If your name is Edward, why is your gallery called Aaron Faber?
When we were much younger, I was 23, and we were starting this business, the specter of failure was very real. We didn’t want to stigmatize my name, so we were thinking about what to name it, and in New York businesses are listed from A-Z and Aaron with two “As” would put us at the front of all the listings.
How did you get started in watches?
I got into watches kind of by accident. We were building this jewelry gallery in midtown Manhattan 42 years ago. A guy named David Saunders knocked on my door and said I should really look at American watches with great style, like Elgin, Illinois and Hamilton. I told him to go away.
He said to me, “I’ll give you 25 watches to put on your shelf,” and I was surprised that in the first two weeks, we sold about half of them. Later, I met Stuart Unger and received some tutelage from him, and I started getting really interested in vintage American watches. Within a few years, I started going to Switzerland to the auctions, and I became friends with a whole network of dealers, particularly Osvaldo Patrizzi, who owned Antiquorum, so I expanded my purview to European watches. Stuart and I wrote a book about American watches in 1988, called American Wristwatches: Five Decades of Style and Design (by Schiffer Book for Collectors). Once we did that, we were well on our way and we became known. We were the only gallery in midtown Manhattan, so we got a lot of referrals and walk-ins.
What do you like about early American watches?
I love the aesthetic form of American watches. It’s utilitarian and it’s relatively small. All these designers had to reinterpret their designs. I have a particular soft spot for Hamilton and Illinois, and remember that Hamilton bought Illinois in 1927. It’s hard to beat the porcelain dial of an early Illinois, with black circles with the numbers in the center-it’s called the telephone dial because it looks like an old rotary phone.