If you’ve read through the site to this point, you probably know that I have a particular style when it comes to watches – I love the classics. You know, the Speedmasters, Carreras, and Submariners of the world. But every once in a while, something that’s a little outside the box tickles my fancy. The watch in this post, the Oak & Oscar Sandford, is one that I would have admired from afar and considered breaking my “vintage above all else” mindset even if I didn’t call Chase Fancher a friend. But…he is my friend.
The story of Oak & Oscar is one that probably resonates with a lot of young(ish) collectors. Chase (the founder of O&O) had a nice role at a Fortune 500 company and had been progressing up the chain, but felt a nagging urge to break out of it and do something bigger that involved his true passions. There’s a lot that goes into the decision to leave a very secure situation for entrepreneurship, and as romantic as it sounds, I know myself a little too well to seriously entertain a similar move (though I often pine for a life outside of conference calls, spreadsheets, and investment memos). Chase, however, had the balls to chase his dream, and given that it’s a common passion for me, his development and journey into being a full-blown entrepreneur is something that I’ve identified with strongly. His first watch (the Burnham) was a success by all measures. It was well received, garnered a ton of press from the major outlets, and fully sold out the 300 piece run within a year of the brand’s introduction. While I admired everything about his story and our burgeoning friendship, I just didn’t bond with the Burnham when I tried it on. At 42mm, the case was a little too big on my wrist, and I just didn’t see a place for it in my ever-evolving rotation. Release number two was a different story though.
It was winter of 2015 and Chase texted me in the morning to say he would be in the Loop that day / to see if I wanted to get a coffee in the afternoon. As a lover of coffee and watches, I cleared my schedule and met up with him. What he did not tell me, was that he had the prototype for watch #2 on his wrist and I’d get to check it out. As soon as I strapped it to my wrist, it was clear that it hit a variety of notes (for me) that the first one had not.
The first thing was the size: at 40mm, it has the size and heft of a modern tool watch, but not at the expense of smaller wrists. I don’t have Goliath-sized wrists, so the shorter lugs and smaller diameter are a really welcome change. The second thing I loved was the useful complication. I travel frequently and have two GMTs, but they’re both extremely different watches (the Autavia GMT and Nomos Zurich Weltzeit), and aren’t great for longer trips to places like South America or Asia. The Sandford can play that role perfectly. Finally, I loved that the Sandford retains the basic DNA that defined the Burnham, and also doesn’t draw direct inspiration from any other GMT on the market. Simply put, it’s a unique watch in a market full of re-editions and poor value propositions. Add in my personal tie to Chase, and the decision to pre-order one was a no-brainer.
I don’t typically buy new watches, and I’m also the farthest thing from an “important person,” so it probably shouldn’t come as a shock that before this one, I had never attended a release party for a watch before. With that being said – if the Sandford release party was the only one I attend, I’m okay with it. One of the coolest parts of supporting small brands like Oak & Oscar is the feeling of camaraderie among the ownership group, and as I looked around the party that night and saw some old, familiar faces and some new faces, it was clear that everyone was there for more than just a new watch to wear around – it was personal.