Watchmaking Grandmasters Philippe Dufour, Kari Voutilenen, Laurent Ferrier and Roger Smith were in Singapore last year for a plenary session arranged by THE HOUR GLASS at the Paragon.
For the avid collectors and enthusiasts who attended the event, it was a chance to meet their idols in person — people, who have, through sheer grit, determination and passion, emerged as the unrivaled stars of the horological world, creating watches that have sent ripples throughout the watch world during their long careers.
While a full article on this event can be found in the Asia Edition of REVOLUTION (Volume 35), I thought it would be interesting to excerpt one of the more unexpected questions that was asked by an audience member.
If you were asked to recommend a watch costing below USD10,000, other than your own, to someone who wants to start a collection, what would it be?
This was certainly an interesting question and one that set many in the audience to speculate loudly on what the answers of the individual masters would be. Let’s face it, most of the watches we like are expensive, and further, considering that the watches made by the four master watch-makers are more likely than not, small in number, and it stands to reason, the only a few lucky people can get to own them. Perk up your ears therefore for a bunch of top picks that they have recommended. Can’t wear a watch made by any of them? Well, with any of these choices, you can tell your friends that the watch you are wearing has received the stamp of approval from a master watchmaker.
Scroll down below for their choices and the reasons why these particular watches or watch brands were chosen.
Philippe Dufour: I would say that you could buy at this price, maybe a bit less, a very good watch in terms of value and quality. It’s not Swiss — sorry — [but] a German brand called NOMOS. I found that this brand makes a very serious product. I like these watches, and for somebody who wants to start, I think this will be a good [choice]: not too expensive and good value for money.
(Editor: Dufour’s choice is hardly surprising given his personal choice of time-piece which is an A. Lange & Sohne Datograph in Pink Gold. It seems then that he is a fan of watches from the Glashütte region in Germany. With his recommendation of NOMOS, and the personal watch he wears that he paid for with his own money. I can hardly fault him, as these 2 brands are personal favourites as well.)
Kari Voutilenen: It’s a tricky question. In this case, perhaps I would buy a Parmigiani to support my village. That is perhaps the best solution, because it will bring wealth to the area where I’m living.
(Editor: Kari’s answer might seem a little disingenuous mainly because Parmigiani is hardly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a budget watch. Still, the Tonda 1950 is a nice watch to consider if your budget stretches a little outside the USD10,000 imposed by the question.)
Laurent Ferrier: If I could only buy one, I would go for a Rolex Daytona. If you really want to start a collection, it’s probably going to have to be with something simple, so the best way is to go to an auction and try to find original 50-year-old pieces that are still in good condition. That’s a very easy way to start.
(Editor: A Rolex on the list! A fine choice, but I think the more interesting part about Ferrier’s answer is looking for vintage watches at auction. An auction catalogue is a good place to start your research into watches as it will expose you to things that you might not have known about, and give you a sense of prices for various watches. What’s more, prices can be reasonable if you bid smart. Armed with the right research, you can pick up a nice piece quite easily.)
Roger Smith: I don’t know if this would surprise people, but personally, it would have to be a Rolex. They are exceptional watches and what impresses me about Rolex is that they’re not very adventurous, which is good, because they know they have a great movement. The movements that they use are tried and tested. They’ve been around forever — why change the wheel? They have a watch that you can use for dress, sports, and it’s a great all-rounder. Put one on your wrist and you’ll probably die with that watch on your wrist. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I look at the mechanics of a watch, the case and how all the components are constructed; to me, [the Rolex is] bulletproof, and I don’t think you can get much better than that. They don’t sponsor me, by the way.
(Editor: When I visited Roger at his studio in the Isle of Man, he showed me the 39mm Rolex Explorer that he had been given to him for his 40th birthday by his wife. Roger has always been an admirer of Rolex primarily because of the brand’s philosophy when it comes to making their watches, prioritising durability and reliability above all else. These are traits that you can also find in the watches that he makes, with the Series 2 movements for example featuring a very strong and thick three quarter plate. All the better for a lifetime of worry-free service, just like a Rolex. The Rolex Explorer he owns remains as a faithful everyday watch, that is until the day he finds time to make a Roger Smith watch for himself.)
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