40 Years of Eddie Bauer Watches: Part 2

Outdoor fashion ’90s? style — Sporty, anyone?

Don’t know what to call it, but I like it!

Do you have good taste? Do you have style? Are you fashion conscious? A lot of us are afraid we don’t, so we allow others to define these for us. Its a shame, really, because we are all different and have individual tastes, but we want to be accepted by others so we follow along sometimes instead of striking out on our own — defining our own style.

What am I talking about you may be asking? I’m supposed to be talking about Eddie Bauer branded watches. This happens to me often when I start a post; I’m not sure where it will go until I start writing most of the time. As I was starting this one I realized I have trouble categorizing many of my watches. Its a recurring theme in my watch world. Coincidentally I have been thinking about fashion, style, and taste.

I think this is shaping up to be three posts in one: a range of Eddie Bauer watches, style, fashion, taste, and watch pricing and fashion. I’m not going to get too detailed on the watches—just give an impression of them. One, because I need more info on them and, two, because want to look at their style, and finally three, because it will get bogged down. So, you could read the paragraphs separately from the long cations. The paragraphs more about fashion, style, pricing; the captions more specifically about the individual watches. My first crack at these watches is here: https://lowlycaliber.com/2024/01/10/40-years-of-eddie-bauer-watches-part-1/

Group1. None on original straps. 39mmx47mm, white dial, plastic, uni-direct. bezel, diver-like, 50mWR. New EB logo. Was on a velcro strap. I hate velcro! Don’t really like J.Crew strap I put on it either(early 2000s?). 39mmx46mm, green dial, field-like. Love the shape/size and bezel. The numbers, not so much. 100mWR, Was quite beat up and pitting on back case (salt water?). Sadly the back light function is dead. A CNS textured NATO.(early 2000s?). 37mmx42mm blue dial, two-tone. NW name: Sandpoint. Irresistible. Miyota6M12, Quintel, Hong Kong, Cathedral hands. Almost identical to some Bulova Marine Stars I have from same period, but cheaper manufacture. Hints of Breitling Colt and Tag Heuer in the bezel. 50mWR, Dressy diver persona. CNS gold hardware Bond NATO. (late 1990s?) Is there a style here? All probably need different straps?

Classifying Fashion

I don’t know what to call some of these Eddie Bauer watches. My default Category is Fashion Watch. That leads to something else I always say: every watch selection is a fashion statement, or a presentation of style, or a discernment that indicates taste, unless you are choosing blindly, or have no choice? This has a bad connotation in the 70s to 90s if you are an enthusiast interested in movements and specs, or, good if you are interested in cheap accessories for style on a budget.

There was a period when Eddie Bauer gave its watches a style name that was some location in the Seattle area. Later they had cryptic names that look like parts bin labels in a factory: “LG LightUp Field #1215”. Most non-bracelet models came to me on beat up straps or other than original straps. Some original straps were leather-trimmed nylon or leather—what I like to call “swiss-army” style straps. Lots of the older ones have nice vintage leather straps. So, I’m struggling with what straps mean for the style of these. Because many are more dressy or fashion than tool-ish, they need brown leather with gold (usually). I also think the sizing and features make me think some of them were marketed for women or at least unisex if that was possible in the late 90s?

Style

If I am collecting cheap, old, Fossil or Quintel produced, Chinese-made, quartz-powered fashion watches and wearing them, does that constitute establishing a style, showing taste or making a fashion move? I guess I am saying it does. We can’t get away from it. There is a look, that draws me. Even though they should represent some outdoors ideal, they also reflect fashion of the time. 90’s Tag Heuer again—sport dressy diver with bracelet.

Group 2. 38.5mm x 43mm, white dial, two-tone,integrated bracelet, rehaut scale,most subtle crown guard I have seen with small crown. Fixed bezel, Well worn. Polerouter look? Love the oval hour markers.(early 90s?) 40mm x 45.5mm, white dial, two-tone, integrated bracelet with solid links, newest of the three? Rotating bezel, rehaut scale. Quite elaborate bezel—very mid 90s Zodiac Gold point.(mid 90s?) 36mm x 42mm, white dial Roman numeral, two-tone. This one is wild! Everything is more delicate, maybe marketed to women? Organic, curved lugs like a Tag Heauer S/el, mixture of early 90s Tag Heuer details like gold bezel studs and a crazy gold beaded bezel perimeter? It has a screw-in crown and is 100mWR, lighter, folded H-link, not signed, bracelet has a skin diver feel.(note: a 50mWR version without screw-down crown came on leather). Overall a crazy mix of details.(early 90s?)Why was the white dial so popular then?

Collectors, while collecting whatever it is they are collecting might not be thinking about any of these things. To them a watch is a piece of design that appeals to them for is very make up, it is combination of design elements, technology, history. One might collect a certain kind of watch, but not really wear it. One might use a watch as a tool, not considering it as showing a style. A Rolex submariner could be considered a tool by one user, a fashion statement by another and then a statement of taste by another. It could also be an investment to yet another. Collectors can also get away with taking interest in quirky watches that stray from current trends and fashions or luxury level.

I often hear in the the watch community somebody making a distinction between a collector and an enthusiast (user). The enthusiasts usually have a small number of watches, wear them often, then rotate them out for new watches regularly changing with trends as style change. The collector, while wearing watches, also has many more that don’t get worn as much, and might stay with a style for a longer period. There are thousands of variations of collector/enthusiast, but anytime you make a choice you are making some kind of fashion, taste, or style statement.

Being a watch enthusiast entails using categories and language that other enthusiasts can quickly grasp meaning from. So we use Tool, Dress, Sport, Fashion, Dive, Vintage, Throw-away, Beater, Field, Luxury, Everyday etc., to start classifying a watch. Then price, function, materials, movements, colors are used to further breakdown a particular watch. We cross reference them in the matrix. The trouble is there are so many different kinds of watches that some don’t easily fit into one type, but instead are combinations of many things.

Sometimes a watch is defined by what is not. I can see someone describing a watch they got at Eddie Bauer with, ” Its not a nice watch; just something I can wear fishing or skiing.” They might go to a jeweler to get a nice watch, that they dress up with. So, the intention was a tool watch for skiing, but when worn to the grocery store in a non-ski outfit it becomes a style or fashion statement. How about a watch category called Watch? Just a watch, because it is not really any one type of watch, but just an inexpensive watch with characteristics of several hard categories.

I find it interesting that the style range of Eddie Bauer watches shown here go beyond the outdoorsy or sportsman field style. They have avoided a pure diver look for one, but have hybrid styles that mix field/diver or dress/diver. They didn’t do the Mercedes style hands like all the Marine Stars did? They opted for delicate batons. Over all the designs they sold probably reflected the general trends( the looks) of the time? I have seen many other Eddie Bauer watches I like, but have to keep some control over how many I can keep! I have seen some EB designs that really have no style connection to outdoors that I can see, but a pure fashion.

The Price of Fashion

Price is an interesting element in classifying watches because in most watch-related media, the price of a watch is one of the most important factors determining its relevance for discussion. Price also relates to exclusivity, which usually equates to good taste and appropriateness for discussion. Below a certain price point watches can become irrelevant. Fashion, Style and Taste occur at all price points, but we all get more squeamish about discussing these things as the price drops. Of course, I am generalizing. Every enthusiast has their price range, up and down, that is relevant. Some have wider ranges. We like to discuss watches in or above our price range, but we set price floors below which we don’t want to go more readily than we do for price ceilings beyond which we don’t want to go.

Its not common to consider low end style, right? That’s why I’m here. I see a look, a style in these watches that attracts me. It may be conscious or unconscious or symbolic. So, if I wear one, I am saying, “I like something about this watch.” I’m saying, “this is me”, in a way. It evokes some image? Price is a big factor. I can express myself 25 times at $25 or once at $500. Or, zero times at $4000.

You won’t often hear, in a positive note, watch enthusiasts discussing discerning details of Fossil watches, but they will go on for hours discussing taste in Omegas.

I listened to a pod cast at Worn & Wound the other day where editors and contributors discussed what the term Tool Watch means. It was interesting when they were discussing the blurring of lines between tool watches and other categories. How the category of a watch changes depending on how you use it. One mentioned the style of tool watches versus how they are used. But what stuck out to me was the price point of tool watches discussed. A wrist check revealed that three of four participants were wearing Tudor Black Bays of some kind or another and and the fourth a Havid Nagan HN00(he was currently reviewing), a micro brand titanium dress watch, I suppose. He also has a Tudor within reach! A pretty narrow range of tool watch style? They were all wearing $4000 watches while talking about luxury watches that cost even more and but at the same time saying price does not define a tool watch as much as function. They even debated if a $10,000 dive watch is luxury watch or a tool watch. Again, how its used.

Why were they not wearing Seiko or Bertucci (one did say he owned a Bertucci) or Marathon tool watches, that are $200-600, as sold in W&W’s own shop? God forbid mentioning Timex. Its because in their realm of in-the-know, fashion dictates wearing the most expensive you can afford. Even though each one said they mostly got the watch for its looks, its style, not its tool-ish properties. They also said a tool watch could be any price, then mostly talked about watches over $4000? Its more than looks. They are saying that they need an exclusivity for a taste that is worth $4000 to show.

As I look at my Eddie Bauer watches they seem to fall into a value/utility/everyday/fashion watch bowl! All were preowned, under $120 (I think?), most between $50-80, some under $30. Some under $20! When new, after all, they were purchased at an Eddie Bauer store, which entails a certain price point, a certain style, and indicates a certain function. Style-wise it should evoke something outdoorsy? Also, the years they were made and the source of manufacture suggest certain attributes. Some are Field-like, some are Fashion-like, some are Diver-like, some are Dressy. General Eddie Bauer customers might not have been watch enthusiasts and just wanted a watch, something they could afford that has a certain look to suit their taste, or style? An accessory to a type of clothing they wore. If they were a camper, maybe they might have wanted a watch that lights up in their tent and can take getting wet.

Group3. Some variety in this group, but then some similarities, too. Again, tough to categorize easily. 36mm x 41.5mmm Bronze, white dial, Roman numerals on bezel, NW Name: Shilshole, Day/Date, Japan mvmt. 50mWR, Pretty beat up when I got it. Needs new crystal, and different strap(leather), elegant design. (80s?). 37mm x 43.5mm, antiq. brass finish, tan dial, small seconds, leather/fabric strap original, great condition, 30mWR. vintage vibe, I love non-silver watches.(mid 90s?) 40mm x 45mm, white dial, two-tone flat bezel, NW Name: Oak Harbor, non-original strap, late 90s Tag Heuer 2000 feel?(late 90s?) 36.5mm x 40mm, white dial, stainless case,brass bezel(?),or, both base metal plated? Came on leather, excellent condition, but I have seen a women’s 27mm on two-tone bracelet. 100mWR, screw-down crown. Nuts!, look at that bezel?! Field watch with Aquaracer shape meets fashion watch. Its dressy and sporty and simple. Fashion watch awesomeness! An upgraded 38mm auto version of this with an NH35 would sell like hotcakes.(late 90s?). 38.5mm x 43mm, gunmetal pvd, white dial, gold trim. Case/bezel shape flat out Tag Heuer Series 6000 copy! Even put an EB logo where the TH shield would be. Model name: Gunmetal. Hmmm? 50mWR. Love the grey color.

I am now looking at these older watches from a different perspective than when they were new. I am trying to place them in my current context of watch enthusiast as design from a time and place past. I don’t know their original cost or marketing context. Currently, I don’t believe Eddie Bauer sells any watches? I don’t know when they stopped selling branded watches. Maybe around 2005 when parent company Spiegel went to bankruptcy? If they did, they would probably be double signed higher end like Filson/Shinola did or the requisite limited edition collaboration. The watch industry has changed a lot in the past twenty years. That said, L.L. Bean is still selling labeled generic “swiss made” quartz field and chronograph watches in the $250-$350 price range. Not Fossil then? Eddie Bauer is a more mass market brand, priced maybe a bit below L.L. Bean, so it’s watches might be a bit cheaper? While I am digressing, I recently saw another Huckberry x Timex collaboration bringing back a ’90s Ironman Flix digital reissue that is selling for $99. This is a lot cheaper than the usual Huckberry x Timex automatics in the $350 range.

What you might expect?
34mm Field glory

I’ll end with this little 33.5mm x 41.5mm grey cutie because this is probably what comes to mind for watches at Eddie Bauer? A watch recognizable as a classic Field Watch. Imagine that! This comes to you courtesy of Fossil, with a Miyota 6N10 movement with back light. The prominent pusher at 2 o’clock is for the light. The hands and the numbers have lume material. 50mWR. My favorite thing about this one is the case color and finish. Even the case back is the same satin grey that must be pvd?

Again, I know nothing about this watch. I’m guessing early 2000s? I don’t know what strap it originally had, but I put it on an 18mm camouflage NATO I had for now. Not sure if it came in a bigger size and this was considered a women’s model? What I don’t like about it is the dial background of a printed light grey dot pattern on dark grey that detracts from legibility. The small grey type is hard to read at this scale. Maybe it is to simulate a fabric feel? I guess the design was too plain, so they had to add something? Of all the watches on this post, this one I can classify. I’m calling it a tool watch! If you are a Hamilton wearer, you might be tempted to call it a fashion watch in the tool watch style! Is Fossil allowed to make tool watches?

I’ve got to wrap this mess up! Where’s an editor when you need one? I’m sorry if I got off on style and fashion thoughts, but am forever trying to figure out how products came to be, the choices made, and what was the intended market. We as consumers apply our own style and fashion on others’ designs. I can have a lot of fun with so many of these inexpensive Eddie Bauer watches even though they aren’t considered real watches in the watch enthusiast world.


Posted

in

,

by

Tags:

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *