WATCH CONFESSIONS: “My watch buying has got out of control – I must’ve spent $2 million”Luke Benedictus
EDITOR’S NOTE: Grim pragmatism ensures the watch world is not big on public candour. Retailers are totally dependent on the watch brands to secure the most lucrative stock. Buyers are dependent on the whims of their authorised dealers in order to buy in-demand models. The watch media meanwhile is still largely dependent on advertising dollars, so remains wary about undue boat-rocking that could jeopardise existing revenue. Amid such a fragile ecosystem built on handshakes and interwoven relationships, expressing blunt truths or forthright opinions can be a risky business. There are, after all, livelihoods to protect and multiple watches to buy .
That’s why a project of Jean-Paul Imhoﬀ, a watch enthusiast and member of the Time + Tide Club, is so fascinating . On his Instagram account (@jp_melbs) he started asking people to send him their anonymous watch confessions. “The response has been overwhelming,” he says. “Every time I run ‘watch confessions’ now, I get way more replies than I can publish.”
Many of these confessions involve fairly predictable venting . “Richard Mille watches look like expensive G-Shocks,” says one. “Wrist rolls. Urgh,” opines another. Yet there are also entries that reveal hidden vulnerabilities among the community that are rarely aired. “The rush of acquiring a new piece seems to last shorter and shorter for me these days,” one poster sadly admits. “I pretend to know a lot more about movements, ﬁnishing etc than I actually do,” reveals another.
What Jean-Paul has eﬀectively done is to create a safe place for tongue-tied watch lovers to disclose their innermost feelings. Inspired by this brilliant initiative, Time + Tide began to interview members of the community to open up, anonymously, about their watch-related secrets. What follows are their unvarnished tales about what’s really playing out on our wrists and in our heads.
WATCH CONFESSIONS: “I can’t stop buying watches”
“I don’t count. I don’t need to count. I don’t want to count. But I must own close to 100 watches. And I suppose that over the last 20-odd years, I must have spent between $1- $2 million dollars on them. What happened was I bought a couple of nice pieces in my early 20s. Then I had a bit of a sabbatical for a decade. And then I kind of went a bit mental.
“My ﬁrst nice watch was a TAG Heuer Kirium that actually saved my life. I was 23 at the time and an oﬃcer in the British army. I was in the back of a military Land Rover when it came oﬀ the road and we rolled into this river. The roll cage of the Land Rover landed on my TAG Kirium so I was pinned under the water. Luckily, the strap broke, so I could free my hand and I managed to get out. Obviously I never recovered that watch because, believe it or not, when you’re trying to make an underwater escape that’s the last thing you think of. So I thought, OK, I’ll go and buy something nice. And I wound up buying a 36mm Rolex Explorer.
“Ten years past and then, for some reason, I started going into my local dealer again. They kept showing me this platinum Daytona. It was sexy as fuck and I just thought I had to have it. It had an ice blue dial with a brown ceramic bezel, in a platinum watch. It all sounds wrong , I know, but when you look at it, it’s stunning . So I bought it.
“The daughter of my partner at the time lived in Australia. So in order to get it tax-free, I went with her to Dubai and she ‘muled’ the watch over for me. As we left Heathrow, we got £10,000 in cash from the duty oﬃce and we spent the day in Dubai. Looking back, that day was probably the precipice that really pushed me oﬀ . I remember walking around this Dubai shopping centre wearing my lovely new platinum Daytona and people in all these watch boutiques kept giving me chocolates and glasses of alcohol-free champagne. I was like a kid in a sweet shop with the way I was being treated. The whole experience of buying an awesome watch was amazing and as I ﬂew back, I thought, ‘Oh, I must do that a bit more.’
“Now it almost doesn’t matter what the watch is. It could be a $500 Seiko. It could be a $100,000 Patek and I’ve got every thing in between. It’s become a compulsive hobby . The only time I thought it was really out of control was when I got ﬁve watches in one week. I’d bought three of them and then two more were delivered that I’d forgot I’d even ordered. On the Friday when the ﬁfth one came, I did actually sit back and go, “What am I doing ? What am I doing? ” Maybe for a moment anyway, and then it passed obviously .
“What do I think the thrill is? This is going to sound really weird, but the real fun for me is about what ‘gift with purchase’ I get. I get really upset if I just get a keyring. Highlights include being ﬂown by Rolex into the British Grand Prix in a helicopter. I’ve also been to the Patek factory in Geneva with my authorised dealer in the UK. That was really cool. But it’s just all the fun stuﬀ – being invited to go into these cupboards to grab a bag full of shit that you can’t otherwise buy – umbrellas, bags that sort of thing. And, yes, I realise this is a really stupid thing to say .
“I’m sure for people who aren’t in my brain it must all look like a monumental shit-ﬁght. But I do actually give myself boundaries. I’ve got ﬁnancial boundaries, and I’ve got, I suppose, brand boundaries. With brands I have my favourites. Obviously Rolex. I don’t have that many Pateks and would love to have some more. I’ve just started buying German watches and have got some Langes and some Moritz Grossmanns. And then I just go hell for leather on independents. I like Fears, MGs, anything that’s a bit diﬀerent.
“Some of my friends do think I’m a bit mental. Luckily , though, I think I’ve managed to infect my partner with the watch virus, too. I saw her stroll out the door the other day with a smiley face, double-wristing a Lange and a SeaDweller. So I think I’m pretty safe with her.”
This article first appeared in Time+Tide’s NOW Magazine