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David Pittsinger with his dog Bartok, wearing his prized Rolex Cellini Danaos


What Makes A


Collector Tick?

Three celebrity watch enthusiasts chime in on their passion for fine timepieces. By Cally Jamis Vennare opera







FORM VS. FUNCTION Style and functionality are critical to most watch aficionados, but vary in degrees of importance based on the personal taste of the collector. “I am big on style,” notes Casey Hampton. “The features are cool, but I like the look of the watch a little better than the features.” For Hampton, different brands provide different motivations. “It depends on the watch. Some watches you buy for a specific feature. But for others, it’s just the look.” David Pittsinger’s opinion differs slightly. “Function doesn’t trump style. They co-exist. I want a watch with as much function and accuracy as I can get…but not at the expense of style. That’s why I admire watch makers like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Longines and Jaeger-LeCoultre. They’re all about great style combined with great functionality.” For an athlete like Clare Milford Haven, a timepiece’s ability to double as a day and night watch is a particularly attractive trait. This U.K.-based watch enthusiast, who is also a brand ambassador for Jaeger-LeCoultre, explains why she loves her JLC Reverso model: “Style and functionality are very important to me. My Reverso Grand Sport is a beautiful watch that has small diamonds set in gold on one side, while the other side is a practical, everyday watch that I can flip over when I’m playing polo. I could go from the polo field to an event, with a quick shower and change, and never have to change my watch. It would adapt!” she exclaims.


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he memory of my dad, all 6’4” of him, elegantly placing a fine watch on his wrist remains with me to this day. Taking it gently from his bureau drawer, amidst gold cufflinks and prized WWII medals, it was typically the last item he put on before walking out the door—to work, church, or a grand evening out with my mom. My dad was a stylish man. With a wife and three daughters—and a business to run—he wasn’t extravagant. He was selective. And he knew an investment in a finely-crafted watch could bring a lifetime of use and pleasure. Now, more than 50 years after it was gifted to him, I am the recipient of one of his prized watches. It is, quite literally, a piece of time that has straddled more than five decades. Each time I wear it, it gathers more memories. More color and character. More reflections of life both past and present. So what exactly is it that makes a watch collector tick? Is it a special memory associated with a particular watch or brand? Is it purely the aesthetic beauty of a fine timepiece? Or are the features, movements and precision of the watch the ultimate determining factors? Three distinguished watch enthusiasts chimed in with their thoughts on the subject: Pittsburgh Steelers lineman and Superbowl champion Casey Hampton, accomplished polo player Clare Milford Haven and international - 10/2/2009 10:51 AM


Like Milford Haven, Pittsinger’s professional responsibilities as an international opera singer influence his watch preferences. “I look for a watch that can help me keep my dates and engagements straight, as well as carry more than one time zone. In my business, it’s essential to know what the time is in any given city based on my relationships—with colleagues, conductors and directors—in other parts of the world. And when I’m rehearsing or performing, a watch with a central seconds hand allows me to find a composer’s tempo marking in musical nomenclature with ease and efficiency.”

A RESPECT FOR TRADITION or Milford Haven and Pittsinger, there is a shared admiration for the history and tradition associated with artisan watch making. Prestige brands and watch makers that respect this sentiment often establish a subtle, yet very important, link with the collector. “To a great extent, there is a synergy between myself and the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand because of tradition. When it comes to polo, there is also tradition and heritage. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso was the original polo watch made in 1931 for English cavalry officers playing polo in India. “It’s got a wonderful history,” Milford Haven reveals. “Even though Jaeger-LeCoultre is introducing contemporary designs, all have a strong sense of tradition. There is a real passion within the company that I believe comes out in the watch. I have a passion for a sport and the watch. And the brand ties right into that.” Pittsinger’s perspective on the subject is more personal due to strong influences from his father and his Connecticut roots. “My interest [in timepieces] originated with my father’s own interest in restoring old mantel clocks and tide clocks (which are particularly important in New England) that worked on moon and time phases. Many of their features have now been miniaturized into watches,” he explains. “For anyone who loves the outdoors, time can tell you distance based on rate of speed, and the swings from high tide to low. So for my father, who was a yachtsman and an outdoorsman, time and calibration were very important. That’s why he loved Swiss watch making. And that passion, that love of craftsmanship and tradition, was passed to me.” On stage as Emile de Becque in Lincoln Center Theatre’s revival of South Pacific, Pittsinger proudly wears one of his father’s fine timepieces: a classic, period Cartier Tank watch. “When I wear it, I feel him. I smell his smell. I see him and am very touched by that memory.”

Fine timepieces are admired and collected because they are made with exceptional attention to quality, craftsmanship, innovation, functionality, versatility and style. Artisan watch makers take pride in offering the latest advances in form and function. Flying tourbalins, minute repeaters and perpetual calendars. Flyback chronographs and karussels, to name just a few of the many choices available. These all come at a price. But mechanical and technical complexities aside, collectors recognize a prestigious timepiece is also a sound investment. Hampton, whose extensive collection now approaches 30 watches, originally favored jewelry, chains and bracelets. But after his first watch purchase (a Rolex Grand Master) his priorities changed. “Nice watches hold their value better than anything else. That’s why I decided to put my money into them. I went through a stage of getting the same brand of watch, just different styles. [But] I’m into Breitling right now and I like Panerai, too.” Not surprisingly, Milford Haven possesses a particular fondness for Jaeger-LeCoultre. Recently, she experienced a very distinct moment in time when her mother unveiled a Time Travelers: 1920s Jaeger-LeCoultre watch from the Casey Hampton shows off his family’s collection. “My mother inherited the impressive watch watch from her American father, who had collection. Clare originally been given it as a present from his Milford Haven wears Jaeger- great friend, Edward [VIII], Prince of Wales. LeCoultre I believe there are only two in existence.” It was a fine timepiece that had genuinely improved with time. And a serendipitous discovery for the JLC brand ambassador. “I wear a Rolex Cellini Danaos for its classic, Sinatra-like qualities,” notes Pittsinger with a smile. “At home, I love my Omega Planet Ocean because it’s rugged and functional. But if I can only bring one watch on the road, I bring my Rolex GMT2 Master. It’s versatile and beautiful.” Next on his list? “A Breguet— Alexander Dumas wore that watch! Maybe even a Franck Muller. It’s a real watch maker’s watch that is very curvy, hip and stylish…a master of complications. Or a Patek Philippe: a great watch that I would pass on to my son or daughter. It’s like a great piece of music, like Mozart. Every time someone else puts it on or sings it, it will be a little different but it still shows well. I think that Patek Philippes, much like classical music, are proven and true. Passed on from generation to generation. And with each generation it improves. Just like a good book. You don’t own it, you pass it on.” ♦


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What Makes A Watch Collector Tick?  

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