Part 2 of the one-on-one interview with a Melbourne watch collector. You can read part 1 here. In part 2 we talk about MWC's foray into independent watchmaking...
TST: So what led you to the world of independent watchmakers - those who literally "make" the watches? And how did you decide which independent watchmaker to go for?
MWC: I guess part of it is the exclusivity. Anyone can wear a Rolex or an Omega. Other than parting with the money, they take no effort to buy and they're available immediately. I have a modified Seiko diver that I had the hands, dial and bezel changed on, so it's exclusive - no one else has the same one as me.
Modded Seikos are fine, but I think I've reached the stage in my collecting that I want to wear a watch that very few others can own. I had the great pleasure of attending a dinner with Peter Speake-Marin when he was in Australia two years ago, and while his watches fill the brief - exclusive and beautiful - they're also expensive. So I went looking for a lower cost independent, which is sort of an oxymoron.
I stumbled across d.m.h., a very small brand made in Holland. One watchmaker (he also does everything else there, from answer emails to making coffee for visitors), who makes about two dozen watches a year. About an 18 month waiting list when I placed my order, which has grown to about three years.
|Here you can see the d.m.h. in the centre of the collection|
MWC: I think part of it was the pleasure of dealing with the watchmaker, the man who was going to build my timepiece, not some sales guy in a shop in Mody Rd in Hong Kong.
I was in Holland recently and the opportunity to visit him. A very relaxed, happy man, who's lucky enough to do something that he just loves doing. And he's making the cases on a lathe and a milling machine that his father used, he told me a great story about being 9 or 10, and standing beside his father, watching him use the lathe and wanting to one day do something similar.
TST: After acquiring your first independent, do you see yourself going down this road?
MWC: I'm not sure, there aren't all that many in the d.m.h. price range, and I'm not quite ready to step up to a Speake-Marin or an MB&F.
TST: Would acquiring an independent be something you recommend others to do as well?
MWC: Regardless of whether you end up owning an independently made watch, I think it's a fascinating area even if you're "just looking". It's all about the watch and the watchmaker, small businesses, watches literally being made in sheds at the bottom of gardens and not global brands, shift work and assembly facilities in bland industrial suburbs. I guess the independents are putting some of the romance back into the watch industry.
TST: The romance of the watch industry- something that is often 'sold' but never truly realised. It is quite the experience to talk/meet with the one who literally makes your watch and puts his/her name and maybe yours(!), on the dial.
MWC: If you boil it all down to just the reason for the watch to exist, telling time, then why aren't we all wearing a Timex Ironman? I've got one, wear it cycling and swimming, I can use the chrono when it's wet, lap times, alarm, count down timer, etc. Cost me about $100.
The rest is the romance. The story. The spin. Is a Rolex "better" than an Omega or a Panerai? As long as they all keep good time - the Ironman is always spot on - how can one be better or worse than the other? We love to buy into the marketing and sales pitch. You apparently don't own a Patek, you just look after it for the next generation. At this stage my sons seem to be happy telling time with their smart phones, so if I buy a Patek, I can assure you, it's for me!
I can't think which brand it is, but one runs a campaign about how long they've been around. (That would be Vacheron Constantin - TST) So? As long as the quality control is good, how does that matter? Except it does. We want to feel good about that little machine on our wrists (and all its friends in the watch box), and about ourselves for being smart enough for understanding the brand, the message, the story.
I was lucky enough to meet Fred Dingemans, who IS d.m.h. He showed me his factory - it's a shed at the bottom of his garden, explained how he goes about making his watches, then we sat at his kitchen table, drank coffee and just chatted about life. Does that make my d.m.h. a better watch? No, but it makes it special for me, I have an appreciation of the watch, and a connection to it's maker that I could never have with a Rolex or an Omega.
|d.m.h. - image taken from the dmh website|
MWC: I had dinner recently with a friend who in the last couple of years, as his business has flourished, has gone from the same TAG he's been wearing for most of the 20 years to owning a number of bigger, flashier watches. He's got a huge Omega Railmaster, and Rolex Deep Sea, the sort of watches that seem to say "look at me, I'm doing well, I can afford nice watches". Without wanting to sound like I'm running him down, I doubt he's ever given movements or the complications a moment's thought. He just likes the watches. Which is fine.
I wore my new d.m.h., which I'm very proud of, it's something that I'm really enjoying, and having met the watchmaker, even more so. Not a brand that my mate had heard of, so no interest whatsoever.
TST: And, finally, what advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into collecting/appreciating watches? Are there mistakes they can avoid?
MWC: Mistakes to avoid? Take your time, decide what you like, learn a bit about movements, and understand sizing. Sounds easy, but quite early on I bought, on line, a lovely LITTLE chrono that was something like 32mm diameter and I was shocked when I received it. It was tiny.
A watch advertised as rare is a word that is usually the opposite. A rare Seiko? Can't happen. Be a skeptic!
And if the deal looks too good to be true, it is. Lots of scams out there, so be careful, but have fun ... After all, they're only watches.
TST: Some great insights and great stories. Thanks again for your time!