In the annals of contemporary R&B history, there’s a group that looms large in the psyche of an entire generation, so much so that many of those in the generation that followed may owe their very existence to certain songs of theirs with titles like “I’ll Make Love To You”, “On Bended Knee” and so on. I am speaking of none other than the seminal R&B group, Boyz II Men, which blew up on the musical landscape of the ’90s and made Philly ground zero for a sound that set souls and loins on fire in equal measure.
Among the members of the group — which also consists of Nathan Morris and Wayna Morris — Shawn “Slim” Stockman caught the watch bug early, and to this day he remains a devoted collector.
As one of the elder statesmen of the genre, Shawn divides his time between touring and working with his philanthropic endeavor, Micah’s Voice, which provides assistance and support to underprivileged families dealing with autism.
I was fortunate to catch up and talk shop with Shawn over dinner at his home base in Los Angeles, where he gave me the 411 on his deep and abiding love of all things watches.
How did you get your start in watches?
I was seven years old and my father took me to Sears. He always had these cool watches with the Speidel bracelets that I loved to play with, you know, the ones that stretched and flexed. I loved playing with them… Anyway, he bought me a “Tigger” watch from Timex. Well, I put it on and he asks me, “What time is it?” Needless to say, I couldn’t tell the time yet, and the next thing I know — POW — he goes upside my head. “I just bought you this damn watch, now you’d better learn how to tell the f**king time!” I learnt in a day. My father’s philosophy was that every man should know the time.
This is why I made sure that my first watch was a digital. But I digress… So, you’re seven years old, you’ve got your Tigger watch, your dad made sure you knew how to tell time… Was this a passion that took root immediately?
Oh, yes, it took immediately. Even then I felt that there’s just something about, you know, something on a man’s wrist. Watches were the only thing that us guys could wear and still look masculine. I mean, if a man doesn’t wear anything else outside of his wedding band, he should still have on a good watch. It’s the only jewelry that every man should wear.
When Boyz II Men hit the big time and you earned some real money, what was the first watch you bought?
SS: We were on a Hammer tour… Shout out to MC Hammer, by the way — if it wasn’t for that man I don’t think that we would’ve been able to blow up like we did. Anyway, so his bus driver had a stainless steel Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet. I was in love with that bracelet, how the light hit it… It looked like diamonds. So I was like, “Yo, if you ever sell that watch you let me know.” The bus driver was like, “I’ll sell it to you right now, give me $800 bucks.” I scrounged up the money on the spot and wore it pretty much constantly.
Do you still have it?
In a manner of speaking, yes. I ended up giving it to my father. He has since passed away, and so now my younger brother wears it.
He must have loved it.
He did, in his own way. About three months after I gave it to him he comes to one of my shows. I look at his wrist, and sure enough there’s the watch, but the bracelet… Yes, he ditched the Jubilee and put it on a Speidel. THAT was my father. He put a Rolex on a Speidel bracelet.
What was next?
I was always in love with the Rolex President, the Day-Date, even before I was mentally corrupted by Hammer and his gang.
“Corrupted”, you say?
Yes, corrupted. Hammer was one of the first guys I saw with a flooded-out Day-Date. In fact, his whole crew had ’em. So one day we’re flying to a show, and we’re up front in the plane and his entourage are just blinging and blinding. I was like, how much do those cost, and he was like $50K. He gave me his jeweler’s number, and boom. So my next watch was what the kids call a “bust down” Presidential: all iced-out, yellow gold, the whole shit. I remember my hands shaking as I was writing that check.
One of the guys from Color Me Badd-
Here we go…
(laughs) He had this TAG Heuer on, you know, the famous one with the links?
The Color Me Baddest shit?
(Looks at the interviewer funny) So that was another one that I had. And then there was Heavy D. He had a gold Submariner with the blue dial and I was like, “Hey, where’d you get that?” So yes, I got one of those too, and soon after I bought a stainless steel model. It was after that purchase, the steel Sub, that I started to realize that I’m not the “bling” guy. I like solid, strong-looking timepieces, and the Submariner for me was that watch. Stainless steel, black dial, with a black bezel… It just looked f**king dope and it said everything to me. What’s more, it was functional. I could bang it up with no problems — it was a tank.
It sounds like this was a pivotal movement for you. How has your watch collecting continued to evolve?
I’m at an age now where as much as I might want something, I will do the research first, you know, think about it, dream about it, contemplate it… Will I like this five years from now? I go through all of that before I buy any watch, whereas before I was the exact opposite of that. I was super impulsive: “Gimme that. Yeah, I need that one, that looks good,” only to realize that I don’t even like this shit anymore, yet I’m six figures down. I just got to a point where I was like, yo, I can’t keep doing this to myself.
Watches aren’t a great investment, are they?
No, they’re not, which is another reason why when I get a watch I try my best to commit up here first, in my mind, and know that if I’m gonna get this that I need to enjoy it for what it is and just appreciate what the watch means to me and f**k anybody else.
I see that you’re wearing a Grand Seiko GMT, which is about as different from a “bust down” gold Rolex as one can get. Can you tell me about that one?
Grand Seiko just makes me feel smart. It makes me feel like I know something that other people don’t. While everyone else is buying into a name, this one here is all about substance. It does so much for me on both a pragmatic and aesthetic level. I travel a lot, so to have a timepiece that can track three time zones comes in handy. And then there’s the finishing, like the Zaratsu hand-polishing… If any Swiss company put this much actual hand-crafted effort into a timepiece, it would cost five times as much. And we still haven’t talked about the beautiful sweep of the Spring Drive movement.
So I take it that you’re a fan?
Definitely. They f**king kill it. I love Grand Seiko because in their own gracious, Japanese way they say to the Swiss, “F**k you, we make just as good a product or better, and do it for less money.”
So, are there any lessons that you’ve learned in this hobby that you’d care to share?
For starters, I don’t do the instant self-gratification thing anymore. I wait a second and I ask myself if I really like this, or do I like it because some guy that I admire has it on? I also try to find that fine line between me liking the watch and being able to move it if need be. Remember, I come from the ’hood so I know that shit might get rough one day — I’m not above hard times and if I need to get off of something I want to make sure that I’m not looking at my collection and feeling worse because it’s worth shit. So I ride that line as far as finding brands that give me the best of both worlds. For instance, lot of watch snobs might look down on my choice of a favorite brand, which is Rolex. I mean, there are a lot of folks who are anti-Crown, but what’s so bad about a company that makes a million watches a year and still maintains a level of quality, prestige and holds its value? Don’t hate, because every watch brand wants to be that.
What Rolexes do you currently own?
One my favorites is my ’71 Rolex Red Sub. I was born in ’72, and this was the closest that I could find to a birth year Rolex at the time. I don’t wear it as often as I should, but I do wear it. There’s something about the red lettering, the patina… And yet it’s still so versatile. I call it “practical elegance”, in that I can wear this with what I’ve got on [Note: Shawn is wearing a t-shirt and jeans], or with a tuxedo and it looks perfect.
Well, if James Bond can wear a Submariner with a tuxedo…
I also have a white dial Daytona with a Zenith movement, which I bought back in 1994. This friend of mine was like “hey, I’ve got this guy who’s selling Daytonas for five grand and you need to get one”. So, not really understanding what it was that I was buying, I was like, okay. With God as my witness sometimes I’d be walking down the street with this watch on and people who knew what it was would stop me and offer to buy it off my wrist right on the spot.
Any other pieces in your collection that you’d like to talk about?
Well, there’s my IWC Big Pilot Watch Edition Muhammad Ali. He was one of my heroes, but I never had the opportunity to meet him, so I figured that this is about as close as I’d ever get to the man. I bought this one solely for me. I’ll never sell it.
What up next for you?
I’m a huge A. Lange fan and a huge F.P. Journe fan. I love these watches, and they’re awesome, but these aren’t every day watches, at least for me. That said, I’ll probably be in the market in about a year or two. I’ve seen Langes, and just looking at the movement through the caseback… wow.
So I have to ask, did you keep any of the blinged out pieces?
Nope. As a matter of fact I had one AP that I bought from my jeweler a little while back, a blinged out Royal Oak, and I ended up trading it. I was like, eh, the shit’s not me. But I tried. I mean, look, I’m an entertainer and diamond watches have their place. If I’m on stage or at an awards show, then sure, I might borrow someone’s watch so I can look fly on TV, but that’s where it stops.
Any parting thoughts?
Longevity, beauty, workmanship, practicality and timelessness… The Big Pilot, the Daytona, the Submariner… They will never go out of style. Ever. They don’t need to change. Being in the music business, there’s a sense that you need to continually change, but I don’t agree with that. Sure, we all progress in life and grow, but the nucleus of who we are as people should always stay intact, and that’s how it is with watches.