Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Why are so many watch geeks also car enthusiasts?

As you point out, the Venn diagram of mechanical watch collectors and car lovers reveals a sizable overlap. Tap a watch geek on the shoulder and, chances are, he also obsesses over his whip—or his dream whip. Paul Newman two-timed on his race car with his Rolex Daytona, smitten with both (the Daytona was named for a Florida racetrack). These days, men with more than a little cash to burn—and even those without—might find themselves scrolling nerdy car and watch sites long after everyone else has sensibly gone to bed.

These overlapping passions stoke many collaborations between car and watch companies, such as Hublot’s official Ferrari collection. But what’s behind the intersection of the enthusiasms? I tracked down two collectors of cars and watches to see what makes them tick/vroom.

California-based business strategy consultant Gary Getz, 62, collects watches from small, exclusive watch brands, and at various times has owned, he said, “an assortment of Ferraris and the cult favorite Land Rover Defender 90.” Mr. Getz’s fascination with both cars and watches, he said, is rooted in their functionality. Cars move and watches tell time thanks to two mechanical marvels: the internal combustion engine and the mechanical watch movement. Anyone who can become transfixed by the moving hands on a clock—the precise unfolding of existence as recorded by a mere machine—may also enjoy reflecting on the elegance of a Porsche’s engine. Mr. Getz described the attraction as “mechanical complexity that serves a practical purpose.”

Entrepreneur and retired physician Jason Singer voiced similar feelings. An Arizona-based lover of vintage cars and watches, he started collecting both in the 1980s. Mr. Singer, 54, has owned many Swiss and American watches along with Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, 10 air-cooled Porsches and a 1970s Ford Falcon convertible with red-and-white striped vinyl seats. He waxed on about the fact that the parts of both mechanical watches and car engines, when disassembled, are useless. Yet, when functioning, he said, both machines become something transcendent and enduring: elegant collectibles that “change year after year by ever-accumulating patina.”

These poets/collectors illustrate, rather effusively, that an obsession with mechanics can motivate someone to collect both cars and watches. I’d add that both are quintessentially “manly” hobbies for people interested in spending a lot of money on nice things.

In any case, watch brands eagerly capitalize on the connection between timepieces and cars; the market overflows with watches calculated to woo such multitasking geeks. The Breitling for Bentley Dark Sapphire, for example, costs $9,965 and has a stopwatch function (known as a chronograph), handy for timing laps around the racetrack. Chopard’s $5,050 Mille Miglia was inspired by the Mille Miglia vintage car race in Italy; hence, its retro look. Danish brand REC Watches goes further, showily producing timepieces using recycled car parts; its “P-51” features a dial fashioned from metal that once clad a 1960s Ford Mustang. At $1,495, it’s cheaper than a restored vintage car. Headquartered in Brooklyn, Autodromo specializes in car-influenced watch designs, like the $875 Stradale, which echoes the dashboard instruments of mid-1950 Italian sports cars.

Although everyone needs to get from point A to point B on time, obsessing over one’s car and watch—or one’s car-inspired watch—is the very definition of a first-world problem. However, it can’t hurt to enjoy the ride while we’re here.

credit: Wall Street Journal

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