Robin Nooij, Editor of MONOCHROME, Shares his Love for the Tudor Black Bay “Smiley Face”
"Buying such a watch days before buying your first house requires some explaining to your other half."
The Collector’s Series focuses on a shared passion for watches. Stories from real people who tell us why they fell in love with a certain watch. This can be pretty much anything and doesn’t necessarily have to be an ultra-complex, ultra-expensive, ultra-rare piece. It can also be a more widely available, attainable watch from a mainstream brand that just resonates with someone. For this, we thought we’d ask our very own contributor Robin Nooij – here on Instagram – some questions about a stand-out piece in his collection. We already knew which piece that is, but now you get to know too.
Robin Nooij has been writing and working for us for about nine years now, alongside his job for a large banking company. He’s been with us for a while and, as such, has witnessed all sorts of things going on around MONOCHROME. Attending Baselworld, SIHH and various other events, he’s learned about the wonderful world of watches inside out. In this journey into watchmaking, he also attended a night-school course at the Dutch watchmaking institute in Schoonhoven, making him the perfect candidate for today’s instalment of the Collector’s Series!
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Robin, of course, I know your background and the story about your passion for watchmaking and this particular watch, but can you tell our readers a bit more about yourself?
Robin Nooij – Of course. I’m not really sure where it actually started as I simply can’t remember the moment. What I do know is that it pretty much jumped from cars to watches at one point. I am a car guy, and cars and watches are intertwined for me (Editor’s Note: Robin is the pen behind most of our recent episodes of the Petrolhead Corner). A long time fan of Formula 1, and racing in general, I was introduced to TAG Heuer, Rolex and such early on. The knowledge was entirely superficial since I hadn’t taken a real interest yet. I had a couple of quartz watches in my childhood, mainly from fashion brands, before my passion really took off.
Things started to change when I was looking for a watch to buy for myself; I think I was about 24 or 25, maybe. At that point in time, I bought a watch with my eyes only, nothing else. I had no knowledge of history, movement construction, complications, Swiss Made and what not. It was a simple yes or no based on what I saw in front of me. One day I came across a Certina DS Podium Big Size on display in a large Dutch department store, de Bijenkorf, and I was hooked on that watch instantly. From then on, digging through online information for hours and hours, a whole new world opened up. At one point, I saw the listing on MONOCHROME seeking new contributors, and that’s when the hobby exploded into a full-blown passion. My first article went online back in 2012 already, so we’re talking nine years now.
What attracted you to that watch, and did you end up buying it?
Yes, I did, and I still own it. What struck me was the combination of the black dial, white prints, polished hour markers and red chronograph hands. Add in the tachymeter scale, and you’ve got me. It came on an alligator-embossed leather strap, which to me made it a perfect blend of sporty and chic. At the moment, the battery (yes, sorry, it’s a quartz watch) is dead, and the original strap is completely worn out—small issues, which I can fix myself, but it hardly gets any time on the wrist anymore.
It was my everyday watch for a couple of years, and I did just about everything with it. Despite the, dare I say it, abuse I let loose on the watch it kept running perfectly and is in quite good condition. It felt like my first “big” watch purchase at a sticker price of about 500 euro. Funnily enough, this remains the only chronograph watch in my collection now that I think of it! I need to change that, I guess.
In collecting watches, what do you look for nowadays?
Well, that changes as the years go by. It all depends on budget and appeal. I like watches that are different from mainstream conceptions. That doesn’t mean I don’t like popular watches, but when MeisterSinger launched the Salthora Meta X, a dive watch with jumping hour complications, I loved it. The same goes for the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge in black. As I own both of them, these watches offer something different, something peculiar, that resonates with me.
Besides that, I don’t really have a focus on collecting watches. I collect watches that I really want and not for speculation. So far, I have rarely parted with a watch that I purchased from my wish list. It’s happened maybe once or twice when a watch I really liked was a let-down in real life.
And which is the most beloved item in your collection? Is there one that stands out more than others?
Oh yes, by a country mile! That has to be my Tudor Black Bay 79220N, the black dial model with the “Smiley Face” logo. I love this watch. It’s nothing spectacular or super complex, but to me, it is a milestone watch for several reasons. It is the culmination of working up to my first BIG watch purchase after starting with MONOCHROME. Yes, there have been mechanical watches before it and since, but this one is dearest to me.
I attended the press conferences for the red and blue Black Bay models that came before it. And even though this came at a later point in the year, I believe 2015, and I hadn’t seen it live, I knew this was the one. It is modelled after a unique piece Tudor did for Only Watch, and the combination of the black dial, bezel and gilt hands and markings is a winner. I was head over heels in love with it, and I still am to this day. It gets the most time on the wrist out of all my watches, and even my girlfriend wants one.
Specifically, it is the Tudor Black Bay with ETA-sourced movement. It was in production for only a few months, as in March of 2016, Tudor launched the updated Black Bay with an in-house movement. That makes it rather rare, and currently, prices have doubled for what I paid for it back in 2016.
As is the case with other steel sports watches currently… Would you ever consider selling it?
No, I don’t think I ever will. I’m not buying watches for a potential profit down the line. I buy what I want for various reasons, but always with the idea to keep it. The Black Bay is special to me, even if by now I do feel it would be even better with a slightly slimmer case. I have tried the BB58, and however lovely it may be, I can’t see myself ever selling the 79220N.
The story on when, not necessarily how, but when I bought this watch is another reason not to sell it. After living in a rental apartment for a couple of years, my girlfriend and I bought our first house in 2016. A big step in anyone’s life, I guess. I ended up buying the Tudor just a week or two before we made the investment to buy our house. That needed a little explaining, but luckily my girlfriend understands what I do and supports me. She also knows I don’t make stupid decisions when it comes to buying watches.
What other watches do you have on your wish list, or are you dreaming of?
That depends on what budget we are talking about. I cannot see myself buying watches costing tens of thousands of dollars simply because I am not fortunate enough. Nevertheless, I am happy where I am. Of course, I am always looking for the next purchase, and within my “restrictions” in buying watches, there are a couple on the horizon. What I would absolutely love to add to the collection is the TAG Heuer Monaco CAW211P, the so-called Steve McQueen version. That’s quite the dream watch for me.
If we’re talking about watches I dream of, regardless of budget and such, it has to be the A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk. That, to me, is another technical masterpiece that does something no other watch does. A fully mechanical, instantly jumping digital time display is just extraordinary. I have had the experience of handling several Zeitwerk’s during my years at MONOCHROME, and it always brings a huge smile to my face. The combination of that mechanical wizardry hiding under a seemingly simple dial is just super cool; I love it!
Yeah, don’t sell it. It’s one of the nicest Tudors to own.
Soo…lets see, you have a woman you love, lets you buy a nice watch at a critical time and who you feel committed enough to to buy a house with….
And you haven’t married her?
For some reason the Tudor rose is what impresses me. I guess the historical significance ticks some box in me. When they went to the shield their watches went down several points in my estimation. Funny what appeals and what detracts on certain watches. Robin hang on to the “Rose” and good on you.