My Wife, The Watch Collector
When Elizabeth asked me to suggest a topic for Quill & Pad’s themed “Ladies’ Week” in my role as resident collector, my thoughts turned immediately to that other collector in my life: my charming wife.
The choice of subject was so obvious that my toughest task was figuring out how to refer to her! In my summary of this year’s SIHH week (see Collectors Speak: Picks And Pans Of SIHH Week 2015), I called her “The Wild Card” in reference to her role as a newcomer to the group, but that didn’t seem appropriate in this week’s context.
MrsGaryG? Could work. But in reality she’s a Dr., not a Mrs., and her last name starts with a different letter than mine. DrMrsGaryGC? Nah.
In the interests of actually getting on with this article, let’s go with MrsG, shall we?
What she collects
MrsG is perhaps most enthusiastic about her collection of Southwestern Native American arts and jewelry, which spans items from paintings to rings to clay vessels.
But, last I saw, this was a watch-oriented publication, so let’s get started with two pieces from French creator Alain Silberstein.
Sadly, Silberstein no longer operates his eponymous brand, but that doesn’t make his watches any less charming or interesting. The Basik, shown in the two photos above, is notable for a couple of reasons. First is the whimsical use of “smiley” and “frowny” faces to indicate the days of the week; in this case, the red smiley signifying Sunday.
Second, when the watch is viewed from some angles, subtle wording etched into the crystal becomes more evident, spelling out the hours from one to twelve. When the watch is viewed straight on, the wording is invisible, lending a very clean look to the watch. But the cursive script of the hour labels is always just a tilt of the wrist away.
As you’ll soon see, there’s a pattern to MrsG’s watch collection: where there is one watch from a brand, a second soon seems to follow. Here’s her other Silberstein, an earlier three-handed piece with date window that she’s put on a custom Camille Fournet strap.
Meet the makers, want the watch
One of the first watch-related trips that MrsG and I took was to Môtiers and Fleurier, Switzerland, to visit independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen and the workshops of Parmigiani Fleurier. Subsequently, we had the opportunity to meet Michel Parmigiani, and Lorrie was impressed enough with these interactions to add two Parmigiani watches to the mix.
This one just might be MrsG’s favorite dressy piece. It originally came on a blue satin strap, but for me this pearlescent strap is just the ticket to bring out the luster of the mother of pearl dial.
And, it’s not all show: this beauty is powered by a sweet little Frédéric Piguet movement (Blancpain Caliber 615) that is finished by Parmigiani to include a tiny platinum rotor that provides the motive force for the automatic winding of the watch.
MrsG feels fortunate to have this watch because not that long after its production, Parmigiani revised the Kalpa Piccola line to be based on Patek-sourced (and Parmigiani-finished) quartz movements. The cosmetics are still great, though: here’s MrsG’s “sporty dress” Kalpa Piccola with its red guilloche dial.
Two and three of a kind
For several years now, MrsG’s daily wearer has been from Blancpain: a 28 mm self-winding watch with black dial and the sweep seconds hand that she needs for the “doctor” part of her life. This watch is on the ladies’ version of the famous X-71 bracelet, and as far as I can tell the ladies’ X-71 is just as comfortable and robust as its counterpart for men.
For evening wear, there’s a second Blancpain: the limited edition St. Valentine watch with ruby hearts on the dial from 2006.
Both of these watches contain three characteristics that are much in evidence throughout MrsG’s collection: self-winding movements, stainless steel cases, and touches of brilliant diamond bling to catch the eye.
Just as in my collection, the watches of Jaeger-LeCoultre play a prominent role in MrsG’s assortment. In the group photo of some of our watches below, you can pick out three of hers: the Reverso Lady in yellow gold on a bracelet, the Reverso Duetto GranSport in stainless steel, and a sweet little vintage LeCoultre piece in white gold.
What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine
Two pieces in the MrsG collection have very direct GaryG provenance. Around 1980, I scrimped and saved enough to buy myself a Cartier Tank that was my daily wearer for more than ten years. Even in those days it wasn’t at all large for a man’s watch, in today’s world it seems pretty clear that it’s better off with its own Camille Fournet strap sized for MrsG in her favorite blue hue.
The story behind the second watch is a bit more complicated. Several years ago, I used a chunk of my year-end bonus to buy an ultra-thin Audemars Piguet skeletonized pocket watch at auction. Before the watch had even reached me, however, MrsG had launched a campaign to convince me that with its jeweled bezel, this watch was “far too feminine” for me to wear with my tuxedo and that it really should belong to her.
A visit to our jeweler, the fabrication of a custom bale (semi-circular attachment), and purchase and sizing of a suitable Victorian necklace later, et voila! My “pocket watch” had been transformed into a striking pendant watch that looks superb around MrsG’s neck paired with a black sweater.
And what’s a collection without a Rolex?
Well, soon we will come back to that topic, as the world’s leading mass luxury brand has never had much representation in my collection. In an upcoming article, I’ll talk about why that is, why it might change, and which Rolex might be my first.
MrsG has no such explaining to do, however, as she has owned several Rolexes over the years. I bought this first-generation Yacht-Master for her, however, so it receives place of pride over the other Rolex watches in her watch box.
This isn’t an exhaustive catalogue, but gives a sense of what to me is a somewhat diverse collection that provides at least a couple of alternative choices for occasions from high dress to active sport, but at the same time does have some recognizable unifying themes.
It’s great fun for me to be able to share the watch hobby with my darling wife and also just to see what piece she is going to choose to wear at any given time!