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The watchman and his timeless pieces


The watch man

Derek Dier was 16 when he found his first Rolex in the bottom of a shoebox at the Western Fair flea market. Thirty-five years later, he would supply vintage watches for the hit TV show Mad Men.

A year after his first find, he started visiting a friend who owned a pawn shop in Toronto. The friend was one of the first prominent vintage watch dealers in Canada and he exposed Dier to lots of different watches he wouldn’t have otherwise seen in London.

Dier began a career in London real estate while watch collecting remained a hobby until he decided he wanted to sell something he really loved — vintage watches.

In 1998, Dier took the plunge into the world of watches and started WatchesToBuy, making him one of the world’s first online watch dealers.

Dier and Lance are at home in the comfortable living room setting that is WatchesToBuy. Annie Rueter/GAZETTE.

Where the magic happens

Dier’s collection goes beyond watches; his store on Piccadilly Street is a haven for vintage buffs in general. Dier’s knack for picking up rare items is inspired by his mother’s love for collecting and their many afternoons spent scouring garage sales together.

By looking at the simple brick exterior of WatchesToBuy and the single neon sign that reads, “Vintage Watches Buy Sell Repair,” you wouldn’t anticipate that entering the store is like walking into a whole new era.

Flanking the inside entrance are a red Ducati motorcycle and a vintage Peugeot bike. Neon watch repair signs emanate a magenta glow on the room, and glass cases are filled with neatly displayed watches, mainly from the 1950s and 60s. Vintage memorabilia, like a working 1956 television, line the walls and every available surface. Dier’s giant schnauzer, Lance, is a frequent staple of the shop, curling up on a red leather couch. A work table to repair watch casings is in the back of the room.

Even among the dozens of vintage items, the Mad Men memorabilia — including mugs and an autographed image of Jon Hamm, who plays the lead Don Draper — stand out.

Mad Men and Hollywood

In August 2011, Dier was preoccupied with responding to emails from interested buyers and photographing watches to post on his website. But his routine was shaken up when he received a call from executives of his favourite TV show: Mad Men.

“They contacted me in a summer afternoon and they needed the watches within 24 hours for the main characters, and I was able to pull it together,” Dier says. “It was pretty exciting, and then I got to go down to LA and meet everyone on the show… I think we did 30–40 watches over the whole period.”

Dier supplied watches from the fifth to the seventh and final season, which wrapped in April 2015. In March 2013, Jon Hamm graced the cover of Rolling Stone while sporting one of Dier’s watches — a 1966 Omega Seamaster DeVille.

Dier had the chance to meet the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, alongside the full cast. “And to see the set — the set is incredibly impressive,” Dier says of his trip to LA. “Something you would never imagine. It’s all laid out over 10,000 square feet.”

Although Mad Men is over, Dier remains a key vintage watch supplier for Hollywood. Sometimes Dier will send watches off to producers for an unnamed project and later see a watch of his on the silver screen. In La La Land for example, Dier thought he may have seen one of his watches on Ryan Gosling.

“In La La Land, [Gosling] looked like he was wearing — let me go on my Instagram,” Dier says while scrolling through images of watches, “I recognize the watches. It looked like a 1952 Omega Bumper. So he was wearing a vintage Omega, but I don’t think it was mine.”

Dier is currently supplying watches for a yet unnamed Amazon series set in the 1930s. But what Dier finds more exciting than seeing his watches on the silver screen are the unexpected discoveries he makes along the way.

“Like any collector, it’s about discovering a new variation,” Dier says. “You’ll think you’ve seen everything in a particular watch brand, then all of a sudden you’ll find a new one from the ’50s or ’60s that you never thought existed.”

Watch collecting revived

Hollywood and individual collectors are a big source of demand for Dier, whose business mainly comes from American and European buyers. Only about five per cent of Dier’s business is conducted in London, and the Canadian vintage watch dealing community is very small.

“Canadians are not as apt to pay big money for rare items in that respect,” Dier notes. “But it’s starting to become more prevalent where I am seeing people buy from Canada.”

Despite the small Canadian market, there’s a revived interest in vintage watch collecting, especially from young professionals in Los Angeles and New York. Part of that rejuvenation has to do with watch blogs that amass thousands of followers. But with prices of vintage watches escalating within the past three or four years, it’s become increasingly difficult to buy timepieces at a reasonable price.

Sama Noon/GAZETTE.
A mechanical watch uses a mechanism with moving parts to measure the passage of time and needs to be wound periodically.

A Rolex Mariner, for example cost around $3,500 a few years ago, but now can easily go for upward of $15,000. At WatchesToBuy, Dier sells watches that go up to $130,000. He also has affordable items for students like watches starting at $99 and Nato nylon watch bands for $20.

But for Dier, a watch’s price isn’t necessarily the most important thing.

“Sometimes it’s not about value,” Dier explains. “It’s more about interest… it could be the colour of the watch that gets you, or the shape of it or the way a dial has aged. A lot of it has to do with patina — so when a dial ages on a watch, the face of a watch can change colour.”

Patina refers to a coloured film that appears over a watch dial as it ages. A black dial for example can age to brown, which can be “more interesting than when it was originally produced,” Dier says.

When deciding which watches to buy from collectors for resale, Dier chooses based on what he personally likes and tends to wear. He’s partial to Longine chronograph watches — tool watches that are designed to measure time with great accuracy — but values design most.

“I think I wear a different watch every day,” Dier says glancing at his wrist. “I like really clean lines. It has to look balanced on the wrist. Simplicity or, in the other direction, it could be really complicated. But not in between.”

Moving past the Timex watches Dier used to buy as a kid, he’s come a long way as a watch buff. Next time you see a period piece on TV, you might just be looking at a Derek Dier timepiece dangling off a star’s wrist.

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Before and after: London Ont. 100+ years ago versus today


By Moses Monterroza and Annie Rueter

Since London’s founding in 1826, its identity and cityscape has changed dramatically. Once the ‘Oil Capital of Canada’ and the nation’s second-largest cigar-producing city, London has gone from a small military garrison to an urban centre with a population of almost 400,000.

In Early London 1826–1914: A Photographic History from the Orr Collection, local author and historian Jennifer Grainger reveals London’s history at the turn of the century through dozens of captioned photographs.

In January 2017, Gazette photographers Annie Rueter and Moses Monterroza photographed 11 images, recreating photos from Early London that were taken from the 1880s to 1914. They also spoke to Kyle Gonyou, Heritage Planner at City of London, to gain insight about London’s individual heritage properties and heritage conservation districts.

London through the ages

London’s initial development was spurred in 1826 when the courthouse was relocated from nearby Norfolk County to its current location at the fork of the Thames River.

Old Court HouseWest side of Ridout Street, north of King Street. Museum London sits across from the Old Court House today.

The fork of the Thames River

The Rebellion of 1837 happened shortly after the courthouse relocation and resulted in the creation of a British military garrison in an effort to control future uprisings. The garrison was stationed at present day Victoria Park.

Victoria Park

With the garrison came new businesses, such as bakeries and taverns, and military families that helped to grow the population of the city. London had its own newspaper, The London Free Press, by 1849.

London Free Press

But it was the railway south of York Street that helped London grow from a town to a city. The Great Western Railway saw the first train pass along its tracks in 1853 and subsequent businesses cropped up along the railway. London was named a city shortly after in 1855.

The area of Dundas Street, Richmond Street and King Street was a bustling downtown core. Covent Garden Market opened in the area in 1845.

Downtown core

Covent Garden Market

Industries such as oil and manufacturing also spurred the growth of London from the 1850s onward, but they were pushed out of the downtown core toward the east end of the city around 1900. Today, there are a number of closed factories and properties in the city’s east end.

Infirmary Building, London Insane Asylum

London eventually developed as a financial centre at the turn of the century, growing into the service-based city we have today. Historic preservation efforts are essential to maintain London’s history.

“There’s two types of designations that are enabled by the Ontario Heritage Act,” explains Kyle Gonyou, heritage planner for the City of London. “There’s individual heritage properties and heritage conservation districts … For individual properties, there are three basic criteria: physical or design value, historical or associative value and contextual value.”

St. Peter’s Cathedral at Richmond Street and Queens Avenue falls into the city’s Downtown Heritage Conservation District.

St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica

“I think that [heritage buildings] contribute to our quality of life and our sense of place,” Gonyou says. “And these are places that help to distinguish and differentiate London from other communities in southwestern Ontario, Canada and internationally as well.”

Blackfriars Bridge is another landmark within this district. The wrought iron bridge was constructed in 1875 and is currently under construction, open to pedestrians and cyclists only.

Blackfriar’s Bridge

“I’m always interested in the history of wherever I happen to be living. If I am living in a place I like to know how it got to be the way it is today,” Grainger says about her reason for writing Early London. Grainger has also written about Elgin County.

But despite these preservation efforts, there are a number of buildings that have been demolished.

“What I find interesting — because I’m interested in architecture — is just how many buildings we have lost. When you go through the book, most of what we’ve got has been demolished, some of it burned down. But large numbers of buildings have been victims of progress,” Grainger says.

London Armouries

Gonyou is far more optimistic about the valuation of London’s historic buildings.
He’s even working on his own personal sesquicentennial project showing photos of London then and now.

“I would like to think that we have a culture that respects and appreciates the past,” Gonyou says, “but sometimes I think we need some reminders to help us along with that.

The Gazette would like to thank Jennifer Grainger, Biblioasis and Kyle Gonyou for their cooperation and support during this project.

“Old London” photos courtesy of the Orr Collection, Museum London.
“Modern London” photos by Annie Rueter and Moses Monterroza.
Article by Annie Rueter.
Multimedia treatment by Amy O’Kruk.

Related: “Early London reveals the city’s history through photos” by Annie Rueter

Astronomy students experience life in India

Studying in India

It’s 12 p.m. and the New Delhi airport is bustling with masses of people. The sounds of ceaseless honking and incomprehensible chatter reverberate all throughout the area with high levels of energy and excitement.

The mid-February air is heavy with the scent of food and a cool Indian breeze seems to undulate through the outside terminals.

Amongst the droves of people is a small group of Western researchers, professors and students waiting for their bus to take them to Agra, the so-called city of love and home to the Taj Mahal.

There is a genuine look of disbelief on the face of astronomy professor Shantanu Basu. The idea of a winter school in India was merely a topic in conversation only a few months ago.


From left to right: Pranav Sharma, Shantanu Basu and Sayantan Auddy. Organizing committee amidst crowds at the New Delhi airport making sure students and speakers are present.


Group of students, graduate students and speakers hastily loading their luggage on the Anand school bus.

As the bus arrives, the group of six Western undergraduates, 10 internationally renowned speakers and four Western graduates quickly grab their luggage and cram into the rusted yellow vehicle. Below the windows of the bus are lightly faded words that spell out “Anand Engineering College.”

The driver revs up the engine, presses on the gas and dangerously zooms into the left lane of the road, weaving and zipping past cars, rickshaws and motorcycles. The unfinished pavement and dirt roads make the ride comically bumpy as passengers nearly hit their heads off the roof whenever a pothole sinks the wheels.

“Welcome to India!” laughs 23-year-old Pranava Sharma, winter school organizing secretary and engineering student.


Western applied mathematics professor Christopher Essex sitting with his wife on the bus headed to Agra.


Hours into the bus ride, as the sun sets, jet lagged and exhausted passengers try and get some rest.

It would be a day after the group arrived that 21-year-old engineering and physics student Toluwa Ajibola would make an unexpected appearance. His difficulties with getting a travel visa had everyone thinking he couldn’t make it.

But despite the odds, Ajibola manages to navigate through New Delhi, eventually boarding a train and walking for hours just to get to the college.

“I was observing people, asking for train tickets, I kind of up picked up a little bit of the language with as much time as I had,” says Ajibola. “I managed to get myself a ticket, got on the train and journeyed like three hours from New Delhi to Agra. It took me through so many different parts of India that I wouldn’t have normally been able to see if I took the regular bus or car.

“I saw people just bathing outside, I saw cows on the train tracks stopping the train. I saw so many different towns and villages. I met a lot of really great people on the train. There was a man and a wife who tried to speak Hindi to me — didn’t work very well. But we established a temporary method of sign language that helped us communicate. Don’t ask how I managed that, it took a while.”

It was late into the opening ceremonies when Ajibola finally caught up with the rest of the group.

Let the games begin

On the left stage of the Anand auditorium stands a statue of Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess known to be the embodiment of knowledge.

Lined up around her are the guests of the college, waiting to be inaugurated in the traditional Indian lamp lighting ceremony. Thus begins the conference — and the adventure.


Left to Right: Biman Basu and Shantanu Basu. Opening ceremonies begin with a traditional Indian lamp lighting ceremony. Participants and speakers are asked to give offerings to Saraswati, Goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning.


Conference participants shift from Anand College to a public lecture hall at Sur Sadan in Agra city to open up the discussion to the citizens of Agra. Topics included the existence of life in the universe.


Panel of professors from left to right: S.N. Hasan, Doug Johnstone, Shantanu basu, Christopher Essex, Henry Throop and Priya Hasan.

For the first couple of days, the participants of Astronomy at Taj engage in intense scientific and philosophical discourse. Navigating through topics like gravitational waves, star formations, extraterrestrial life and the discovery of Pluto.

Henry Throop, senior research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, talks about his time working with NASA on the New Horizons mission and his first time seeing images of the distant dwarf planet.

“It was mind blowing to be involved in the mission,” says Throop with excitement. “To see these pictures come down every day as they get sharper and sharper.”

The Indian students, frantically writing in their notepads, listen with intrigue and fascination. Every chance they got, they would raise their hands and labour the professors with questions.


Inside the Anand lecture hall where speaker Henry Throop discusses instruments in astronomy and the pluto mission. Student from Agra asks questions regarding Throop’s experiences.


Henry Throop, senior scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, USA and currently living in Mumbai, talks extensively about his mission to Pluto and astronomy.


Pranava Sharma thanking all of the participants at the closing ceremonies.

The conditions were ideal – interested students and engaging professors coupled with the expansive topic of astronomy. It was the exchange of knowledge in its purest form.

In between talks and presentations, domestic and international students would have long winded and deep conversations with some of the most prominent figures in astronomy. It was a breaking down of barriers. It didn’t matter who you were, if you wanted to talk to a NASA scientist, he was right there.

After the first two days of lectures it was clear that the whole thing had already been a success. But much more was awaiting the days following.

Traversing the grounds of the Taj Mahal and through the Agra streets

While everyone’s making their way to the college cafeteria for breakfast and chai, outside are a couple of buses parked by the road waiting patiently.

Ajibola, sitting at the breakfast table with seven of his fellow Western students, turns to his left and asks “what’s on the agenda today?”

“We’re seeing the Taj Mahal!” replies Chandrika Manjunath, fourth-year medical science and political science student.

Everyone’s eyes light up with excitement. They quickly finish their meals and board the waiting buses. The ride is long and arduous, and to pass the time, some of the Indian students break out into song. At one point, a student began reciting poetry in Hindi. After each line spoken a series of “oohs” and “aahs” would follow.

Fast forward two hours later and the group is standing on a hill top some 600 metres from the Taj. They gaze upon one of the seven wonders of the world aside a vista of greenery. It’s in this setting where another session begins. The group starts talking extensively on practical subjects dealing with the difficulties of applying for PhDs.

“Can you please tell us what are the crucial features [professors] look for in a candidate?” says Krishna Kumar Kowshik, 26-year-old research scholar at the M P Birla Institute of Fundamental Research in Bangalore. “I’ve been rejected from many universities and it feels almost impossible to get accepted.”

As in any other region of the world, competition is rising quick and students are beginning to feel as though they need mounds of experience in order to get any type of job in academia. For the most part, the only way to get your foot in the door is if you’re Einstein or if you’re well connected. It seems as though the difficulty of being a student is a universal norm.

As the day progresses the sights of India become increasingly more beautiful. From the meticulously carved out interior of the Taj Mahal to the humble, sublime and rustic streets of Agra.


Crowds of people swarming through gigantic gates to see the fabled Taj Mahal.



Interesting people abound while walking through ancient monuments and historical grounds.


A man and boy standing patiently outside a roadside restaurant where participants had dinner.


Children playing on the grounds of Fatehpur Sikri, an old city founded in the 16th century.


Mark Baker, mathematical physicist, graduate student and organizer, takes full advantage of every opportunity to explore. While the rest drive back to the college, Baker stays to see the golden light of the sunset bathe over the Taj. It dawns on his mind how just a few months ago, this whole trip was only a possibility.

Before the scientific talks and the ancient monuments, it all started from a conversation in Basu’s kitchen.

How it all began

Flashback four months ago to September when a young international student by the name of Pranava Sharma began working as a research intern with Basu. As fate would have it, the two discovered that with their extended connections – both in Canada, India and several other countries – they might be able to pull off a winter school abroad.

“It was kind of weird ,you know?” says Sayantan Auddy, graduate student and member of the organizing committee. “[Sharma] was in Canada as an intern and weirdly, when they were just cooking lunch in Shantanu’s place, they suddenly came up with the idea for Astronomy at Taj.”

What began as a benign conversation quickly unfolded into a real conference with renowned academics from India, Japan, Denmark, France and the USA all participating in workshops and lectures. The puzzle pieces couldn’t have fallen together more perfectly.

Baker recalls how quickly the whole process transpired.

“It was pretty crazy. This wasn’t even in the realm of possibility until two or three months ago,” says Baker. “We literally just sent out a couple of posters to a few universities in India and all of a sudden, dozens and dozens of people began applying.”

In fact, they ended up receiving nearly 200 applications from regions all across India. “Within a couple of weeks, we had to shut down the registration because we could only accept 50 people,” says Baker.

For Sharma, this conference meant much more than lectures and workshops. It was a chance to open up Anand internationally and foster greater interest in the fields of science and astronomy.



In the streets of Agra, a boy leans in to ask vendor for a soft drink.


While walking past the numerous street vendors, a boy asks to have his picture taken.


“We need to promote research if we want to have greater scientific minds here in India. If we don’t give the young minds the zeal to learn new things and the passion to do something, then we will never develop our educational system, and India will fall into ruins,” says Sharma.

That is why it was imperative to him that the expenses were taken care of for potential applicants.

“It’s very important to provide students with this kind of opportunity because many of them rarely get to do something like this,” Sharma says. “If you’re not going to give them experience then how are they going to get it? Someone has to give them a chance.

“If I hadn’t made this conference free and if I had charged for it, then we would have gotten people with money but no grades. They would have come here just for the certificate,” continues Sharma.

There and back again 


On the second last day, the participants sat together in a circle on a patch of land for a bond fire. Accompanying them was a guitarist and the crackling and popping of the flames. Sharma thanked everyone for their engagement and passion and encouraged the students to talk about their experiences throughout the week. Suddenly Kowshik put up his hand and relayed how he felt.

“It was extremely helpful,” hey says. “Far more helpful than any of the astronomy conferences I’ve attended. We’ve made a lot of meaningful connections with the speakers. In any other workshop, speakers would either be very busy or uninterested in talking to us. Here, they practically wanted to know everything about us.”

The level of engagement that some of the students experienced was characteristically uncommon as far as conferences in India go. The cultural engagement and the opportunity to meet professors from Japan, Denmark, France, USA and of course, India, was something many of the Western students didn’t expect coming into the conference.

“You can have a wide worldview and you can have a very international scope but experience it is a completely different thing,” says Ajibola. “You get to see how big the world is. Every culture has a different way of expressing different things. It’s just fascinating to take yourself out of your bubble and experience new things.”

Outside the Anand cafeteria, the graduate and undergraduate students are packing up their bags and getting ready to drive to the New Delhi airport. In many ways, this is a sad moment but also the beginning of what could be a series of more winter schools around India. With the success of Astronomy at Taj, it’s only a matter of time before Shantanu Basu and Pranava Sharma pack up their bags and organize another trip.

Before the Western students completely separate, there is a final goodbye at a hotel 20 minutes from the airport. But just before they get caught up in the sadness of leaving, 21-year-old astrophysics student Sean Pentinga says, “Wait. Won’t we all see each other at school?” A bout of laughter occurs and as one adventures ends, another will soon begin.

Western invests in tobacco, weapons and oil companies. Here’s how it works

Western's Investments

Western has hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, but where does it all go? That was the question we asked and now have a (partial) answer to.

Western has a diverse array of investments, from equities to bonds to real estate, spread over many portfolios. Equity investments, which account for 65.8 per cent of its total operating and endowment portfolio, are managed by third party investment companies and Western does not have direct control over these investments. They are done mainly through indexes, with many companies being invested in at the same time.

The investments Western has are in line with what other universities do and what investment experts advise for best returns. These investments change regularly, meaning the University may not currently have money in the list of companies we were provided on March 11.

We have identified just a handful of the hundreds of companies that Western has indirectly invested in and are presenting them here because these same companies and category of companies have raised concerns on other campuses. York University, for example, divested this past year from some of the same arms manufacturers that Western invests in. The University of Toronto joined 23 other North American universities in divesting from tobacco in 2007, leading Canadian universities in that policy change. In response to petitions, Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto have both created reports on the viability of divesting from oil in the past two years as calls for oil divestment have swept across Canadian campuses.

Ethical investments are a tricky business and there are arguments on both sides. On the one side, there is outrage at universities indirectly supporting “unethical” companies or industries. On the other side, experts have argued that ethical investing is both not possible and not viable even if you tried.

So what do you think? Should Western have a defined policy regarding its investments and any ethical responsibility the University might have? Or should we let the experts get the best possible returns no matter the possible ethical qualms Western community members might have?

Sources (with links)


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