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Laurent Martinez

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By Laurent Martinez

We all know that the exciting world of watch collecting has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years, with plenty of hype watches and big watchmaking brands fueling more interest. However, I’ve also noticed more collectors (especially newer ones) buying watch-branded accessories and memorabilia. Items with Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet logos are especially popular, and ones with Vacheron Constantin are rapidly rising in demand too.

A generation or two ago, it wasn’t that common for watch buyers to keep the accompanying boxes and papers. Yet, these days, some people like to collect tags, boxes, catalogs, brochures, displays, posters, sketches, ashtrays, vintage books, and any other merchandise associated with watches and watch brands.

One of my clients recently told me that when he buys a vintage watch, he is passionate about recreating the complete set — as it would have been originally sold at the store.

I once met a person whose father was the maintenance director of a famous watch brand in the 1950s. As a result of his dad’s job, this person had a large inventory of boxes, tools, calendars, commercial displays, and catalogs. The design and aesthetics of this era were fantastic and I felt like a kid in a candy store rummaging through all these horology ephemera.

I couldn’t help but imagine this gentleman, dressed in a sharp suit and working in New York City, working at his desk buying parts, fixing watches on his bench, leaving his cigarette in the ashtray, glancing at his calendar.

Conditions and provenance

As with any collector’s items, you must be careful when buying vintage watch merchandise, packaging, and accessories—even though you hardly ever come across fake items.

What you do have to watch out for is the condition of the items, which is the first parameter that will affect the value. Like other kinds of ephemera and accessories, they were not necessarily made to last over long periods or to be preserved throughout the years. Other considerations to keep in mind are the rarity, style, colors, and if any, the provenance of the items at hand.

I recently purchased a vintage rubber dust blower (below) with provenance to remove the dust on watches. It was old, used, and dirty but I was so excited.

A vintage rubber dust blower.

I had in my hands a tool that has been around for over seventy years, passed on through several generations of watchmakers. Using it gives me great joy; there’s something to be said about using something today that has been used over 100,000 times to do the same job – removing dust from watches.

Where to look

To find these treasures, you can scour tag sales, local flea markets, and of course, eBay. More and more famous auction houses are offering watch memorabilia too, typically towards the end of an auction.

For example, these two Rolex retailer’s window displays (below) sold for over $3,000 each.

If you can’t afford expensive watch brands, collecting memorabilia instead is a great way to be part of the community. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn, meet like-minded people, and own a little piece of horological history. For me, these types of collectors are purists because they buy for the love of the item, and not for the potential to flip it and make money.

I get immense pleasure from looking at vintage watch merchandise and accessories. Not only are they beautiful but they also give me pause and make me reflect on what it must have been like to design, make, fix, sell, and buy watches a long time ago.

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his website at www.laurentfinewatches.com.

 

By Michael Thompson

Recently I received a copy of “Timepieces: A Lifelong Love and Passion” by Connecticut-based watch appraiser and dealer Laurent Martinez. If you’ve been a long-time iW reader or regularly read our online offerings, you’re likely familiar with a least a few of the many feature stories about watch collecting Martinez has penned for our publications.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the just-published book, which is sub-titled “An Insider’s Guide to Watches and Tips for Watch Collecting.”

Martinez writes from the point of view of both a long-time collector and as an advisor to those just starting their own collections.

In the former guise, Martinez takes the reader through his life growing up just outside Paris, through a series of jobs in restaurants and businesses and eventually to the events that led to Martinez starting his own consulting firm in the United States.

As his story unfolds, one thread remains constant: his long-standing love of watches. Martinez’s story of acquiring his first watch, a Yema dive model, at twelve-years-old will strike a chord of familiarity with many iW readers. 

Many will also sympathize with the author’s recognition several years ago, at the age of fifty, that he was ready to launch his own watch business after years as a collector. It turns out that Martinez funded his new business, Laurent Fine Watches, at least in part by drawing from his lifelong passion – he bought and sold a dozen watches.

Much of the nearly 200-page book details a brief history of watches and defines a range of technical terms. But with that covered, Martinez really begins to dig in.

In chapters such as “Provenance is Everything” to “Real Versus Fake Watches,” Martinez gathers his experience as a collector and dealer to advise the reader, underscoring his points with hundreds of examples and even more glossy photos.

Any collector, new or veteran, will both enjoy and be enriched when reading “Timepieces: A Lifelong Love and  Passion.” You can find a copy ($39.95) on the laurentfinewatches.com website and on Amazon.

By Laurent Martinez

I would like to share with you a recent conversation I had with John Demsey, executive group president at the Estée Lauder Companies.

Demsey is well-versed in beauty, luxury, and creativity, so it may not come as a surprise that John is a watch guy too, with a love of timepieces that stretches back to his childhood.

At six years old, Demsey got his first watch, which was a Timex, and as he recalls it, a big deal. He came into possession of his second watch as a teenager during a trip to Japan when he picked up a special edition Seiko watch made for the Osaka Expo 1970 world fair.

As LED became the fashionable watch technology of the decade, John’s father then gave him a futuristic Pulsar timepiece.

However, what came next was Demsey’s “first real watch,” and it’s what most of us will agree is an absolute grail-worthy piece.

On his sixteenth birthday, Demsey’s father gifted him a Royal Oak, the very one that Gerald Genta designed for Audemars Piguet. Not only did John get a first-generation Royal Oak, but his dad bought himself a matching one too.

On his sixteenth birthday, Demsey’s father gifted him a Royal Oak.

Hearing John tell the story, you can feel the emotion that surrounds this special occasion. It’s a memory that is as vivid and clear as if it happened yesterday. I love hearing about fathers and sons owning identical watches; I find it to be a beautiful and symbolic expression of tight familial bonds and being connected by time. For John, watches represent a continuation of life when special pieces are handed down from generation to generation.

Design appreciation

Watches are, of course, a combination of beautiful art and industrial techniques, which parallels Demsey’s upbringing with a mother who was a painter and a father who ran a steel processing plant. His appreciation for design and beauty goes far beyond timepieces, as John is also an avid collector of art, photography and furniture.

For Demsey, watches are one of the few objects that men can wear to signify personal style. He learned from an early age about the subtle cues a watch could tell another person. It can speak volumes about who the wearer is, what he finds stylish, how he regards time, and what his passions are. On a recent trip to Japan for example, Demsey observed the frequent pairing of designer jeans and Rolex Sea-Dweller watches.

Demsey also associates watches with certain periods of life, especially with milestone events like graduation, career achievements, and so on. Buying a special watch is a way to give added significance to an event and it can also be a meaningful way to memorialize certain places, experiences and people. 

Similar to other collectors, John Demsey’s collecting journey has ebbed and flowed according to changing personal tastes and preferences. His focus has always been on the design of the watch, whether the color, bracelet, or style, rather than movements or timekeeping.

For example, he went through a period of collecting every single rendition of Andy Warhol Piaget watches—in seven colors. He found the design so special that he even custom-ordered dials, which is telling of John’s appreciation for timepieces with unique style.

Demsey’s Andy Warhol Piaget watches, plus a Patek Philippe Ellipse.

The Classics

But that’s not to say he doesn’t appreciate the classic icons either. He’s a big fan of Rolex, especially Daytona “Paul Newman” chronographs, and given his early discovery of Audemars Piguet’s famed sports watch, he’s also a fan of Gerald Genta hits like the Royal Oak and the Nautilus.

Up close on an ‘Andy Warhol’ Piaget.

He enjoys the hunt of finding a special watch that few have. His decisions are not random but purposeful, as he takes the time to stay up-to-date with the watch market. He follows auction houses, reads Hodinkee and IW Magazine, and his social media feed includes watch brands and watch influencers. A good watch purchase for John is a mix of an emotional connection, a striking aesthetic, and topnotch quality.

While he used to stick to the “one in, one out” rule when collecting watches to ensure that they all got good wrist time. While the guideline has changed slightly to “three in, one out,” Demsey still believes that watches should be worn and not locked away in a safe. He doesn’t buy them for a future return on investment but simply because he loves them. He purchases watches using a variety of sources, including auctions, dealers, boutiques, online platforms, and can sometimes get an insider’s tip on an available piece via a phone call too. However, he says that his best watches were found during trips to Milan and Rome.

Three very special Rolexes.

When I asked Demsey how he feels about luxury watch brands selling their timepieces online, he doesn’t think anything can replace the experience of an in-boutique purchase. Trying on watches in a store or discovering a hidden timepiece in the back of the shop is all part of the excitement of in-person watch shopping. Yes, you can certainly find and buy watches easier online and the Internet can help you locate a seldom-seen reference, but the sense of discovery and anticipation can also be lost.

However, the online watch world is a great place to get educated about watches. For example, if Demsey finds something he likes, he does his research online first to make sure prices and other details are in order before pulling the trigger.

It’s no secret that watch buying and collecting has flourished over the last fifteen years or so. Demsey believes that this phenomenon is fueled in part by people seeking objects that are timeless in design and built to last. We’re bombarded with so many disposable items today that grounding ourselves with beautiful and long-lasting pieces like art, furniture or watches can give immense pleasure.

Independents

The watch market is certainly not immune to fleeting trends; we’ve witnessed so many watch styles over the decades, from the understated and restrained to the opulent and oversized. Gold metals moved aside for white metals, only to come back again in full force. Demsey believes that there will be a rebirth of the aerodynamic designs that were prevalent in the 1970s joined by the smaller Art Deco-inspired pieces that gained prominence in the 1930s.

Demsey also admires exclusive independent watchmakers like F.P. Journe that find their voice and produce small batches of high-quality timepieces for an enthusiastic following. In fact, during these past eighteen months, Demsey became even more interested in watches. This is despite being tethered to his at-home computer screen where the time is always on display and he has fewer occasions to wear his watches out in the world. Yet, he discovered new watch brands and models, just like the H. Moser & Cie piece strapped around his wrist during our interview. He clicked with the brand, just like he did with Urban Jürgensen and Ressence.

Demsey’s H. Moser & Cie Streamliner.

After hearing John speak during our interview, I have a sense that his appreciation of art, love of collecting, and emotional connection to beautiful objects were rooted at a young age and have become an integral part of his life. His enthusiasm for watches is one way in which he expresses his passion for great style and it was a pleasure to learn about his story.

 

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches in Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com

 

 

By Laurent Martinez

I have noticed that enthusiasts, whatever their domain, generally become passionate about a subject from an early age. For Steven Posner, it started with an interest in food, then cars, and later on, watches. As a youngster, Posner wanted to become financially independent, so he worked part-time as a busboy at the fast-food joint, Nathan’s. From the front of the house he eventually moved into the kitchen where he learned how to cook, then he worked his way up to take a position at the counter where he honed his customer service skills.

Steven Posner, founder of Putnam Leasing.

After graduating from high school, Posner took a job as a driver for a Long Island car leasing company but shortly moved to work for a competitor—first as a driver then as a salesman. He continued to pursue his sales career across several leasing companies throughout the 1980s.

However, he soon realized that he wanted to venture out on his own and become a business owner. It was clear that exotic cars were Steven’s forte, so he founded Putnam Leasing and brought in Cyndi and Richard Koppelman, owner of Greenwich-based Miller Motorcars, as a partner. Today, Putnam Leasing is the leader in exotic and collector car leasing, offering cars like Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley, and Lamborghini, just to name a few.

Greenwich-based Miller Motorcars partners with Putnam Leasing.

Passions

Posner’s appreciation for design, beauty, and mechanics when describing cars is palatable. He waxes poetic about older cars being handmade and exalts their use of metal over plastic, genuine leather instead of leatherette, and so on. He also emphasizes that these types of cars hold their value.

He has the same type of passion for watches too, as illustrated when he spoke about his first Seiko chronograph.

Posner’s appetite for fine watches began when he was in his late-20s. He purchased a 1963 gold Rolex Oyster with a black dial for $1,600. After six years of wearing the watch daily, he got $3,000 for it. Steven realized that just like old cars, old watches could gain value as well—as long as you pick the right ones.

A snapshot of Posner’s collection.

As his Rolex and Patek Philippe watch collection grew, so too did his appreciation for vintage watches. While new models are certainly beautiful, vintage pieces are what capture his attention. He diligently checks the Instagram accounts of his preferred dealers every morning to see what they have available. He understands that developing genuine relationships with key dealers is how he can get his hands on exceptional timepieces.

A Rolex Milgauss in Posner’s collection.

Considerations before buying

Posner approaches buying watches much the same way he examines cars, which is to say he considers condition, price, rarity, and design. He doesn’t believe in buying a watch “at a good deal” if it needs too much work to get it right.

Whether cars or watches, his mantra is to always buy the best you can find, even if that means paying a higher price now because, in the end, these examples will always be worth more when reselling.

Posner’s Rolex GMT Master.

As a long-time collector, Posner always advises new collectors with limited budgets to stick to popular brands. He asserts that brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega, F.P. Journe, and A. Lange & Söhne are generally sound acquisitions as there will always be a market for them. He also adds that it’s important to buy something you will enjoy wearing instead of a watch that will stay in the safe.

A Patek Philippe 5070 in platinum.

When I asked him what cars, watches, food, and wine have in common, he pointed out that wearing a nice watch, driving a nice car, or sharing a meal with friends and family in a nice restaurant can make us feel good. These are ways to enjoy the finer things in life. 

Demand will remain

Even if the world is changing, Posner believes that the world of antique cars, watches, and wine will remain largely the same in twenty years. People will continue to pay attention to status. He also believes that fine machinery, whether a car or watch, will be worth even more in twenty to thirty years than they are now.

The big brands have created the market, and demand will always be there, he says. Of course, some companies are stronger than others and Posner thinks that a brand has to offer something special to last. There will always be enthusiasts that appreciate the smells and sounds of vintage cars or the beauty of a grand complication.  

(The full interview with Steven Posner and his analysis of the exotic car market and vintage watches is available here and at blog.laurentfinewatches.com.)

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com.

 

 

By Laurent Martinez

Between the COVID pandemic, wildfires on the West Coast, hurricanes in the South, and other turmoil, we are living through exceptionally difficult times. Our daily lives, whether professional or personal, have changed in fundamental ways—particularly when it comes to in-person events. With all the current restrictions in place, companies have had to be creative to not only promote their brands but the causes they believe in too.

I received an email from Blancpain recently inviting me to attend a virtual event organized by Oceana. With the tagline “Protecting The World’s Oceans,” Oceana, based in Washington, D.C., is the largest international organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation.

Although it was only possible to attend the event online, it was clear that Oceana put in the extra effort. I then received from Andrew Handschin, general manager of Blancpain USA, a lovely package with bread, patés, specialty butter, a festive bottle of champagne, and an invitation to enjoy the live event from home.

 

Then, a link to attend the online “Oceana Virtual New York Gala” and silent auction was sent via email.

While the spirit, excitement, and inspiration of an online occasion cannot compare to an in-person event with hundreds of people sharing the same space, the message of “Protecting our oceans and future” was still conveyed passionately.

The Oceans & Hayek

Blancpain is famously involved with causes focused on saving the ocean, its eco-systems, and its species. At the helm of this involvement is Blancpain CEO, Marc A. Hayek, who is an enthusiastic scuba diver and a vocal advocate of ocean conservation. He has even received several accolades for his efforts.

Blancpain’s connection to marine conservation is further emphasized by having marine scientist, deep diver, and underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta as an ambassador of the brand. Blancpain’s Lettres du Brassus magazine frequently publishes Ballesta’s incredible photography and stories as he travels the globe. 

 

The fascination with the ocean is not new to Blancpain. It was the first watchmaker to develop a professional diving watch in the form of the Fifty Fathoms in 1953—beating out the Rolex Submariner as “the first” by a few months. Since then, Blancpain has always had a spiritual affinity with the oceans of the world.

Blancpain developed the Fifty Fathoms professional diving watch in 1953.

As a result, it was only natural for Blancpain to partner with Oceana, assisting with the organization and publicity of the “Oceana Virtual New York Gala” event. The night’s hosts were Susan and David Rockefeller Jr. while speakers included Jane Fonda, Ted Danson, and Sam Waterston. The evening also featured performances by Sting, Nile Rodgers, and Chic.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment.

Among all the powerful words that were said that night, the ones that struck me the hardest were “Save the oceans, feed the world. Restoring the ocean could feed one billion people with a healthy seafood meal every day.” Followed up by “Do something.”

Learn More

These are strong statements, and I invite you to visit www.oceana.org to discover more about the organization’s projects and how you can help.

“Do something” rings true here, no matter the size of the effort—every bit helps, whether spreading awareness or making small contributions.

Once a year in my town, you can go on a Saturday morning help clean up the beach.

 

Once a year in my town, you can go for three hours on a Saturday morning to help clean up the beach by picking up plastic bags, bottles, and other garbage. It’s a fantastic community event where you not only learn about ocean conservation but where you can also meet other like-minded people.

Oceana and Blancpain are big organizations that strive to remind us that preserving the health of our oceans is critical and there is a need to change our habits and attitudes before it’s too late. One person at a time can make a big difference.

I am thankful that I attended this beautiful night, which served to highlight that awareness, creativity, unity and commitment can make a big difference in our lives, our children’s lives, and future generations.

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com