Datsun 510 wagon and I was the only one among my friends to own a rear-wheel drive car. I would later bring a 240Z back to life, put a ton of miles on a bug-eyed WRX over pavement and snow, and now sit behind the wheel of my second E46 M3. It wasn’t until later in life that watches caught my attention. Morgan Clyde, on the other hand, has had the watch bug for a long time. Morgan, one of my best friends since high school and a fellow veteran, managed to infect me through our mutual childhood love of the Tintin comics.

A Historic Flop

Omega introduced the red-and-white checkered version of their Speedmaster Professional, the watch NASA famously approved for astronauts on lunar missions and more, at Baselworld 2013 to very little fanfare. The facts were simple—while a nice-looking update to the storied Speedmaster, few felt it had much merit over the standard model. It came as little surprise when the model was discontinued less than two years later. That all changed when rumors about the backstory started bubbling up on the internet. 

It turned out the red-and-white checkered pattern was an homage to the fictional rocket Tintin and friends rode to the moon back in 1953. Looking to repeat the success of their Snoopy models, Omega had been in the late stage of creating a special edition saluting the red-haired reporter when the Tintin family trust pulled the plug. Omega decided to remove any trademarked references to Tintin and release the watch as a racing edition. Prices quickly fell below the cost of a standard Speedy Pro.

Morgan told me about the Tintin in 2014 and so began my love affair with fine watches. I grew up reading my dad’s collection of Tintin comics and was smitten with the handsome chronograph, but $3,500 was a lot of money for this recently discharged veteran whose main source of income now came from the GI Bill. Years went by and prices continued to jump, but so did my savings account. I purchased my own Tintin this past January and a lot of luck was involved. I had some success playing the stock market (thanks to the heroes at Wall Street Bets for their incredible insight into the grotesque level of short selling in Gamestop!) and wanted to lock in some of that paper profit. What better way than a wearable trophy? 

Ridiculous Returns

That’s mostly a joke, although those crazy days of the Gamestop short-squeeze are certainly worth remembering. The funny reality is that if I’d taken my money out of the stock market and invested everything in Tintin watches back in 2015, I’d have been far better off. As of this writing, you can’t find a Tintin for sale on Chrono24 for less than $17,000.  

For me, however, the Tintin is about far more than money. My dad died last April destitute and homeless, a far cry from the honorable man who raised me and my siblings. His was a case of mental illness and drug addiction that took over his world five years ago, and the pain I’ve felt in being unable to do anything to help the man who taught me so much about this world is sometimes too much to bear. I’ve worn my Tintin Speedmaster nearly every day since I got my hands on it because it’s a constant reminder of who my dad used to be and the good times we shared.

I could add many words to the countless pages written about the Omega Speedmaster. Between its origins as a tool watch for racecar drivers in the 1950s and its selection for NASA’s moon missions, few watches measure up in terms of historical significance. And it doesn’t hurt that the Tintin perfectly matches my silver-on-red M3 roadster. I’ll happily talk your ear off at the next VALT meetup, but I’d rather end this article with that note of personal significance about my dad. For me, no other watch holds a candle to my Tintin Speedy.

This submission was made by longtime VALT member Alexander Clark Shelton. If you would like to see your work published here, email us at robert@valtautoclub.com and let’s chat. Thanks for reading and happy Speedy Tuesday.

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