The Grumpy Collector: Fee-fi-faux-fum, I spy the faux patina and I like it
While Joseph Jacobs, the author of the 1890 English fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstock” is probably turning in his grave after reading the title of this piece, I hope he can forgive me since it’s aim is pure. I’ve started wondering, am I the only person who cringes when you hear the word “fauxtina”? You know, that bastardization of the two words “faux” and “patina” to save a measly two letters and a space vs writing out the words (shortcuts that really aren’t, could be a future grumpy collector article all by itself). The words themselves are straightforward enough, faux being the French word for fake and patina being that elegant descriptor of when the surface appearance of something has become beautiful with age or use.
These words, faux patina, were once reserved for describing only the most egregious of vintage or heritage inspired watch reissues, those watches that were clearly and directly inspired by the authenticity of age, but taking the shortcut of being new, readily available, and devoid of any character or proportions of the original its in homage of. The watch equivalent of pre-faded denim jeans or newly distressed furniture. It reminds me of a quaint furniture store in Virginia with the tongue-in-cheek name, “Antique Tables Made Daily”.
What really grinds my gears however is not faux patina watches per se (If you haven’t noticed, I refuse to use the word fauxtina, being convinced every time that illegitimate word is written or said, a child in Switzerland finds his chocolate melted), but people’s collective use of the term when talking about any watch with anything remotely non-white colored lume.
Sure, I will be the first to admit the onset of cream, ecru, beige, tan, eggshell, ivory, or however you want to describe white-adjacent colored lume was initially a response to the desire to capture the warmth of vintage watches. We can all agree a faded to chocolate dial with creamy lume is a wonderful marker of the passage of time. But today, I would argue, rather vehemently, that in fact it is now no more than a design choice, and one that should be embraced and not looked down upon. There are case, dial, hand, strap combinations where a stark white lume pip, baton marker, or hour hand would be garish or out of place in pure white. All things in watch design should be open for exploration and experimentation. Imagine telling the residents of Milwaukee, known as, “The Cream City”, um, sorry but no one is buying that fake patina, please repaint all the newer buildings white and lets just let them age to beige.
We live in the most amazing times as fellow watch collectors. The selection in breadth and depth of watches has never been matched before, from passion projects of a single individual to collective engineering marvels from the largest manufacturers/maisons. Let’s not stymie the color and design choices of others through the simplistic and often baseless blanket statement, “nice new watch, just wish it didn’t have that fauxtina lume” (dang it, a Lindt truffle just melted). Instead, imagine the novel idea of judging a watch by how it looks and feels today, right now, without letting any preconceived notions, unconscious biases, or historic prejudices color our opinions. Instead of all things with watches being black or white, let’s embrace that grey area and not raise our white flag in defeat, but our cream-colored one in victory!
And while we’re at it, let’s take another look at that famous quatrain by Joseph Jacobs and see if we can’t bend it a bit to embrace our new ethos.
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.
I spy the lume glow brightly for everyman,
Be he modern, or be he vintage,
I’ll toast his watch regardless of image.
As a vintage Rolex collector was telling me, “it’s not cream, it’s custard”. Well, let’s all have our custard and eat it too!
Note: Thoughts, opinions, “facts”, and overall outlook on life are those of The Grumpy Collector and not necessarily of WATCHA staff, readers, or most sane people in general. Have a gripe you’d like to share or have profiled by The Grumpy Collector? Contact the grump himself, Troy, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on Instagram @TheGrumpyCollector)