The Conversation: What Makes A Powerful Watch Tick

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Patek Philippe turns the story of honourary president Philippe Stern into a literal part of Ref. 1938

Consider for a moment, the watch on your wrist. Since you are reading this magazine, we take it for granted that you must be wearing one, but if you are not, simply think of your daily beater or maybe your most cherished ticker. There is probably a story to this watch, and not merely the marketing one that everyone knows. No, this story is the one only you know about this specific reference you wear because it is tied directly to you. In other words, the story that the brand very publicly tells about the watch has now been augmented into some personal interpretation – consciously or unconsciously – by you.

You might find this somewhat difficult to accept but consider that one watch you have that was passed down to you by your father, or perhaps the one you gifted yourself for some milestone or other. Maybe you even lucked out and “won,” a piece at auction, forever earning you bragging rights… We all have these kinds of stories and they will be very specific, even if this generalisation here belies that. By the same token, you might also have a special story – the sort you can confidently tell at meetings and parties and instantly grab the spotlight with. These are the kinds of rich tales that we seek out in our annual personal watches story earlier in this very section (or the sorts of watches that we imagine would come with a wealth of inherent narrative quality).

Do some stories prove more compelling than others, even if these have very little to do with the virtues of the watches they are tied with? No doubt you have your own stance on this, or you have considered whether a brand’s marketing message aligns with your own expectations and experiences. Having said that, plenty of watches are sold on the merits of narrative thrust, or even the power of a singular brand identity. Not the marketing power of the brand, mind you, but the message itself. Think of the dive watch that serves, at best, a back-up function rather than the brand, which might be the king of luxury sports watches. Or perhaps the aviator’s timepiece that was only used by pilots before proper instruments debuted in the cockpit.

Now, storytelling and mythmaking in watchmaking are popular, if somewhat tricky subjects. They might even be the same subject… The editors of WOW Singapore and WOW Thailand find a wholesome and completely positive angle to it all. Well, very nearly completely at least.

Ashok Soman (AS): And so it is that another year in watchmaking comes to a close, but I am glad that we do not have a history or tradition of doing best-of year-enders. We do these sometimes though, so when you suggested something like this for our conversation, I was sold on it. But then you threw your support behind my idea about stories, myths and legends in watchmaking. Why the change of heart?

Ruckdee Chotjinda (RC): It was sudden and immediate. When I saw this among your topic proposals, I was like, wow, this is great. Storytelling is a subject I would love to explore. We (meaning the collective people, not just the two of us) always say that watches are more emotional products than tools or necessities these days. Stories just sweeten everything then.

AS: Indeed they do! I think there is this understanding amongst contemporary brands that storytelling is important. You know, whereas brands in the 1960s may have been more product-centric – most watch brands did not even use proper names for models till around that time – today everybody embraces the concept of selling around an identity that the brand has. Or perhaps an identity that just one watch family is associated with.

RC: A name can do wonders for a watch. On your point of identity, I can readily think of Monaco. When you say the name to most people, they have an image of the beautiful, coastal, city-state in mind. When you say it to watch people, the picture that comes up is that of a square piece of metal!

AS: It is like a lightbulb went off in someone’s head in Switzerland – what if watches had names rather than reference numbers… In fact, it is great that you bring up Heuer, or TAG Heuer in today’s context, because Jack Heuer was one of those watch executives responsible for the whole ‘names are great’ thing. So, he is one of the original light bulb guys, and he is also the person who moved Heuer into a sort of emotional space by linking the watches with motor racing, and more specifically, racing drivers.

RC: And the effects were long-lasting. I discovered Monaco through one of those racing connections a good three decades later or so. It is not that I had aspirations to become a race car driver, but that storytelling kind of reverberated and brought the watch to my attention at one point in time.

AS: In the era of Jack Heuer, watch brands discovered that they needed a Carrera – the Porsche Carrera to be more precise – and so they went about making it happen. This is also tied into design, of course; do not get me wrong because there is a compelling emotional power behind the Porsche Carrera, or the Eames chair for that matter. But to return to Jack, he also became one of the industry’s first popular leaders, and it is perhaps no accident that his story is so closely tied with that of Heuer, and now TAG Heuer.

RC: Did he also invent the practice of watch placements in movies?

AS: I am not sure who actually pioneered the practice of watch product placements on the silver screen (as it was at that time), but for sure Rolex sort of wins that battle, although that was mainly down to people (directors, producers and prop folks) who felt that characters needed symbolic gear. Actually, the most famous story that we all know in this area belongs to a most inappropriate watch, that also happens to have a name – Rudolph Valentino’s Cartier Tank. It was most definitely not a period- appropriate choice. It was The Son of the Sheik (1926), and Valentino irritated director George Fitzmaurice by insisting on wearing his favourite watch, context be damned! It was not a great movie or anything, but Valentino made it memorable, while also giving us an iconic shot of him wearing the watch alongside Vilma Banky, because he died shortly after, and this was his last film. So, a great story that one cannot make up! Cartier makes lots of hay with this…

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TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph

RC: I remember reading about that now that you bring the name of the movie up. On the contrary, Pierce Brosnan’s Seamaster in his James Bond films was period-appropriate, if somewhat more technologically advanced than anything Omega was making. It was also one of the most successful watch placements in movies if you ask me. And, to link that with our conversation today, it involved a lot of storytelling, albeit a purely fictional one.

AS: Ah yes, Omega and James Bond is one of the great purposeful relationships between cinema and watchmaking, but arguably this brand has something even better: a real story, and one that made an impact on the world – and went beyond our humble little blue dot. Of course, this is the Omega Speedmaster of 1969. No explanation needed there I think!

RC: No. None is needed there at all. The Moonwatch is that kind of story that books can be written about – as indeed there have been. It is an amalgamation of facts, myths, legends…everything. You can essentially add a good vintage hand-winding Speedmaster to your collection and say, ok, I am good and settled for the chronograph department. But this James Bond versus Moonwatch discussion also brings us to the division between storytelling of something that is made up and something that actually happened.

AS: Ironic that it (the original Moonwatch) was a manual-winder, given that it was the same year as the famous introduction of the automatic chronograph. I think people even forget – not seasoned collectors of course – that the original Moonwatch was a manual- winder. That, essentially, is the power of a great story. The advertising message is easy: if the watch is good enough for NASA astronauts, it is good enough for you. But the message people get is more about a feeling – the same feeling we all share when thinking about the great endeavour of putting people into space, of exploring beyond the confines of our world. I think I argued in my chronograph special that no one even really thinks of the Moonwatch as a chronograph – it is just the watch that went to the moon. And now it is even more accessible because you can get the MoonSwatch!

“The irony is that you cannot have a powerful story without a power- ful watch”

RC: Now, that is storytelling about a story, which is also about a story! What kind of Inception have you inflicted on us? Anyway, so you would agree with me that storytelling has an influence on the purchase decisions of most people. Like boomers were easily convinced they needed a Moonwatch, and now millennials may also get that same fire ignited, but through the MoonSwatch? Or are we overreaching?

AS: Yes, perhaps watch brands stumbled into an inception-like moment (but in time rather than in consciousness) with the Moonwatch…and now the MoonSwatch. I think such connections definitely pull people in, and that is why storytelling has become paramount in watchmaking – perhaps even in the negative sense where the watches themselves are besides the point. If one looks at brands that want to sell many hundreds of thousands of watches, powerful stories are, arguably, more important than timekeeping chops. The irony there is that you cannot have a powerful story without a powerful watch, which by the way is also what separates the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona from all other chronographs. It too transcends its origins and complication; the watch is a statement piece that watch lovers everywhere have elevated far above its objective value, and values.

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Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

RC: Powerful stories with powerful watches … I am inclined to cite the example of one collection: the Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Complications. I mean, if their Pont des Amoureux watch is not storytelling, I do not know what is. In fact, my Facebook page has just reminded me about two weeks ago that I once posted a wristshot of the Midnight Pont des Amoureux watch in white gold. It is the lesser-known 42mm version in white gold that was designed for men if you recall.

AS: Well, now we are in quite a different space with Poetic Complications! The Pont des Amoureux is a pure story, with mechanical watchmaking simply providing the kinetic power behind it. So here, the watch is merely a delivery mechanism for a story – a theatre if you will – that unfolds upon your wrist. Genius-level stuff! It took a jewellery brand to make this happen, which is odd given that watch brands have been making automata for hundreds of years. I think Van Cleef & Arpels have written themselves into the story of watchmaking with the Poetic Complications. At this level though, it is hard to grasp how successful it is at selling watches. Well, storytelling that you can see on the wrist is definitely a winner, and Van Cleef & Arpels proved it, as you say. It is also hard for brands to replicate this sort of thing, which is also appealing to the brands, from a business standpoint I suppose.

RC: So far we have been talking about storytelling of specific watch models or collections. We need to tackle also the subject of storytelling at the brand level. Most notably, for the longest time, we have classical brands leveraging on their long history, records or inventions, for example. It is, of course, right and appropriate. But what meaningful discussion can we have about this? What would be the most obvious and not so obvious effects that this storytelling might have on potential buyers?

AS: On that note, this is the perfect moment for a certain brand to make an entrance – Patek Philippe. I know, you might expect me to get into the weeds of the Nautilus (and maybe I will later) or my favourite, the Grandmaster Chime, but really it is the Calatrava that draws my attention. And thus, I mean the entire assortment of Patek Philippe; here is a case where the brand makes all the difference. And, it is a difference that is just as visceral as the Moonwatch.

Perhaps Patek Philippe is a character itself, playing its part in a theatrical story about a Geneva family called the Sterns, who happen to make watches – and they are engaged in the business of keeping a storied Geneva name in watchmaking alive. Not only are multiple generations of Sterns in the family business, Patek Philippe itself has made a world where the watch is something to preserve for future generations. A true legacy product, in other words. It is definitely not an accident that Patek Philippe also happens to have the most famous and impactful watch advertising of all time, arguably, in the form of the Generations campaign. You never really own a Patek Philippe…. Gives me chills just thinking of it. Truly genius-level stuff.

RC: The whole arrangement is very compelling indeed. The message and the visuals did make a lasting impression, and in such a way that most people can relate to, whether or not they will actually get to own a Patek Philippe in this lifetime. I have a couple of Patek Philippe references that I would love to add to my collection at some point, but they may not be attainable as long as I continue to work as a starving writer (as one of my associates likes to call herself).

AS: It might be that just the dream of owning a Patek Philippe could be transferable – as in your kids could try to get that reference 6104 that you missed, or something like this. These days, Patek Philippe is so successful that you could insert any reference you want here because it might be impossible to get anything. This is the opposite of instant gratification, and likely something every watch brand out there would give both arms (and maybe a leg) to have. By the way, I would argue that we may want for less if we just spent a little less on our favourite hobby, but I digress.

RC: That situation where demand far exceeds supply is not limited to traditional houses such as Patek Philippe. About three months ago, I had an interview with Max Busser when he was in Bangkok for the 15th anniversary of PMT The Hour Glass. At one point, he said he knew to gratify long-time customers who have supported him with allocations, but then MB&F had to leave something for newcomers to enjoy as well. Now, Max is a great storyteller himself, and I am using the term in the sense of admiration certainly.

AS: Max Busser has succeeded in turning his childhood obsessions into objects of serious horological desirability! In a way, his brand is himself, but not just his persona or personality, but literally his own memories and experiences…which he has skilfully crafted into various timekeeping objects that also resonate with other humans. What was the tagline that MB&F used?

RC: I checked just now: “A creative adult is a child who survived”. Maybe we did not survive. We are not creative enough 😀

AS: That’s the one! Well, I failed to get the MAD watch yet again so…

RC: Ahh … Sorry about that. I have not tried my luck myself. I have handled the first one once in Geneva in 2022. It was a fun watch to have on the wrist. And during that visit, I was told about the next level of storytelling which went beyond the creations and touched upon the site where they are created: their new MAD House!

Van Cleef & Arpels Poetic Complications Pont des Amoureux

AS: I visited the MAD House after Watches and Wonders Geneva this year. The flavour of this manufacture visit was indeed quite different. But really, they could have any space they wanted, as long as they have Max! But you know, in terms of just what is on the wrist, I think it is simply about looking for the time and finding something that makes you smile. A beautiful dream. What is that experience worth? What price can you put on a dream? MB&F is not alone in asking that question; a number of other creators come to mind, not least of all Urwerk, but also classical stuff such as Rexhep Rexhepi’s Akrivia, or Laurent Ferrier. Funnily, a couple of those names have a Patek Philippe connection…

RC: I can see very clearly what you mean. Yes, they may be (relatively) new to the industry, but they are also storied, in their own way. And their story does add to the appeal, at least for me. Without the story, an MB&F or an Urwerk may be incomprehensible, regardless of the efforts that go into designing and making one. And, without the story, a Rexhep Rexhepi or a Laurent Ferrier may not stand out from the rest of the market, regardless of their craftsmanship.

AS: Once again, I think, we find an Inception level moment here! Rexhep is a really young guy, yet his story is so compelling to many collectors – certainly far more than his production could ever keep up with. The details of Rechep’s story, strangely, might not be important – I imagine that many do not know it, at least at first – but once you learn about them, they raise the profile of any given watch that he makes. Plenty of watchmakers can say this, of course, but most have not made as much of it as Rexhep.

RC: Well, what can we say, watches are emotional products, right? And people are emotional beings. We probably feed on this romanticism like when the more avant-garde timepieces of MB&F or the more surrealistic creations of Van Cleef & Arpels give us a sense of escapism. In the case of Rexhep, he is very fortunate in that Switzerland has treated him well as a new home, and I am very happy for his success.

AS: We can certainly hope that all this success leads to more success, but for others too. Just as Patek Philippe’s success leads to success for other brands too. This is the sort of virtuous cycle that just makes me want a Patek Philippe even more! I guess I marketed myself into it! Thank goodness Patek Philippe continues to advertise, even though they probably have no need to…

RC: I am impressed at the level you can connect the dots and turn that into purchase justification. I mean, I do it too, but usually it is more direct and not as collateral.

AS: And you know, dear readers, that Ruckdee and I write this story together, live. It all just comes together so you are witnessing the act of me convincing myself of something I had already convinced myself of. How is that for the power of storytelling in watchmaking?

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Urwerk UR-120 Lost in Black Space

RC: Ha ha. You should win a medal right there. But before we take too many pages, allow me to ask you a very important question. What do you think of brands that are created on the basis of historical figures, but do not have a direct link to the original company? I am thinking particularly of Louis Moinet here because I admire the level of storytelling. And I bring it up because it is very pertinent to our topic of discussion today.

AS: To me, the tale of Louis Moinet is inextricably linked with that of Jean-Marie Schaller. Schaller is the man who founded and runs the Louis Moinet watchmaking brand, but he is certainly not a descendant of Moinet! Yet somehow, he was drawn to this then-unknown watchmaker, to the point that he took a chance on an auction lot (written by the great Arnaud Tellier) in 2013… The rest is history now, but Schaller could easily have missed his shot at the Comptoir pocket watch, and indeed nearly did. As a matter of weird fact for this story, the other party bidding on that lot was none other than a certain Geneva brand with a famous museum in that city, and Tellier is perhaps best known for his work at the Patek Philippe Museum.

RC: Oh, I did not know that bit about the other bidding party. That is interesting.

AS: Schaller told me that himself recently, and I just caught up with Tellier at the Singapore Watch Fair, just to tell him that Schaller and I were just talking about him.

RC: I think what Schaller is doing with Louis Moinet is not very different from what Pascal Raffy is doing with Bovet. The stories are artfully woven into the respective brands. The key difference may lie in the fact that the original Louis Moinet was long gone and now re-established through research and acquisition of the right to use the name, whereas the right to the Bovet name was more or less passed from one hand to another through acquisition until it landed with the current owner.

AS: Bovet is not a brand I find a lot of opportunity to discuss so thanks for bringing it up. In the old days of the original Bovet name, watchmakers survived and thrived based on patronage. Just think of the mighty Abraham-Louis Breguet and the fact that he was as popular with the Capet dynasty as well as Napoleon.

Anyway, Bovet today is a passion project of Raffy’s, and it shows in the form of contemporary watches. In a way, Raffy’s interest sustains that enterprise, and enables the brand to find a second life; that is clearly similar to what Schaller is doing with Louis Moinet. In other words, neither of these gentlemen are just in it for the money, yet they are just as responsible for certain dreams of watchmaking as Max Busser is. Maybe it is best to find a contrast here, like Jean-Claude Biver with Blancpain and Hublot; both brands are owned by groups now, but the power of these brands is clearly much more than just any one group or owner.

Just for fun, let me add Ferdinand Berthoud here because the contemporary watches owe their existence to the passion of Karl- Friedrich Scheufele and status of Berthoud, with Chopard remaining in the background. To be clear, I mean to say here that the stories of these brands go beyond founders or owners (past and present); the involvement of watchmaking conglomerates does not matter. So, the shadow of legacy falls over us once again.

RC: I suddenly think of Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo of Bell & Ross.

“One might view storytelling about watches the way one feels about watching a movie – it is good if it is entertaining”

AS: Bell & Ross is a brand that I do find a lot of opportunities to discuss, and it certainly gives us a lot of talking points! These guys captivated the public with a design, so I come back to that Eames chair I guess, but added a tonne of narrative too. As early as the launch of the brand, they already had a collection called Heritage, which was very forward-thinking and bold for a new brand. On the other hand, this gives us the chance to address the spectre of mythmaking in watchmaking, which is the idea that contemporary branding is all about marketing stories. Bell & Ross, whose independence is beyond question, guaranteed as it is by Chanel, is certainly a savvy marketing force.

RC: I should add also that they always had impactful visuals to amplify their stories. I remember complimenting them more than once on their relevant and tasteful photographs, whether the campaign was more technical-oriented or a fashion-forward one.

AS: Bell & Ross visuals are impressive, as anyone with eyes will agree, but it also feeds into the marketing narrative. So, to put it out there, the flipside of storytelling is that collectors and enthusiasts will accuse brands of just making up stuff to sell products. This applies to brands both new and heritage. The lines between fantasy, myth and legacy are sacrosanct to some, or perhaps I should say many.

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Bovet Orbis Mundi

RC: Well, I would not say that they are totally wrong, but I should view this storytelling as a means of entertainment, for the lack of a better word (I will have to consult the dictionary for the meaning of sacrosanct, by the way).

This may be a stretch of a comparison, but for me it is not totally unlike when you go to a movie. You pay for something you already know is made up or imagined. Those stories or those visuals may serve to bring a watch to my attention, and then it is up to me to decide if the actual product is worth the money being asked, if it fits with my collecting criteria or if it serves a purpose in my daily life. I was inclined to buy a Luminox a few months ago because they had a nice one out with a titanium bezel contrasting against the Carbonox case. I would have used it as my go-anywhere, do-anything watch. But, no, I do not have any illusion of becoming a Navy SEAL when I strap the watch on, for example.

AS: In that sense, what you want in a watch is a good story, and Bell & Ross certainly delivers. The brand’s most famous pilot’s watches are all the evidence required there. To me, it matters if any given brand is motivated by a certain spirit, and the watches are representative of that spirit. The opposite are those brands that make clear tributes (or copies, if you are feeling less than polite) because that is a pure cash- grab that trades on the willing-seller willing- buyer mentality.

RC: Well, yeah, the tributes can be a grey area sometimes. To me, there is nothing wrong with corresponding to a genre, but certain specific details that remind a person too much of an established brand should be avoided. I am talking about some fonts, some markers, you know. But as you say, there are willing buyers, so…

AS: It can get confusing to even experienced collectors when a brand presents historical notes no one ever heard of, leading to accusations that said history is made up, with the sole purpose of tricking people into buying. This one is not limited to new brands or anything – the contemporary A. Lange & Söhne brand is not the A. Lange & Söhne of old, and neither is anything that emerges from Glashütte today. I would argue that most of those brands are trying to be true to the spirit of watchmaking in that region, or the specific history of one name or other. I mean, it is not like Glashütte watchmaking was the equivalent of gold in the old days. On the other hand, nobody is trying to revive the Lepine name and connect that with the famous old watchmaker – this would be the sort of mythmaking that reasonable minds could agree is a bit shady.

RC: Well, we do have the revival of Ferdinand Berthoud that you mentioned, which seems so far respected by the industry, including yourself?

AS: Or Louis Moinet, if Moinet had been famous, which he was not. Ferdinand Berthoud has the good fortune of being in a similar place as some other brands we noted, specifically Bovet, in that it is owned and run by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele as a passion project. The Scheufele family is, of course, famous for being behind Chopard (as alluded to earlier) so I think this keeps Ferdinand Berthoud safe; the fact that the watches are amazing also helps! By the way, it should be noted that Ferdinand Berthoud is a Fleurier band, same as Bovet, and this is because the watchmaker himself was born there, even though he was mostly known as a French watchmaker. It is rather like Abraham-Louis Breguet in that sense.

RC: So where does that leave us? That storytelling is a needed marketing tool that can make a life-changing difference for a watch or a brand when properly and beautifully executed?

AS: These days there are simply too many stories to keep track of! Brands would do well to remember that less is more, sometimes – credit where credit is due, Ferdinand Berthoud seems to be a big believer in that philosophy. Brands do try very hard to make some stories a reality – most recently seen in all the sustainability claims being bandied about – but such stories must have a measure of reality or be in good faith to be easily accepted by watch buyers. A useful example is that of the Rolex Explorer, which people genuinely forget was not the Everest-topper itself. I have to remind myself sometimes that the model was made as a tribute to the act of summiting Everest, even though it was not the Rolex model that made it to the top of the world.

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Bell & Ross BR 03 Black Matte

RC: Yes, I understand what you are saying. And, yes, I think a lot of people did not have this fact clearly in mind generally. I mean, I also had the same misunderstanding for some years when I first became interested in watches. The clarity you mentioned did not come to me until some time afterwards. Maybe the storytelling by Rolex visuals was too effective? Anyway, it served a purpose for the brand, and it was indeed inspirational for the potential buyers. It certainly has more gravity than the story (more or less a joke) I like to tell people of an impulse purchase of mine in late 2019.

It was a watch I wanted but did not need – not that any watch is truly needed, of course. The story would go like this, “Baht was strong. I was weak. And I was also alone in Paris.” The manufacture had their story for the design or creation of that watch, of course. But it is my version that I used more often, and it made people laugh (and also think that I am rich). So, this is storytelling at a personal level, not at the brand level.

AS: Well ultimately, the stories we tell about the watches we own are the most relevant ones, even if they are not always the most interesting.

RC: Hmmm … I didn’t see that coming. You are spot on! AS: It also speaks to perhaps my final reason for wanting to make storytelling the subject of our conversation this time.

RC: Ok. What is that?

AS: To recap some of our other discussions, there is the subject of so-called investment watches, which is something we could return to discussing all the time. It is a rich area, perhaps because it is fundamentally ridiculous. Then again, I found myself wondering if a watch might ever be worth more than the sticker price, especially if said watch was worn and had visible signs of wear.

RC: You mean, as in worn by a famous actor or celebrity, thereby improving the provenance of the watch?

AS: Very astute of you, yes. The Paul Newman effect, in other words, except not for a Daytona with (what we now call) the Paul Newman dial, but an actual watch that the actor Paul Newman wore. Obviously, we have one very real auction result of just such a watch (and a recent cautionary tale that is still unfolding, involving the Marlon Brando Rolex GMT-Master). In the case of the Daytona, the fact that it was Newman’s property and he wore it, and owned it for reasons specific to himself (and the fact that he was who he was), all contribute to the now-famous price paid. Of course, you might say that the watch also fetched a record price because of all the hype that it generated, which helped to sell many other Newman Daytona watches. That is true.

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Zenith Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition

RC: This proves once again the effects of storytelling, but this time by the watch-collecting communities and the auction houses, not the brands themselves.

AS: Thus I thought about whether we would pay for the story of a specific watch – like the story of your Paris “weakness,” for example. The hypothetical auction lot listing would make that point, enshrining your previously personal story into something rather more… well, just more. The watch of renowned Thai watch journalist and WOW Thailand editor, which he acquired in Paris after a fortuitous encounter with the Forex market… Anyway, you get the idea because the above hypothetical is clearly a sales pitch, even if it is true. Any prospective buyer would have to assess that story, independent of anything they objectively know about the watch (the specifications and so on) and the story the brand tells about it.

RC: I had the pleasure of doing that “story” assessment earlier this year when I was at Zenith and they had the Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition watch available. It is that watch you can buy only if you visit the manufacture, that I mentioned in my story about the same for the WOW Singapore Legacy issue. I knew about the Manufacture Edition from long before and secretly thought about buying one. This is the watch with a special dial that comes with a story of prototype dials being discovered in the famous attic [in case you missed the grand tours of the Legacy issue – Ed]. The story was solid enough for me, but the gods of Forex did not smile upon me this time round. Maybe next year.

AS: Right, and if you buy that watch, then the story of how you came to want that watch would enter into it. But it is important that it is your story, just as much as it is your watch. You wear it, and maybe even feature it (certainly on social media but perhaps in print as well) or have it written about by some other publication (or collector/influencer – insert story contributor here). All this adds to the story of that specific watch – maybe you even give it a nickname that enters wide usage. Such a watch would have some extra value that you, the owner, have added. To me, that might be worth more than the sticker price. What say you?

RC: I think you need some kind of stardom to attract that kind of extra value?

“In the end, the best watch is the one you bought, out of all the ones you could have bought…or perhaps it is the one you missed”

AS: But then again, there is nothing special about the collector Henry Graves right? He was just a wealthy banker, and not even especially wealthy. The watch, on the other hand, is so famous I do not even need to name the brand that made it. So, let us say, a collector who happens to be deep into one brand…so deep he not only knows the management but also some of the watchmakers and machine operators. He might say, casually, to the CEO of the brand that he would love a certain style of dial, with specific hands, to go with favourite complication. Now, the CEO knows that his brand has nothing like this, but he decides to have one made for his favourite customer. And now, you have a very special piece for a very special person, who is otherwise quite ordinary to the world at large.

RC: That is true about Henry Graves. And I see what you mean regarding VIP client requests. Perhaps, this is how the owner of the now-famous OAK collection got some of the pieces that were showcased in London last year. Many of the pieces were created especially for him in the very fashion you described!

AS: Exactly right, and I certainly knew nothing about the owner of the OAK collection before he began to seek press coverage. Whether he sought that coverage or not though, his pieces would be valuable just on the strength of his personal stories with them. That is to say, each one would be of value to him, and possibly to any given observer. Now, this is all a very roundabout way of saying that our readers are, in fact, adding value to their own watches. It may not be monetary value, but if you like your watch enough, it ends up being worth a lot more than what you paid. Sort of the story of every Patek Philippe watch, I suppose! The only reliable way for it to be worth anything is for you to forget about its cash value. In the end, everything is about the legacy concept, which is what gives the Patek Philippe marketing campaign (it certainly is a marketing campaign) its power.

Louis Moinet Cosmopolis

RC: Well, thank you then for the idea to write a story about stories that totally make up a larger and even more meaningful story. I think we have provoked some thoughts among our readers and completed an article that is much more worthwhile than a round-up of the year’s best watches (in our opinion).

AS: In the end, the best watch of the year is the one you bought, out of all the ones you could have bought. Or perhaps it is the one you missed… This personal aspect is what I love about this hobby.

RC: And that’s a wrap! I am glad we had a chance to put all of these in writing. And I should let you go prepare for your trip now. Will be following your WOW SG Instagram for postcards from Sardinia!

AS: Onwards to the new watches of 2024! And yes, Sardinia beckons.

This article was first seen in the Festive issue of WOW Singapore.

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