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This vintage Omega Speedmaster, 1969, went to the moon and back; a Rolex Astrua Chronograph.

Lyn Bui is showing me an Omega Speedmaster from the 1960’s. “It may not look like much, but…” he turns it over. It reads, Apollo 11 Commemorative Edition. “That’s why I’m into this,” Lyn says, “These watches are history.”

Finally, a collection I am not overly concerned about breaking. Heavy quartz and stainless steel coated in white gold guard precise mechanisms that are designed to take a lickin’ and, well, you know the rest. Bui has tasteful displays of watches that have seen hard times and it shows. He explains his military watch collection—most have drab straps and signs of tough wear. “The French military got perpetuals,” meaning a self-winding design. “The British military are only ‘winders.’” He finishes his tour of his wristwatch section with the same style Rolex worn by Sean Connery in Dr. No. Sadly, this example did not include a laser.

I’m beginning to see the allure of watch collecting. Whatever role you appreciate diver, sailor, pilot, spy—there is a watch for you. These are durable status symbols and representations of eras. Witness the 1960s “PAN-AM” Rolex with an outer bezel to help pilots calculate time zones.

So, I ask Lyn, who is energetically moving about the store, his jeweler’s eyepiece on a long, gold chain; what era of modern history embodies in his collection? The answer is boxes and boxes of pocket watches. He has dozens per box, and for all I know, some may be priceless. He shows me brands like Ball, Illinois, Waltham and Elgin, which are either encased in felt bags or roaming free inside the box.

“Talk about history! Time was very important to the railroads, and the level of accuracy in these pocket watches …” Lyn starts. “Well, I don’t think we can duplicate it today.” From what I know of the era, the time zones as we know them were created to standardize train arrivals. The precision and durability demanded of these timepieces meant that they would be too big to fit on someone’s wrist.

Lyn goes into a back room to retrieve yet another box of watches, and I soak in his collection. Almost unmentioned during my visit are the four grandfather clocks (“I love them,” Bui says), a dozen wall-hangers, and about 15 desktop or mantle-piece clocks. Some are captivating contraptions, with exposed gears and crazy flywheels. One that intrigues me is a ball-fall. It’s a metal orb—a tastefully oxidized, etched map of the world—suspended by a band of metal. Winded by lifting the ball, gravity powers the mechanism and time is told by a rotating bezel on the “equator.”

Lyn’s son, William, comes in to visit. I have to ask about his collection. In his 30s, William’s personal collection is tiny compared to his father’s, and he is learning the hard lessons of the trade. He says, “I’m regretting selling two Subs,” meaning Rolex Submariners rated to an impossible depth of 660 feet. “I checked an auction a little while ago, and similar pieces sold for 20 or 30 percent more.” William says, attuned to the business aspect perhaps a bit more than his father’s historical bent.

Brother David is away on business, but that doesn’t mean William is a homebody. “I started going to conventions on the mainland 10 years ago. That opened my eyes! So much out there, but as small as Honolulu might seem, we actually come across an amazing variety,” William says. “I met dealers and watch company reps that my father had been doing business with for 40 years.” Lyn Bui started Honolulu Time Co. in 1978.

William and his brother, David, grew up in the watch shop, replacing batteries and wrist straps as a welcome break from homework. “I’m nowhere near the level of my dad,” William says. “I still have trouble with the mainspring, the most expensive and delicate part of the watch.” The mainspring, he explains, is the heart of the watch, responsible for keeping accurate time and smooth function.

I ask, “But how did your dad learn?” Lyn was in earshot. “I learned from my father, Trap Bui.”

“A family trade. Okay, but how did Mr. Trap Bui learn how to repair watches?”

Lyn shrugs. “By doing? I don’t know. He always just knew.”

By now, my attention has shifted to the curio cabinet. It is a random mix of strange and righteous timepieces—marine chronometers from WWII warships and the decorative clock from Air Force One. I also spot a few bejeweled ladies’ wristwatches alongside a contemporary, ultra stylish Patek Philippe.

And in the corner, I spot Goofy on a watch face, his white-gloved hands pointing crazily. It is numbered backwards. Lyn says, “I love this. Hard to tell time backwards, but man, what a unique piece!

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