Start your year off right with the leaders, the wonders, the visionaries and all the people in watchmaking who have made it such an incredible, fascinating industry. These are Power Lists.
Since the dawn of time, humans have collected. Whether through necessity or whimsy, there has always existed an urge to accumulate. Henry VIII collected wives; Henry Clay Frick, paintings; and Tom Hanks has a serious assemblage of typewriters. Of course, you’re reading this either because you are a watch nut or have a passing interest in horology. Either way you will be acutely aware of the importance of watch collecting now, as not merely just a hobby but as an industry-defining profession. Today, we celebrate a group of Super Collectors that have taken their passion to such levels that they are both tastemakers and influencers. Indeed, their collections have become inspiration for the very brands to whom they have devoted their collecting lives.
Our Super Collectors epitomize the art of collecting, each having their own unique taste but one overarching theme — quality. At this moment in time, there are two golden rules in high-end collecting: quality and rarity. What all our collectors do is combine these two elements in curating some of the most important collections that are shared with the public. Whether possessing an eye for a gem, a relationship with a brand to procure a unique piece or decades worth of trawling markets, auctions and dealers’ tables, each of them has made a name for themselves as a world class collector.
Whether you know him as Auro or by his nom de plume John Goldberger, there is no denying Montanari’s position in the watch community as super collector, tastemaker and all-round great guy. With a collection that is as vast as it is varied, his watches have been documented in his numerous books and the pictures that he contributes to numerous publications. “My personal style is grounded in the past, but I am always looking forward. I love the research; for me, the discovery is the most important thing, more than owning the watch. After I take a few photos, the watches go in a safe. My collection is constantly evolving, I try to find the better example on the market in perfect condition with good provenance. If you have considerable enthusiasm and passion, backed up by modesty, common sense and perseverance, you are on the path to success.” Wise words for sure. When asked if there was one watch that he would never let go, Auro replies, “My first wristwatch presented by my father for my Confirmation Day. I was nine years old, and it was an Omega Seamaster Calendar.”
@horology_ancienne is a father-and-son Instagram account dedicated to fine watchmaking, with the objective of sharing the stories and the history of watches from their collection as well as the broader histories of watchmaking and the watchmakers associated. It is a passion project; the result of 30 years of collecting.
“Our primary focus is on the most important clocks, pocket watches and wristwatches from the various brands we collect. In between, we do acquire watches that might not be historically important but are aesthetically important to us.” Like most collectors, they have a watch that got away. “When the Duke Ellington Patek [ref. 1563] appeared at auction, in hindsight, it was a big regret that we were not prepared to pay tomorrow’s price. Moreover, when you’re bidding against Patek for a piece, as we occasionally do, the term ‘bidding war’ is an understatement!”
NYC Watch Guy is an NYC-based entrepreneur turned venture capitalist who bought his first watch 10 years ago (a Zenith El Primero chronograph) and has never looked back since. He has a penchant for niche independent watches. If he’s not at a local watch collectors’ meetup, you can usually find NYC Watch Guy at a pickup basketball game in the city.
Of his collecting ethos, he says, “I think my collecting style is ever evolving and where I am today is definitely not where I was five years ago, and very likely won’t be where I will be 10 years from now. No matter how ‘hot’ a watch may be, if it doesn’t move me, I am not going to buy it. Also, I only like to buy things I will wear, and so no matter how important or rare a watch may be, if it isn’t something that vibes with my style, I won’t buy it.”
The watch he could never part with is his Urwerk UR-220 Grove XXIII. He reveals, “It was an edition of 23 watches made for Michael Jordan and his golf buddies. This is the watch I have worked the hardest to track down in my collecting journey. As the biggest basketball fan in the world and someone who worshipped MJ growing up, finally being able to own this watch felt like I had actually achieved the unachievable — the endgame grail watch. Of course, I’ve continued buying things even after that, but without a doubt, this is the one watch that I could never part with!”
Jasem Al Zeraei’s account @patekaholic has been the number one Patek Philippe fan page on Instagram since 2015. Known as a brutally honest, fearless and occasionally controversial figure in the watch community, Jasem is someone that does not hold back his opinions. He is a self-confessed, “all-over-the-map collector, a maniac obsessive, sometimes irrational collector, but I always come home to either a Patek or a Rolex. The heart seems to either always wear a cross or a crown. I, however, love all watches — they mesmerize me in a way I cannot describe sometimes.”
The watch he could never part with is his Patek Philippe reference 5071G, although he has his sights set on a very special Daytona. He says, with characteristic candor, “I need to own a Rolex 6270 before I leave this planet or else I’m going to lose my shit!” Like any watch collector, the watch community is very important to him and its diversity is what makes it so special. He quips, “We differ in many ways, backgrounds, languages, religions, but we all tick tock!”
Roni Madhvani has been a collector of vintage watches for over three and a half decades. He also has a passion for Art Deco, French car mascots (hood ornaments) from the 1920s and ’30s, Ugandan and Indian contemporary art and many other nice things. He summarizes his collecting style: “My passion is for design genre watches, primarily from 1945 to 1965 and focusing on Patek Philippe, Cartier, Audemars and Vacheron but others too that I fall in love with.”
Although we shouldn’t live with regrets, Roni has a couple when it comes to watches that got away! He says, “There are some pieces that I simply couldn’t afford at that moment in time, others that I was just being too tight-fisted and underbid, and those where my Internet or phone connection dropped; something that happens all the time in Africa! Otherwise, I think a cloisonné enamel dial mid-’50s Vacheron depicting the mythological mermaid Mélusine. In fact, it got away twice — when the dealer offered it to me directly and when he consigned it to auction.”
@santa_laura is a Singapore-based watch collector with a passion for rare and interesting watches and cars. With a significant following on Instagram, the man behind the account very much views watches as a hobby, not an investment. He says, “When it comes to watches, I collect and buy what gets my heart going, rather than what my mind tells me to. I buy without ever thinking of the secondary value.” This is a refreshing voice in the investment-led culture of modern watch collecting indeed. Like a father having to pick a favorite child, he finds it difficult to choose one watch that he would never sell. He replies, “There are too many to list! Probably my Harry Winston Opus 3 diamond edition or my F.P. Journe Vagabondage III diamond edition. These were made in examples of less than five. But then my next pickup is my Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture, which I collect in January, so maybe that will be the one I’d keep over the rest!”
Ahmed “Shary” Rahman, @time_mechanic
Shary Rahman is the marketing director of a major textile and apparel manufacturing company in Bangladesh. His passion for food, travel, spending time with family and watches are writ large across his social media feed. He says, “I am interested in more contemporary watches and less of a vintage person. My favorite complications would be chronographs and perpetual calendars.” With a varied and interesting collection of important watches, when asked what it is about a particular watch that lights him up, he shares, “I collect on the basis of three reasons: the watch tells a story, the movement inside the watch is truly very interesting, or the aesthetics of the watch is beautiful!” Most collectors have regrets about watches that they have let go, but Shary doesn’t have a “watch that got away.” He explains, “It’s difficult to say because I never really get too drawn in on a particular watch. It’s about having fun and searching for a watch is always part of that, and if it happens it happens and you get great joy and satisfaction. Otherwise, you just move on to the next one and hope for the better!”