One Watch Fan Goes to Switzerland for Retirement Keepsake

In 2022, several months after Joseph Barretto retired as a high school guidance counselor in East Harlem, he received a gift: a 42mm stainless steel Omega Constellation watch with a gray taupe dial and prominent date. is displayed.

But getting a timepiece wasn’t as straightforward as walking into Omega’s Fifth Avenue boutique. Instead, the Hackensack, NJ, resident traveled to Switzerland to buy it.

“Buying a watch in Europe is a completely different experience,” said Mr Barretto, 57. They seat you. There is champagne, there is chocolate. It’s just an incident.”

Mr Barreto said many former students he worked with during his 34-year career had given him money at his retirement, and said he should spend it on things to help commemorate the occasion. (“They’re family to me,” she said.)

Her first purchase was a custom 14-karat gold pendant with diamonds and sapphires that she wears every day in memory of her father, who passed away in December 2019. “I had money, believe it or not, left over to buy an airline. A ticket for a trip,” Mr. Barretto said, “and still some left over to buy a watch.”

Mr. Barreto, who grew up in a blue-collar home, said his interest in watches was something personal. As he put it, “I’m Puerto Rican from the Bronx — it’s not a Bronx thing, getting a watch that’s high-end.”

“When we were kids, if you had a Timex, it was a ‘nice watch’ — that’s what they called it,” he said.

Over the years, he bought watches from Bulova, Movado, Swatch, Victorinox and others. Then, during his first trip to Europe, a trip he took in 2017 to visit a cousin, Noel Mattos, Mr Barreto bought a 42mm quartz Rado Centrix watch in black and gold.

“He came here and fell in love with Europe,” said Mr. Matos, a food industry executive in Basel, Switzerland. “That trip really changed his life. He started eating differently. He started seeing the world differently.

And during the pandemic, Mr. Barretto began using online resources to learn more about watches, primarily by watching YouTube videos of watch retailers Teddy Baldassarre and Federico Iossa.

When Mr. Barretto retired — a few dozen pounds lighter than in recent years, thanks to a Swiss-inspired diet — he began planning another trip to Europe, but this time with his wife, Teresa, and their son, Joseph. With.

“He really felt like he got to share his first-time experiences with two other people who had never been to Europe,” Mr Matos said. “It was really kind of like opening a Pandora’s box for his wife and son.”

When the Barrettos arrived in Europe, they embarked on a road trip, covering six countries in 14 days in a rented Mercedes-Benz E-Class station wagon.

Mr Barreto had a list of contenders for his retirement watch that included models from Rolex, Tissot, Rado, Auris and Omega, a brand he had long admired.

And one morning’s itinerary was planned to include a stop at an Omega boutique in Interlaken, Switzerland, because Mr. Mattos knew someone who worked there. Mr. Barreto, a James Bond fan, said he walks into the semester leaning heavily toward the achievement. But when he tried the watch he finally bought, “There was something about that constellation watch face: the texture, the color,” he said. “When I saw it, it was complete.”

Mr. Barretto, who is keeping busy in retirement as chairman of SOMOS New Jersey, a nonpartisan political action committee focused on Latino voters and representation, said he now owns a total of two dozen watches.

As for the Omega his cousin bought, Mr Matos said: “It completes his wrist. Not only does it look good but it works with everything he wears. It works with how he carries himself.

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