The Purist

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The Purist

by: Hanson, Jon; on: September 13th, 2007

During the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's Otay Watch Company watches held sort of a fascination with west coast collectors--being made in California, south of San Diego; a rather rare company; almost impossible to locate; with a multitude of names, grades, finishes and minor dial variations; a multitude of MIS INFORMATION (on various message boards), in horological books, price guides, watch gossip and newspapers; plus, the ever presence of a well known and "near" complete collection of the things in a wonderful old, old Southern California watch collection.

Well, the rush was on for these watches by the early American watch collectors in the Southern California area, a hot bed of interest and action during those decades mentioned above. Of course, I just had to have one and it took years to finally get my first one--BUT THAT IS ANOTHER STORY.

For those unfamiliar with this company and its products having one example simply is not good enough, especially since there are so many different grade names, types of finishes and dial variations. The lure of the "sexy" name and scarcity leads one on and on, sort of like a race--FIND ANOTHER and ANOTHER (almost like an Easter egg hunt!); plus, what could be more fun than securing a new, unrecorded example and proudly showing it to the resident "king" (at the time) of Otay watches?

I became friends with a fellow up in Castro Valley, Calif. who had two of them, Red Laquaglia. Red was a convention regular in California and well known for carrying and showing off his stuff (another story, funny as hell, which I'll tell at another time) and he was real proud of his two Otay examples, both of the commonest variety, re cased and in rather average condition. In short, I traded him an "off condition" Seth Thomas 25 Jewel Maiden Lane for his two Otays. At the time of the trade he told me that the barrel bridge of the two toned "Native Son" didn't match the plate number; still, it was a great trade for me--two for one, trade bait, better value, etc., etc. When I got home I checked the number and they were just one number different.

Fast forward--another time I acquired a nice watch and tool collection, also up in Northern California, basically to capture several watches, one being an Otay "Native Son." Yep, you guessed it, the two "Native Sons" (Red's and this new one) were consecutive numbers and, you guessed it again, THE BARREL BRIDGES WERE SWITCHED. However, this could NOT be remedied, as Red's was worn out, over cleaned, and missing most of the gold two tone portion while the other was near new or near new! I looked and thought and looked and pondered the temptation to correct the supposed factory error, BUT HOW COULD I as they looked ridiculous with the worn BB on the near new watch and the near new BB on the worn example. Easy decision - I LEFT THEM ALONE, this factory assembly error. NO SWITCHING HERE!

What would have been your "secret" decision back in 1974 had they both been in similar condition?

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