On May 12th, 2017, I had the opportunity to travel to Geneva for the weekend to attend the Spring auctions and some of the previews. However, on the Friday evening, I was able to enjoy a real treat: an exhibition hosted at the Kempinski Hotel by the Davidoff Brothers, Roy and Sacha, featuring 70 timepieces assembled under the theme of “Watches With Nicknames”.
Pulling Together the Watches With Nicknames Exhibition
More than six months ago when we held our #SpeedyTuesday get together in conjunction with Omega in Bienne, I spoke with Roy and Sacha about their follow up event to the Speedmaster exhibition they held in 2015. Watches With Nicknames was the idea, but as Sacha soon found out, it was one that would take a lot of time and effort. Finding and arranging the delivery of well preserved examples of all of these watches was a harder challenge than even dealers with a wide network expected.
First off, let’s talk a little bit about why the Davidoff Brothers, watch sellers, would host such an event. First off, while they do sell vintage timepieces, they also have a tight and notable collection. So, yes, they actually do enjoy watches and despite your assumptions, they do own pieces that are simply not for sale. Second, as I’ll highlight in another article during this week, it was auction weekend and that means that many of the brothers’ clientele were in town alongside so many other collectors, dealers and general vintage watch fans. This made it a great opportunity to hold an event that was sure to see some great attendance.
Watches With Nicknames – a Popular Calling Card
Why hold an exhibition with the theme of Watches With Nicknames? Love them or hate them, these “calling cards” for certain vintage watches have become a key descriptor. We even forget, at times, the real name of some watches and instead use the name of the person who made it famous. Yes, many of us agree that the nickname trend can get out of hand, but it’s here to stay. Finally, when I looked at the exhibition as a whole, it was an amazingly impressive gathering of great watches, nicknames or not, that’s rarely seen outside of an auction house preview.
Personally speaking, I had two watches in the Watches With Nicknames gala. Just four days prior to the event, the Davidoff Brothers organized a FedEx pickup from Germany for my Heuer Autavia 2446 “Jochen Rindt” and my Seiko 6139 “Pogue” (yes, Seiko diehards, mine is a slightly different dial variant – these are tough to find in Europe). The Brothers required serial numbers in order to insure the watches and they provided serious security around the watches before the event, during and afterwards. I had concerns about sending my watches through the mail, but there was little reason for anxiety as all was thoroughly and professionally handled. Why were the watches sent early? Photography was done on each watch before the event in preparation for what will be an amazing hardcover book that will be released in October.
A Great Location
May 12th finally came and after checking into my Geneva hotel, I walked over to the Kempinski to enter the Watches With Nicknames event. As mentioned, there was security at entry and guests of registered guests needed to show identification. Once in, I was impressed with the spacious setup. The watches were assembled by theme in small, well lit, showcases against the backdrop of an expansive window looking out onto Lake Geneva. Picture an automotive Concors d’Elegance at, say, Lake Como or Pebble Beach, and this view is about as close as you’ll get while keeping the watches inside and protected. The room was large with stand up tables, couches and constant finger foods and beverages. It ran from an impressive 2pm until 10pm and over 450 people attended. From 6pm on, this is when the wine and beer made its entrance; the room was nearly at capacity. I should mention that the event was completely free.
In addition to the Watches With Nicknames chosen pieces themselves, what I truly enjoyed was the ability to meet so many people we either know via Fratello events, Basel, online or wherever else. And while nicknames, or even first names for that matter, aren’t so important, one’s Instagram handle is the most common form of name recognition now! I had the opportunity to chat with known dealers such as Matt Bain and Adam Golden from Menta Watches – I felt for those jet-lagged fellow countrymen! I also met and palled around with some Omega fans that evening and the next day in addition to Christopher from Bexsonn. All in all, it was a great environment to talk about watches, to talk about how our spouses collectively shake their heads at our addictions, and to discuss the general difficulty we all have in finding good, relatively affordable pieces these days.
Coming back the stars of the show at Watches With Nicknames, the pure quality of the specimens was incredible. The Breitlings, sent by none other than @watchfred, were highlights for me (the digital and analog “Lucy” 765 AVI’s) as well as the wide swath of Heuers that found their way onto so many famous F1 wrists.
Jean-Claude Killy was well represented from both the Breitling 765 side as well as from the Rolex perspective. Steve McQueen even occupied a complete showcase with three watches called after the actor – Eric Wind’s flawless Submariner 5512, a lovely Explorer II 1655 and the famous Heuer Monaco.
Lesser-known Watches With Nicknames were also on display including some relatively garish two-tone Omega Speedmasters that were apparently fancied by the loudly garbed Liberace. Similarly, the “Eddie Felson” Rolex Datejust from The Color of Money was also shown. This netted Paul Newman a large number of pieces as the Daytona’s he made so famous were well represented. If my Seiko Pogue was the least expensive watch at the event (let’s say 600-700 Euros), it was a version of the Newman with screw-down pushers that topped the charts with a value of more than 700,000 Euros.
All in all, the Davidoff Brothers threw an amazing event with Watches With Nicknames. The people who came were friendly, talkative and full of great information too. It was really the perfect lead-in to auction weekend and it likely whet the appetite of some who came to spend Francs. Thanks again to Roy and Sacha for hosting an engagement that took a hell of a lot of effort and it was an honor, humbling actually, to have a couple of my pieces alongside so many other great pieces. We can’t wait for the next theme!