Brisbane watch collector Donald has steadily established a name for himself as a prolific vintage watch lover. We dive a little deeper and find out there’s more to the Don than just vintage Rolexes …
Hi Donald, what’s your daily watch and why?
I really enjoy wearing my Blue WG Submariner on a daily basis. Apart from being a great-looking watch, it also has a substantial weight to it; you know it’s there, which is something I particularly like. It also “flies under the radar” — I believe you need to know something about watches to understand what it really is. With the flat blue dial, blue ceramic insert, and the Glidelock clasp, all these factors add up to being a great daily watch for me.
What else is in your collection? Have you got a favourite?
My collection consists mainly of Rolex, Omega, Zenith and Tudor, with a mixture of modern and vintage between these brands, with most of the vintage being from the 1970s/80s. I also own a gorgeous Patek Philippe 5726A Nautilus Annual Calendar, which is one of my favourite watches. I have a few favourites in my collection, so I can’t say there is a particular watch that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
How did you find yourself collecting watches?
Took me a long time to get going. Quite a few years ago I decided it was about time I owned a good quality watch. There was no passion there, but something I thought I would like to have. So, knowing very little, I bought myself a used Breitling Colt Chronograph Quartz. I fell in love with it straight away, and started researching the brand. I found myself buying vintage Breitling, then a brand new Navitimer, then it just started snowballing from there. I started buying Omega, then Tudor and, surprisingly, Rolex was the last to garner my interest. I have a real passion for Rolex these days. Surprisingly, I don’t own any Breitling at the moment, but I’m working hard to fix that.
You’ve got a panache for finding great vintage pieces. What do you look for when buying?
I have some rules when looking for good vintage watches: “buy the seller” is first and foremost, then try to establish any provenance, which can be difficult at times. Next, research, research, research. Know what you’re buying … is everything correct, right down to the minor details? For example, is the tiny font on the dial correct for the serial number on that Rolex? Lastly, spend as much as you can afford on the best piece possible. Don’t buy poor quality because it’s cheap —you’ll come undone more often than not if you go down that path.
Do you prefer new or vintage? I know you’ve got a mix of both.
No preference for either, both vintage and modern offer me what I look for in a watch. With modern, it’s that everyday wearability and latest technology; with vintage it’s the fact that every piece is unique, has history, and is as old as me but probably in better condition.
Is there a piece you regret selling?
Yes, most definitely. I owned this beautiful Breitling Superocean from the early ’70s, ref 2105, it was NOS, still with the caseback sticker intact. I stupidly sold it. Big regret. I realise I’ll never find another one again … well, maybe never again.
What’s the one watch you’re chasing but just can’t seem to land?
I’ve always had a desire to own a Rolex Double Red Sea-Dweller, DRSD. I kept looking and looking for the right piece; unfortunately, now with the rapid rise in vintage Rolex prices, I may never own one. I’ll keep looking and hopefully the right one will land one day.
Do you have a grail piece? Something you’d sell it all to buy?
I like to have a variety in my collection: different brands, modern, vintage, three-handers, Chronos, dates, no dates … so at this stage I have no one piece that would make me sell everything for it. I expect that in the future I will cut my collection into five pieces, what the five would be I don’t know at this stage.
Have you got any other cool watch stories you’d like to share?
I recall a friend of mine bought a Rolex Exp II, 1655, from the UK, and when it arrived, I went for a look. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. This one was superb. I immediately asked if I could buy it, but unfortunately, it wasn’t for sale. I rang, messaged him daily, pleading for him to sell it to me … eventually, after five days, he relented — probably had enough of me harassing him — and I’m now the owner of this beauty. The persistence paid off. One of my favourite vintage watches.