INTERVIEW: DJ Carl Cox reveals why he made a watch with ZenithLuke Benedictus
“I’ve always had a fascination with timepieces. As a DJ, back in the day, most of the records I bought didn’t have BPMs (beats per minutes) on them and, when you’re mixing, you need to know what they are. So you’d go to your watch and set your second hand to work out the record’s BPM. I was always looking at my watch.”
“Time was also important for pacing your sets. Back in my early days, most of my sets used to be one hour, so if you didn’t time things right, you wouldn’t manage to play the set that you wanted to. You’d constantly be checking your watch to see if you could maybe sneak two more records into your hour. It was important to finish your set on time – you didn’t want to go into the next DJ’s time-slot.
“Getting to your set on time was important, too. That’s not always easy when I’m playing multiple sets in a night and having to drive from, say, London to Liverpool to make my next set at 3am. All night I was always looking at my watch, hoping for no traffic delays, wanting to get there on time and not let anyone down. Finally you get to the next club at 2.55am, whoosh past the bouncers with your record box, get to the turntables, and you’re on time! Now you know you’ve got maybe two hours to play your music. So, I’ve always had a timepiece so I’m able to stay punctual and know where I am.
“Plus, I’ve always been into motorsports – motorcycle racing, sidecar racing, rallycross, racing cars, drag racing – anything with a combustion engine. I started my own team, Carl Cox Motor Sport, in Australia in 2012. And racing is all about time – getting there first, being the fastest.
“Part of that interest came because after school, I went into college, to learn motor mechanics and electrical engineering. The electrical engineering side I basically put into my mobile disco, building amplifiers and speaker boxes, to make my sound better than anyone else’s. But the other side of it was motor mechanics. I was into performance and would always tinker with my cars. So if I had a 1300 XL Escort, which had an 89 brake horsepower, I wanted to take it to 92 brake horsepower. I’d take the air filter off or remove the backseats, just to make me go faster.
“I had aspirations of being a racing car driver and was drag racing for a time. But back in the late ’80s, when it was the birth of house music, I had no money. I’d end up blowing up my car with all the drag racing and that’d be the car that I needed to get me to my gigs, so that was no good. That’s why I stopped racing them. Music took over everything.
“I do have a collection of motorcycles and 0 cars. What are some of my favourites? There’s my Ford Mustang like the one Steve McQueen drove in Bullit. There’s also the car from the Dukes of Hazard, the 1969 Dodge Charger, although I think the 1968 is a better-looking car so I’ve got that instead . And the Lotus Cortina Mark One – that was a car I always aspired to growing up. I’ve got two of them.
“That’s how I am – if I find something that I really enjoy then I become a collector. And timepieces have always been something that I’ve enjoyed. If I don’t have a watch on my wrist, it feels wrong. I like to feel that sense of balance on my wrists, so I always wear a chain on the right-hand side and a watch on the left-hand side.
“When I could first afford to have a nice watch it was back in 1989 when I started making some money. I always bought all my watches myself – no watch company ever asked me for any sort of association. In a way that was a bit bizarre. Because every weekend I’m going all around the world, playing in front of thousands of people and fist-pumping. When I do that, all you see is my arm with a watch on it.”
“What I liked about Zenith is they took an avid interest in who I was as a person. It was more than them just giving me a watch to wear. They were open to the idea of a genuine collaboration to create a unique watch together. I never thought they’d go for it, but they did.
“The colours were significant to me. Red is the colour of my motorsport team, then you’ve got black, which is me, and white, which is everyone else. But as well as that balance of colours, the watch incorporates the idea of my music and who I am as a DJ. There’s a record positioned on the sub-dial with the Carl Cox logo on it. In addition, the watch is made out of carbon fibre with particles of illumination inside. So in the dark when you’re DJing, you can see the dials very easily. It shines out just like “Pow!”
“So that was fantastic, but we took it further. I’d also just made a track called Now Is Our Time so that also tied into the watch and the association of me as a DJ. When you buy the watch, you also get that record and some headphones. That’s why it’s come out in such a huge watch box that looks like a 12-inch record case.
“We’ve already sold all the watches of that first release. So now we’re going to work with Zenith to re-devise another Carl-Cox watch. That’ll be the remix and we’ve already got some great ideas. It’s going to be phenomenal.”