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One Watch Fan Went to Switzerland for a Retirement Souvenir


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In 2022, a number of months after Joseph Barreto retired as a highschool steerage counselor in East Harlem, he acquired a souvenir reward: a 42-millimeter stainless-steel Omega Constellation watch with a grayish-taupe dial and distinguished date show.

However getting the timepiece wasn’t as easy as, say, strolling into Omega’s Fifth Avenue boutique. As a substitute, the Hackensack, N.J., resident traveled to Switzerland to purchase it.

“Shopping for a watch in Europe is only a complete different expertise,” mentioned Mr. Barreto, 57. “They sit you down; there’s Champagne, there’s chocolate. It’s simply an occasion.”

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Lots of the former college students Mr. Barreto labored with over his 34-year profession had given him cash on his retirement, saying he ought to spend it on issues to assist commemorate the event. (“They’re household to me,” he mentioned.)

His first buy was a custom-made 14-karat gold pendant with diamonds and sapphires that he wears day-after-day in reminiscence of his father, who died in December 2019. “I had cash, consider it or not, left over to purchase the airline ticket for the journey,” Mr. Barreto mentioned, “and nonetheless some left over to purchase a watch.”

Mr. Barreto, who grew up in a blue-collar family, mentioned his curiosity in watches was a private factor. As he put it, “I’m a Puerto Rican from the Bronx — that’s not a Bronx factor, to get a watch that’s high-end.”

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“After we had been children, when you had a Timex, that was a ‘good watch’ — that’s what they referred to as it,” he mentioned.

Over time, he purchased watches by Bulova, Movado, Swatch, Victorinox and others. Then, throughout his first journey to Europe, a journey he made in 2017 to go to a cousin, Noel Matos, Mr. Barreto purchased a 42-millimeter quartz Rado Centrix watch in black and gold.

“He acquired right here and fell in love with Europe,” mentioned Mr. Matos, a meals trade govt in Basel, Switzerland. “That journey actually modified his life. He began consuming in a different way; he began wanting on the world in a different way.”

And in the course of the pandemic, Mr. Barreto started utilizing on-line assets to be taught extra about watches, primarily by watching YouTube movies from the likes of the watch retailers Teddy Baldassarre and Federico Iossa.

When Mr. Barreto retired — just a few dozen kilos lighter than lately, thanks partly to a Swiss-inspired food regimen — he began planning one other journey to Europe, however this time along with his spouse, Teresa, and their son, Joseph.

“He actually felt like he needed to share his first-time experiences with two different individuals who had by no means been to Europe,” Mr. Matos mentioned. “It was actually to type of open that Pandora’s field to his spouse and son.”

When the Barretos arrived in Europe, they launched into a street journey, overlaying six nations in 14 days in a rented Mercedes-Benz E-Class station wagon.

Mr. Barreto had a listing of contenders for his retirement watch together with fashions by Rolex, Tissot, Rado, Oris and Omega, a model he had lengthy admired.

And one morning’s itinerary was deliberate to incorporate a cease at Omega’s boutique in Interlaken, Switzerland, as Mr. Matos knew somebody working there. Mr. Barreto, a James Bond fan, mentioned he walked in leaning closely towards getting a Seamaster. However when he tried on the watch he in the end bought, “There was one thing concerning the face of this Constellation watch: the feel, the colour,” he mentioned. “After I noticed it, that was it utterly.”

Mr. Barreto, who has been holding himself busy in retirement because the chairman of Somos New Jersey, a nonpartisan political motion committee that focuses on Latino voters and illustration, mentioned he now had a complete of about two dozen watches.

As for the Omega his cousin bought, Mr. Matos mentioned: “It makes his wrist full. Not solely does it look good, it really works with all the things he wears. It really works with how he carries himself.”


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