Timepiece Trivia Nerds: This One’s for You

Here’s a fun fact most people don’t know about me: In 1997, I was a contestant on the very first episode of Win Ben Stein’s Money, Comedy Central’s irreverent answer to Jeopardy!. I have the VHS tape to prove it.

Although I ended up in second place, losing out to a two-time former Jeopardy! champion named Mitchell, who did, in fact, take Ben Stein’s money, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on the show, which made me modestly famous among my group of friends and acquaintances when the network aired and re-aired my episode.

All this is by way of saying I’m a big-time trivia nerd. (Don’t even think about calling me at 7 p.m. on weeknights—Jeopardy! is a sacrosanct tradition in my home!)

When longtime watch journalist and former WatchTime editor Norma Buchanan sent me a revised edition of her 2006 classic, The Watch Buff’s Book of Trivia, a few weeks ago, she probably had no idea I was her ideal reader. The word trivia alone is enough to make me smile. But a whole book dedicated to fun facts about a subject I’ve immersed myself in for nearly two decades? Glorious!

Norma Buchanan headshot
Author Norma Buchanan

Divided into 20 themed chapters dealing with discrete topics including watches and presidents, watches and sports, watches and art, etc., the $14 revised edition contains 473 pieces of essential watch trivia, written in question-and-answer format (including 80 new tidbits).

I love the book’s fantastic pop-culture factoids, like this:

What chain-smoking author, director and TV host sometimes wore a Hamilton Ventura on the air?

“Rod Serling, host of The Twilight Zone, which aired from 1959 to 1964. He can be seen wearing the watch during his introductions to some episodes of the show,” Buchanan writes.

As she notes in her preface, however, the book serves a secondary purpose beyond entertainment value, “by providing useful information about watch technology, watch history, and the watch industry to those who, for professional reasons or simply out of curiosity, want to know more about the wide world of watches.”

For example, the book clarified a detail about one luxury brand’s history that I knew only in the vaguest terms:

One actor was so fond of the watch he wore in the 1996 movie Daylight that he asked the watch’s manufacturer to make him 200 more to give to friends and colleagues. Who was the actor, and what watch was it?

“The actor was Sylvester Stallone, who played the movie’s hero, and the watch a Panerai Mare Nostrum. Each watch bore the words “Panerai Slytech” on the dial and Stallone’s signature on the caseback,” according to Buchanan.

Of particular interest to retailers who cater to watch lovers are the fascinating asides in this book, which serve as great fodder for sales pitches.

I’ll leave you with a few teasers:

• In 1943, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a Patek Philippe grand complication pocketwatch to a 7-year-old boy. Who was he?

• Admiral Richard Byrd was assisted in his famous second expedition over Antarctica by roughly 50 timepieces made by what company?

• The world’s first TV commercial was for a watch brand. Which one?

Buy the book and start boning up. We can quiz each other later.

JCK Magazine Editor