Going back to your roots with the Pioneer
Sometimes, you feel the need to return to the beginning of any adventure, no matter how much time has passed. Because it’s only by turning round and looking back at the road travelled that you realise just how far you’ve come.
I spend most of my time flying (or driving) across Europe and the world, supporting various clients through my international communications business, Mediaworld, which specialises in the automotive sector. Like the very best ideas, it was never really part of a grand plan; just something I did that followed on quite naturally from the start of my career in journalism. And to tell the truth, journalism was never something that I especially wanted to do either; it just happened through serendipity. When it was suggested to me (a clueless graduate) as a potential career many years ago, I couldn’t immediately think of anything else that I would rather do instead. So why not? Journalism it was. With all the naivety of youth, I told an only slightly edited version of this sorry tale at my first job interview at a magazine, and incredibly, I got the job – which gives you some idea about just how desperate they must have been at the time.
That time, I reflected recently, was exactly 25 years ago this year (I got the job in April or May) and my first ‘foreign assignment’ came in August, to Italy. In retrospect, it was a reasonably banal job to interview someone who wanted to build a racing circuit near Naples, but at the time I felt like Jon Snow.
So it almost came as a shock the other day when I realised I would be heading to Italy again, precisely a quarter of a century after embarking on this crazy career, in the exact month that it happened. Enough to make you believe in the circularity of life or some other pseudo-philosophical construct.
And while it was obviously just a coincidence, plain and simple, it did make me think hard about which watch I wanted to wear for such a momentous anniversary trip.
The choice was actually made for me, more or less, which is very much in keeping with the whole theme of this article. Geckota had just renamed its G-01 as the ‘Pioneer’: in tribute to an iconic model for the company that launched a whole new design language and direction.
It’s still the longest-standing watch within the Geckota line-up today, and while it has certainly stood the test of time, this is a watch that has also constantly reinvented itself with new iterations and colours, while keeping many aspects consistent. It was described as a ‘space-age watch’ when it was first launched, even though a more accurate description would be as a tribute to retro-futurism, which guaranteed it an ageless quality that is still evident now.
This wasn’t Geckota’s very first watch, but it was definitely a pioneer. Hence the name, and hence the obvious decision for it to come with me during my own revisit to a pioneering trip; one that would set a course for everything that was to follow. If only I had known it at the time.
What I do remember, in a curious little twist of detail, was that it was a Swatch that accompanied me on that 1997 trip as a fully-fledged journalist abroad for the first time: one of the original minimalist models, with a plain black rubber strap and a mirrored dial. I still have it now, although the buckle is broken – one of the many watch-related fixing tasks to put on the list.
Time is a funny thing, of course. That first trip to Italy, thinking about it now, in some ways feels like yesterday and in other ways an eternity ago. Strapping on the Pioneer, which comes with a brilliantly wearable and resilient black rubber tropical FKM strap, I notice that it has a prominent yet far from oversized presence on my wrist at 42mm.
The Swatch, which seemed to occupy the same sort of wrist real estate in 1997, now looks puny when I put it on these days; probably a sign that my wrists have expanded at the same rate as my stomach with the passing of time. Such is life, but of course not getting older is a much worse alternative to getting older – so these physical changes – even including a receding hairline – are ultimately to be enjoyed and embraced. Anyone with a love of watches, after all, likes to celebrate the passage of time.
The Pioneer has all the hallmarks of an instant classic, pulling off that rather clever paradox of being distinctly futuristic while looking like it could belong to any era. It apparently reminds some people of an early Panerai – maybe that’s subconsciously why I wanted to take it to Italy? – but that wasn’t the first association I made, although the watch is extremely practical in a way that is almost ‘tooly’. If I see an external influence anywhere, it’s probably more along the lines of the iconic Gerald Genta-designed Polerouter: arguably the most beautiful watch of all time, which features the same sort of delicate ‘cross-hairs’ on the dial as the Pioneer.
What I like about the Pioneer in particular is that you can wear it for pretty much any occasion. It makes a strong argument for itself as the centrepiece of a single-watch collection, and therefore an ideal travel watch, thanks to its versatility. Even more than most watches, you can change the look of it completely by swapping the strap; it looks particularly good on distressed leather.
Inside the Pioneer is a reliable Japanese movement and you really notice the anti-reflective coating on the crystal, helping this to stand out as an eminently readable watch. Another reason why it’s so easy to live with.
So all those virtues that were originally present when it was launched are still there. And it’s this dependability, in a world that is constantly changing, that’s perhaps at the very root of a passion for watches.
Italy, too, was as beautiful as ever with the Pioneer on my wrist. But that Neapolitan race track, which I went all the way there to report on, 25 years ago, never did get built in the end…