At Stock, we like to see ourselves as bridge from the past to present and often reference vintage garments to get a better understanding of construction and most importantly, quality. And while we all strive to buy the highest quality possible within budget and admire the break-in of expertly crafted and new designs over time, sometimes picking up where a previous owner left off gives an object new life and makes it your own. Be it a ruggedly-worn Schott jacket, nicked-up timepiece or a dream car in perfect condition, much of our collective understanding of masculine “cool” is derived from the 40s, 50s and 60s. That said, the digitalized vintage marketplace is a seemingly endless parade of options and can be overwhelming to navigate.
But fear not. Many of our friends and fans of Stock find themselves scouring for the best vintage out there and we’re starting a new series to highlight some individuals who have successfully completed the deep dives and come to surface with a grail. Or two. This time we went sailing, cruised around, and sat down with our pal Clayton Beck.
What made you interested in collecting?
I guess I've always been a collector of sorts, from Transformers and G.I. Joes when I was a kid in the 80s, to baseball cards and comics, in the early 90s. I've always been drawn to the excitement of completing a set, or finding that rare, hard to find figure, card, or book. That thrill is still there when it comes to looking for cool furniture, watches, records, etc.
Your 77’ Porsche 911S is sublime. How did you find it and what made you pull the trigger?
About 7 years ago I was living and working downtown Chicago with no car at all, walking to work, cabbing everywhere, loving it. Once in a while I would check out older 911s on eBay, nothing that serious, just to see what came up in my area. One day this funky green 70's 911 popped up in Schaumburg, about an hour's drive from downtown. It needed a little body work and some new wheels, but most of the car was original. Two days later I was taking the car for a test drive. The seller spent a good amount of time walking me through all the mechanical details - carrera chain tensioner update kit, thermal reactor removed, updated 11 blade alternator fan... all the stuff I found when Googling "problems to look for with a 70's 911". The seller knew what he was talking about and didn't candy-coat any potential issues down the line. The car smelled funky, ran rich, was nearly impossible to get into 2nd (thanks 915 transmission), but it sounded great, had the original orange shag carpet, was built the same year I was born, and just felt right. The next day with a couple beers in me at a street fest I called the seller and told him to take down the listing. I figured it was impractical for me to get a car, so why not buy an impractical car! So for anyone out there interested in buying vintage, my advice would be do your research, drive the car, buy the seller, and loosen up a bit, life's too short!
"It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." - F. Bueller
Your Rolex collection started with a gift after you graduated from University of Chicago. Tell us about that Datejust.
The Datejust is my most treasured watch, given to me by my dad after I graduated college. The night he gave it to me he was in a cab halfway to dinner when he realized he accidentally left it on top of an ATM at his hotel. After about 15 minutes and a minor heart attack he went back to the ATM to find it still sitting there! Who knows, if that 15 minutes went a little different we may not be talking about watches!
He had a new white roman numeral dial installed and the caseback engraved with my initials, my school, and the year I graduated. The 36mm size and jubilee bracelet make it extremely comfortable to wear. I guess I was initially drawn to the overall quality of everything from curves of the case to the click of the clasp and the feel of the movement when you're changing the time.
“Birth year” collecting is becoming more and more popular, in fact, both your vintage Rolex Submariner and Porsche were made the year you were born.
While the 911 being a 'birth year' was the cherry on the top that helped me pull the trigger, I searched specifically for a 'birth year' watch. It narrowed the focus of my search, and made it that much more exciting and important when I found one. It's also interesting to think that we've both been around for the same amount of time, aging at the same rate, both gracefully I hope!
You own a ‘77 Rolex Submariner and the new Submariner. Having spent time with both, what can you say about the evolution of the timepiece?
I think Rolex has done a great job updating their timepieces with elements that maintain the form follows function principle. I also like how they've been pretty consistent with the overall style and aesthetic of the watch. Watch people could probably list dozens of changes from the '77 to the '17, but many non-watch folks will say they look pretty much the same. The ceramic sub is definitely more substantial, it's a tank, and just about as durable. The '77 1680 is much warmer with the acrylic crystal, matte dial, and bumps, scrapes, and dings from a 40 year old life.
Your Rolex GMT and Submariner are considered tool watches. What sort of everyday applications have you found them useful for?
The GMT is great for travel, the 2nd position of the crown lets you adjust only the hour hand in one hour increments without stopping the watch, super easy to change when traveling, and the GMT hand keeps home time, it's a great travel watch.
I’ve often heard you say “the hunt” is the best part of collecting. Can you elaborate?
I've always appreciated the hunt as much as the actual acquisition, if not more so. It's a journey, and you learn so much about what you're looking for along the way. After putting in the effort to research and finally find what you've been looking for it feels like you earned it, which can make it that much more important.
What items do you currently have your eye on?
I would love a beat up black nipple dial birth-year GMT on a rough black strap. Prices are crazy right now, but likely to get even crazier...
What advice do you have for readers who are looking to get a collection started?
Start with research, join some forums (rennlist.com rolexforums.com) and dig around the old posts, people out there have likely already asked questions you may have. Also, get out into the real world and go to watch or car 'get togethers' and talk to other enthusiasts, people are more than happy to talk about their passions. It also gives you a chance to actually see the watches/cars/whatever to see if they still speak to you in person, after obsessing over them online.