A Man and His Watch (Iconic Watches & Stories From the Men Who Wore Them) by Matt Hranek (Part 1)

Preface. My father owned a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust, stainless steel with a black dial. It meant a lot for him as it signified a successful year in business. I was 18 when he died and I was given his watch. Every time I wear it, it remains me of my past. No other watch I own will replace this. I was a magazine editor for the watch market and I began doing a lot of research on historical brands and collectors. All these stories are powerful and unifying in nature. For many of these men, these watches played a significant role in their lives. Paul Newman’s Rolex was a gift from Joanne Woodward, his wife. It was a Daytona, reference 6239. The feeling of holding it was simply electrifying. The inscription on the back read ‘Drive slowly – Joanne’. Now, his youngest daughter Clea, wears the Daytona daily. Compiling the stories in the book has been an absolute joy.

For many men, watches seem to have a deeper meaning than just keeping time. Watches mark special occasions, they tell the world a bit about who you are, and they can, if you’re lucky, connect you to the people in your life who matter most. – Matt Hranek

At the end of the day, a watch is just a watch – it’s the story behind it that can make it exceptional. – Matt Hranek

Eric Ripert. Eric is the Chef & Co-Owner of Le Bernardin. His watch is the Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921. The numbers on the dial are offset to the right as it is meant for drivers to look at. I received the watch in 2011. My business partner gave it to me as I was celebrating the 20th anniversary at Le Bernardin. Vacheron is a beautiful brand. Like fine watchmaking, cooking is a craftsmanship as well. When craftsmanship reaches a certain level, it becomes art. Collectors understand the effort gone into making watches.

For me, watches signify special occasions. I’ll buy one for myself as a gift, maybe for the holidays – or maybe before, if I can’t wait. – Eric Ripert

From the Rolex Archives. I managed to set foot in the Rolex Archives. It was from there that I managed to photograph Francis Chichester’s watch. He was a famous adventurer who circumnavigated the globe from Aug 27, 1966 to May 28, 1967 and wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. The watch worked perfectly throughout his expedition.

Mario Andretti. Mario is a racing legend. His watch is the 1967 Gold Heuer Carrera Pilot Reference 1158CH. My uncle gave me a watch when it was my 13th birthday. An F1 gave me the Porsche Design watch in Rio. But, I fell asleep and the watch got stolen from me. In 1978, Porsche was kind enough to replace it for me. Most of the watches I own are given to me. Often, watches were given out as ‘trophies’ for winning races.

Benjamin Clymer. Ben is the founder and executive editor at Hodinkee. His watch is the Omega Speedmaster Mark 40. My dad was a photographer and since young, I was obsessed with gadgets. This naturally progressed to wrist-watches. My grandfather really impressed me and I looked up to him as a hero. When I was 16, my grandfather handed me his Omega Speedmaster Mark 40, which ran on a Valjoux movement. It was a chronograph with a triple calendar. I started off my career in strategy consulting at a big Swiss bank. The whole watch journey started when I blogged on Tumblr about this Omega watch that my grandpa gave me. An editor from a major men’s fashion site reached out to me after he saw the Tumblr post. He was interested in me as I was writing about old watches. I started Hodinkee in 2008. This watch was the one that kickstarted my career. Without it, I wouldn’t have achieved the success that I now enjoy.

One day, when I was 15 or 16, my grandfather said to me, unprovoked, “You know, I want you to have this.” Then he took this Omega off his wrist and handed it to me. I was just blown away. – Benjamin Clymer

From the Cartier Archives. I wanted to see the Cartier Santos-Dumont. The location of the archives is unknown to me as I was being hooded at the back of a van and was driven to a secret location. The place had super high security. However, the archivists inside were super amazing and hospitable. Some of the interesting pieces were the Constantine I’s Cartier Tonneau from 1915. Another was the Cartier Santos-Dumont. This was a transformational piece. Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first person to pilot a fixed-wheel aircraft that could take off and land under its own power. Louis Cartier gave him a watch so that he could keep time while flying. This was essentially the first ‘pilot watch’. This marked the era where wrist-watches started growing in popularity. Before this, all owned pocket watches.

Dimitri Dimitrov. He is the Maitre D at the Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel. His watch is the Timex Indiglo. Bill Murray gave me his Timex because the Baume and Mercier I was wearing was not visible in the dark. I thanked him for it. The Timex had a button you could press where there would be a backlight. This was something like the Gshock.

Kikuo Ibe. He is the creator at Casio G-shock. His watch is the Casio G-shock. The watch he would be making had to be tough. The G-shock was launched in 1983 and took off in the US. No one gets bored of the design, even today. G-shocks are subject to rigorous testing.

James Lambin. He is the founder of Analog/Shift. His watch is the 1967 Doxa Sub 300 professional ‘Black Lung’. It started with my grandpa, as he appreciated objects with high quality. There can be storytelling related to objects. Dirk Pitt was a character of fiction and he wears an orange-faced Doxa diving watch. I was determined to hunt it down. I did plenty of research. This watch was really designed with a purpose. Doxa was a reputable brand, and is older than Rolex. By the 1950s, the company wasn’t as relevant. Orange dials make the watch dial very visible underwater for divers. I bought it from a guy that used it for diving. I just want to love my watches.

A vintage watch is the ultimate luxury – it’s owning something that no one else has, but it’s also being the keeper of its story. It’s a book; there are chapters. And then you have that object and you write your own chapters into it. – James Lambin

Paul Boutros. He is the Head of Americas and Senior Vice President at Phillips. His watch is the Rolex ‘Kew A’ Observatory Chronometer. I looked at watches with my dad. I was mesmerized at those on display. The movement was really impressive. It was really love at first sight. I did research and asked for watch and auction catalogs. Dad and I often went to flea markets and retailers. We both often fought, but when it came to watches, there were no fights. When my dad passed away in 2002, I was awestruck to see the box of watches he left behind. I entered the watch industry despite being an electrical engineer at Lockheed Martin. I joined the watch forums, like TimeZone. Now, I’m living my dream at Phillips.

NAS. He is a musician and entrepreneur. His watch is the Patek Philippe Nautilus Reference 5712R. A serious gold Rolex makes a man look dapper. Many famous men have worn the Rolex Presidential. I developed my own style when it came to watches. The Nautilus fits me well. It goes well with almost every outfit. I still like old-school movies on film.

If you see a guy with a lot of diamonds on his watch, the way I see it – the way I’ve experienced it with other people, and even myself – you know that guy likes to have a lot of fun. He’s looking to have a good time. – NAS

They say time is an illusion, but even so, you need it. A good watch represents someone who’s punctual, responsible, who has a lot on his plate. Someone who knows how to manage his time and takes life seriously, because life doesn’t wait for anybody. – NAS

Dr. Jack Carlson. He is an arcaeologist and author. His watch is the 1941 Waltham Trench Watch. I love the idea of artifacts and understanding history through objects. Waltham is a watchmaking brand that made watches for soldiers in WWI. My watch has a shrapnel guard. I imagine the stories behind the artifacts.

Aaron Sigmond. He is a columnist and author. His watch is the Elgin. My grandfather purchased the Elgin. It represented, to him, the life in America. Elgin is based in Chicago. When he passed away, I wanted his watch. This is the least valuable watch in my possessions, but it’s the dearest to me. Like my grandpa, I only wear it on special occasions.

Max Wastler. He is the founder of the All Plaidout Blog. His watch is the Timex Ironman. I got it from my camp counselor when I was young. I respected him a lot. It came on a Velcro strap that was really impressive. It’s just a simple, clean digital watch. In addition, it has the Indiglo light function. Wearing it makes me feel like an adventurer, even in the city.

From the Tag Heuer Archives. Steve McQueen was an amazing man and a racer. He made the Heuer Monaco famous. A lot of them received wristwatches as gifts. I was very lucky to be able to access their archives. The famous film was called ‘Le Mans’. Jo Siffert was also another prominent guy in the industry.

Matt Hranek. He is an editor, author and photographer. His watch is the Sears Winnie the Pooh Watch. When young, I was obsessed with everything Pooh related. My mum kept this watch for me all along. This was the watch that started it all.

Atom Moore. He is the photographer and art director of Analog/Shift. His favorite watches are the New York City Swatches. Swatches were colourful and cool. During my lunch breaks, I would head to the Swatch store and study about watches. The Keith Haring watches were pretty amazing. Since then, I have participated in auctions for vintage Swatches.

I’m buying Swatches all the time, because they’re inexpensive and they’re fun, so why not own them? They’re like little pieces of art that you can put on your wrist. – Atom Moore

Frank Castronovo. He is the chef & co-owner of Frankies Spuntino Group. His favorite watch is the IWC Mark XV. My grandfather endured a tough life. However, he was a collector of cars, watches etc. He believed that these items could retain value. When he was older, he decided to visit Germany and see the people and the culture. He asked me what watch I wanted. I mentioned I liked IWC and we drove through the Black Forest to the IWC boutique. I like the black face on stainless steel. The watch is incredibly comfortable and you can wear it on any occasion.

It’s my everyday watch, but it’s also an heirloom; it’s something you pass on to your children and your grandchildren. Heirlooms make you think about the people in your life. – Frank Castronovo

amahw

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