Author: Author

I'm a designer living and working in the Kansas City area. I'm into art, design, music, food, adult beverages, auto racing, architecture and more.

Fashionably Telling Time for Less Than Two Grand

A few weeks back I was talking with a friend at happy hour about a new watch that I had recently acquired. My friend is a bit of a fashionista but, has never popped for a more upscale watch that would complement his fashion sense. As we talked it became apparent that the reason for this is the misconception that you have to shell out a huge sum of money to get a luxury level watch that will appreciate over time. 

With that said, I ask him what his criteria was for a nice watch. His budget, style, movement, etc. It came down to this. $500.00 to $2000.00 max. It had to look stylish and compliment his wardrobe. The movement was, to him irrelevant. ( I told him that he should look for an automatic ).

While sitting at our table enjoying our cocktails I busted out my iPhone and did a quick search for timepieces and showed him a handful of watches he could get that wouldn’t break the bank and met the rest of his requirements. And that got me to thinking. What are ten stylish, well-designed watches that come in at $1500.00 or less that could appreciate in value, or at least hold their value? A timepiece you would want to pass on to your kid. That you could wear every day and know that it complimented what you had on. 

Here are the criteria I set. 

$2000.00 or less in price

Stylish and well designed

An automatic movement if possible

Limited edition if possible (helps keep the watch value)

Nothing too flashy or gaudy

Here is my list, in no particular order.

Bravur Geography GMT Limited Edition Watch

This is a beautiful limited edition automatic in gold and forest green. It’s powered by a rhodium-plated Sellita 3301-1 with a decorated rotor. The Geography GMT comes in at $1850.00. There are only 25 of these that are going to be made. Each watch is built to order by hand. 

Zodiac Jetomatic Limited Edition

The Jetomatic Limited Edition is a homage to the original Zodiac Pilot watch from the 1960s. This watch features a 40mm stainless steel case and black leather strap. The large numerals and Super-LumiNova print allow readability in all conditions and an oversize crown for time setting even with gloved hands. This COSC-certified chronometer watch is limited to 82 pieces and features an automatic movement. Don’t be put off by the fact that Zodiac is owned by Fossil. These are great watches. This tips the scale at $1495.00

Oris Aquis Limited Edition Ocean Blue

This limited edition floods the Oris Aquis with design details like a gradient blue dial and an aqua-blue ceramic blue insert. In addition, there’s a token made from recycled PET plastic on the case-back. 2,000 of these watches will be made and presented in a box made from algae with plastic inlays. This can be found at websites like Watchmaxx or Jomashop for between $1500.00 and $1995.00

Nomos Glashutte Orion 33 Duo

Nomos makes some amazing watches with some pricing out as high as $10,000.00. You don’t have to spend that kind of money to get a nice luxury watch from them. The Orion 33 Duo is a beautiful timepiece. It’s stylish, minimalist, and elegant. The stainless steel backed watch comes in at $1600.00. If you want something a bit more, you can get the sapphire crystal backed watch for $1900.00. This is a brand I really like. The Autobahn is on my list to acquire at some point in the future.

YEMA Superman Heritage GMT Watch

You want a Rolex Submariner but you don’t want to spend that kind of money. There are plenty of watches that reflect the styling of the classic Rolex but one I like is the recently released YEMA Superman Heritage. This French brand has been in business since 1948, located in Morteau just five miles from the Swiss border. This watch features a GMT complication which means the wearer can set the watch up to display one, two, or even three separate time zones, making this an exceptionally useful watch for people who travel frequently. It’s available in three color schemes, red and blue, red and black, or blue and grey. At $1499.00 it’s a nice entry-level alternative to that Submariner you want.

Shinola Vinton 38mm Stainless Steel

Shinola makes a ton of watches. Most of them are not really my taste or style. Most of them, in my opinion, seems a bit chunky or they are just too large for my wrist. The Vinton, however, works for me. The 38 mm case is a solid choice. The styling is simple, clean and easy to read. It’s distinctly American. All Shinola watches are hand-assembled in Detroit using an Argonite 715 quartz movement with Swiss and other imported parts. At $550.00 this is a nice daily driver.

The Bulova Oceanographer Limited Edition

With the bright orange dial, you are definitely going to make a statement with this watch. Bulova even says on their website “Designed to be Noticed”. This is a tribute to the 1970s Bulova Oceanographer and is limited to a production run of 666 pieces. It comes with limited edition packaging and at $1495.00 it gives you the opportunity to show off a bit without busting your budget. I love the black and white unidirectional bezel, over that orange three-hand dial. Well done Bulova.

Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage

I think this watch is absolutely stunning. Underneath the boxed sapphire crystal sits the Startimer’s blue sunburst dial. The hands remind me of the Omega Speedmaster’s, and the 42mm stainless steel case is handsomely sculpted. The back of which has a really nice engraving of the Alpina logo and a jet aircraft. The watch is finished off with a black leather strap that just goes with the stainless and blue of the case and dial. At $1395.00 this would be a great entry-level collectors watch.

Zodiac Super Seawolf

The Zodiac Super Seawolf is an homage to the original dive watch from the 1960s that has been updated to the 21st century. The Super Seawolf features a stainless-steel case and uni-directional mineral crystal top-ring, matte blue dial, stainless-steel 5-link bracelet with a C3 SuperLuminova hands and indexes. The Sea Wolf conveys Zodiac’s commitment to definitive style with timeless roots. I am so happy that Fossil bought this company and is helping to breath new life into them. By the way, Zodiac releases limited editions of their watches on a regular basis so keep a lookout if you are into collecting. The Seawolf can be had for about $1395.00

Dan Henry 1964 Gran Tourismo Chronograph

Dan Henry is a world-renowned watch collector. He is well respected in the industry and is sought out for his horological expertise so it’s no surprise that his collection of watches feature impeccable styling.

The 1964 Gran Tourismo Chronograph is directly inspired by a mashup of vintage Heuer Carrera references. I love the look of this watch, especially with the Panda dial. Inside the watch is Seiko’s ever-reliable VK63 meca-quartz movement. Yes, I know it’s not an automatic but at $250.00 who cares. This watch is limited to a run of 1964 pieces and is still available on the Dan Henry website.  

So there it is. 10 watches ranging in price from $250.00 to $2000.00. All of them look good on the wrist and some will definitely become collector’s items and probably appreciate in value. You don’t have to sacrifice style, design or quality just because your budget is limited. Start with an entry-level watch and a goal in mind go from there. If you like the way the watch looks and how it makes you feel, go for it because that is what is most important.

Checking Out The Sunflowers In My “Flyover State”

One of the nice things about having a Friday off is you get the opportunity to go to a place like Ginter Farms outside of Tonganoxie Kansas to test out some new camera gear.

One of the nice things about having a Friday off is you get the opportunity to go to a place like Grinter Farms outside of Tonganoxie Kansas to test out some new camera gear. 

As far as the eye can see. Well, almost.

Yesterday I took the Olympus Pen-F and the 14-42mm pancake Zoom to Ginter farms with my friend Tim to take some shots of the sunflowers that are open to the public. While the sunflowers were still spectacular, they weren’t nearly as tall as last year due to the weather this season. Late snow followed by an early heat spell and record-breaking rain almost did the crop in this year. 

Fortunately for us, we had 3 to 4-foot tall plants with plenty of blooms, And the crop was just as dense as always. It was the perfect backdrop to test the camera, the new lens, and a couple of trusted lenses I’ve been using for years. 

Each flower was covered with pollinators doing their thing. Shot with the 14-42 Pancake.

The verdict. The camera rocks, the lens is good but not great. I don’t mean the lens is bad, it’s just not as solid as my 12-40 Pro. It’s not as fast, or sharp which is expected since it costs about one-third of the pro lens. With that said though its diminutive size makes it perfect for travel which is why I picked it up in the first place. 

Shot with the 12-40 Pro.

As for the camera, I couldn’t be happier. This tiny body packs in powerhouse performance with the same sensor as the EM1 MKII and the same color engine as well. My only gripe is it’s not weather sealed. (neither is the 14-42mm lens so it really is a minor issue).

Shot with the 12-40 Pro wide open.

If you get a chance to go I highly recommend it. Ginter Farms is just one of the many reasons I tell people Kansas is not a flyover state. Like the Flint Hills, Tall Grass National Preserve, Monument Rocks, Little Jerusalem, Mushroom Rock State Park, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, the Oxford Grist Mill, and so much more it’s a perfect drive-through state. I think the next photo adventure in this flyover state will be at Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area in South East Kansas.

Monument Rocks from an earlier road trip.

The Anticipated Death of Illustration Never Happened.

When I first began my career the world of design, marketing, and advertising was 90 percent analog. There were phototypesetting tools available, but most of the work was very much old school. The copy was written up on typewriters, layouts were assembled via paste-up, color separation was done by hand and illustration was created with paint, pencils, ink, and other tangible items.

I remember having a discussion with a colleague in the early 1990’s where he proclaimed that the art of illustration was over. That digital had ushered in the end of an era and that Photoshop and Illustrator (maybe Freehand) were going to rule the world. Fast forward a couple of decades and take a look around. Just like the Kindle and iPad were going to kill off books, digital didn’t kill off traditional illustration methods.

There were extraordinary eras of illustration before mass media changed our viewing habits. Illustration was the most primary means of illuminating the word on paper. Today, when we get our words and images on screens as small as a watch face the role of illustration, might have shifted, but it is more free and varied than ever. Designers, artists, and illustrators are holding their own producing content for every kind of media.

Taschen recently released a new book “The Illustrator. 100 Best from around the World” showcasing 100 illustrators compiled by Steven Heller and Julius Weidemann over a ten-year period of time.

This 600-page book contains examples of work, bio’s of the artists that created them and truly shows sheer quality, diversity, intensity, comedy, and the vivacity of the work that is being produced. From veterans like Brad Holland, whose works for the New York Times’ op-ed section revolutionized illustrative content in the 1970s, to rising stars like Robin Eisenberg, with her pastel aliens cruising in spaceships on album covers, the 100 artists in this collection are just the tip of the iceberg, but they represent a compelling snapshot of the styles, techniques, and use of color by artists across the world.

What an inspiration.

I’m Taking a Pen to Spain and Not Writing a Thing with It

A PEN in the hand

In September of 2009, I had the privilege of traveling to South Africa for 14 days to document the making of a short film my friend Tim was working on. My role was to shoot the behind the scenes stills of the crew in action in and around the Motherwell Township near Port Elizabeth.

David making movies at Kwadick. Shot with my trusty Olympus EP-2 about a decade ago.

At the time I had the option of taking my Canon camera, but the idea of hauling a larger APSC camera and the lenses that went with it seemed like a pain in the ass. Actually more like a pain in the back. So I started looking for something smaller with enough features and image quality to take as a replacement. I ended up settling on the Olympus PEN E-P2, the second PEN camera Olympus produced for the new Micro 4/3 system they had jointly pioneered with Panasonic. In retrospect, I probably should have gone with the Panasonic GH1, but the little Pen did a fantastic job.

The E-P2 with the original 14-42mm kit lens

The kit that I took was small, light, and compact. It was great for not standing out and allowing me to disappear as much as possible into the background. (Not an easy feat for a 6-foot 4-inch 225-pound white guy in Motherwell Township)

Let’s fast forward 2 years to the point when my house was broken into. My Canon gear was stolen, but the thieves missed my Olympus PEN and the small arsenal of lenses I had acquired.

With the Canon gone, I decided to stick with Micro 4/3 systems and rather than replacing the Canon gear I picked up the newly released OMD EM-5 and made it my primary camera. I had never bought into the whole Full Frame or nothing attitude, or the idea that Micro 4/3 cameras didn’t take as good a photo, couldn’t produce a shallow depth of field shots, couldn’t produce decent bokeh or any of the other myths.

The EM5 with the outstanding 45mm portrait lens and no batter grip

Over the next few years, I replaced the EM5 with an EM1 adding the battery grip, additional lenses and accessories to build out a decent set of gear for my photo habits. I’m not a pro, I don’t shoot studio shots or weddings. Mostly I take landscape and nature shots around the state that I live in and on my annual trip to Colorado with friends. I also take the EM1 when I travel, but it feels large sometimes and it’s not something that I can stuff in a jacket pocket. That means having to bring my Ona Union Street messenger bag and frankly, I don’t want to carry that much stuff.

This got me to start looking at an additional camera I could use for a trip to France that we took back in April, and for an upcoming trip to Spain in November. Since I have several Olympus Zuiko lenses, I knew I was going to pick up a new Micro 4/3 body which narrowed my choices to just 2 brands – Pansonic, or Olympus. Both are solid choices, but my familiarity with the Olympus menu system and the in-body image stabilization had me leaning to Oly from the start.

The PEN F next to my EM1 with the battery grip attached

To get something that I would call a travel camera I started looking back at the PEN series. Olympus makes a number of Pen models but there was one that I have been smitten with since it came out in 2016. The Olympus PEN F. The camera is gorgeous, it has the same 20-megapixel sensor that the EM1 Mk II has, award-winning 5 axis image stabilization and so much more. It has one of my favorite features of any camera I have ever used – “Live Composite” mode. (I don’t get why no other camera maker hasn’t come up with something similar to this. Especially for mirrorless camera bodies.)

Having settled on a model I began looking for either an excellent+ used body or a reconditioned body from Olympus to keep the costs down. I was fortunate enough to find an Olympus Certified reconditioned body at a much-reduced price and went for it. I didn’t get it in time for France, but I will have it for Spain.

The PEN F sporting the 14-42 pancake zoom compared to the EM1 with the 12-40 Pro. I’d love to take the Pro lens with me, but I don’t want to haul that much glass or carry a camera bag.

I couldn’t be more pleased with this little guy. Diminutive in size but extremely capable and feature-packed. It has most of what the EM1 Mk II has in terms of features, and it has somethings I thought I would never use, but find myself playing with all the time. The Color Profile adjustment on the front Creative dial, the Monochrome setting on the same dial, and the Color Creator. All three of these give you the option to tweak and adjust color balance or create custom profiles that can be assigned to one of the 4 Custom Modes on the top dial of the camera. I have 3 of these set to a specific color or monochrome modes I can call up at any time.

Taken with the EM-1 and the 12-40mm Pro Lens

While it might sound like a gimic it’s not. These are not the same as the goofy “Art Filters” Olympus has on every camera they make. The Art Filters are like built-in retro modes for Instagrammy looks. The ones I mentioned earlier are true color or monochrome modes you build that allow for more creative approaches to the desired look you want. And while these modes shoot in JPEG, you can set the camera up to shoot JPEG + RAW allowing you to have an unaltered image you can edit in post at a later time.

Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park taken with my EM5 and the Zuiko 17mm f/1.8

If you want to know more about the PEN F there are a ton of reviews on this camera. Just Google it and you’ll find plenty to read or watch. The verdict for many is going to be the same, great looking but there are newer and better cameras on the market. This is true but for me, I’d rather have this little guy. Stunning to look at, solid features, excellent output. And it even feels nice in my big hands without needing a grip or a case (although I am considering the Gariz leather half case for it)

For the trip to Spain, I’m taking the PEN F, the Zuiko 14-42mm pancake zoom, my all manual Samyang 12mm, 3 batteries, and a single 128-gigabyte memory card. All of this can fit in jacket pockets making travel lighter and freeing me up from having to carry any kind of bag around if I choose.

The Look of Things to Come?

I spend a lot of time looking at other people design work. It’s the nature of my job and something that helps to keep me current with design trends that are emerging. Over the last few months, something I’ve noticed with more frequency is the emergence of minimalist 3D animation paired with pastels that leans almost to abstraction. I have a feeling this is going to become a hot look over the next 18 months and will run the risk like so many other trends of jumping the shark as it gets picked up by every agency and marketing firm in the world. It looks cool now, and I’m really liking it, but that feeling may change if it becomes oversaturated the way the sketchbook look, the retro 80’s look, the ugly design look, the you name it you’ve seen to much of it looks did.

The Sound of Yorkshire

Unless you are a sound designer you probably don’t pay that close attention to how sound can shape and influence the way animation is perceived. I know for a fact that I often get caught up in the visuals focusing on technique, color, visual layout and more.

The two and a half minute animation below is not only a feast for your eyes, but also for your ears. Created by Marcus Armitage “That Yorkshire Sound” is a perfect example of how audio can help to shape a piece.

Throughout the animated short Armitage gives us a series of hand-drawn quick cuts that visually weave the piece together. The glue, however, is the audio track that has been carefully crafted to match and enhance the visual experience for the viewer. After watching this, I put on my headphones, turned up the volume, and closed my eyes. Just listening to the audio track is a fantastic experience.

Do yourself a favor and take the next two minutes and thirty-one seconds to enjoy this, or five minutes and two seconds if you want to simply listen to it as well.

What’s the Big Buzz in Utrecht?

I love the way Holland thinks about urban planning and design, the environment, and applied engineering. Case in point the city of Utrecht – Hollands fourth-largest city – has transformed 300+ bus stops by applying green roofs to them.

The goal of the roofs is to help bolster growth in the dying bee populations and balance the environment in an urban setting. To do this they have fitted 316 bus stops with verdant green roofs LED lighting, and bamboo benches. The bus stops do more than simply provide a habitat for bees with ecofriendly building materials. The green roofs also store rainwater and capture fine dust generated from road traffic.

The green roofs are primarily composed of sedum plants, that require little maintenance. The plants will attract honeybees and bumblebees with their flowers when they bloom in the late spring through summer.

In addition to the bus stops Utrecht has pledged to have completely carbon-neutral transport by 2028 and they’ll introduce 55 electric buses into their fleet by the end of 2019. Utrecht is also investing heavily in the repair of cycling lanes (that run between parked cars and the sidewalk. Another brilliant idea.) and will conduct an innovative experiment in next year. They are installing solar panels along cycling paths throughout the city that will be used to harvest energy, with an aim to see if the results merit expansion of the program. In addition, they are hoping the citizens of Utrecht will get involved in making changes. they’re providing funding for those who wish to transform their roofs into green roofs—giving even more options for the bees in the city of Utrecht.