This originally appeared in Box + Papers, GQ staffer Cam Wolf’s watch newsletter. For more stories like it, hit the link and subscribe.
Happy holidays my horologistas,
I’m in the giving mood lately. ‘Tis the season, after all. So, to wrap up another year, I convened a large panel of watch experts to help me figure out the person most deserving of the biggest honor I could think of: the first annual Box + Papers collector of the year. I tasked the Watch Illuminati with nominating three different collectors—anyone from super-celebs like John Mayer and Tyler, the Creator to their neighbor Jeff with killer taste. The folks with the most nominations were put to a final vote. And here we are. It’s the biggest night in watch-newsletter awards! You have presents to open and ham to carve, and family movie night is in ruins because you were on your phone when Will Ferrell said the cotton-headed ninnymuggins line, so let’s get to it.
In fifth place…
Jaclyn is best known for co-hosting the Waiting List podcast—and for exclusively shooting her watches in golden-hour lighting. She shows off impressive range on Instagram: a blacked-out AP Royal Oak one day, a classic vintage Breguet the next, and a sprinkling of watches from indie favorite F.P. Journe.
Coming just ahead of Jaclyn for the fourth-place spot is…
I love the consistency of Cozmopak’s feed. Almost every wrist shot features a jacket sleeve with a different-colored gingham shirt peeking out, as if he’s rolled out a lovely picnic blanket for each of his watches. While the photo setup is stable, the collection is delightfully all over the map. Just when, after a few days of Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual and an Omega Speedmaster, you think you’ve got the guy pegged—bam!—he hits you with the Urwerk 202 to “keep things spicy,” he wrote in the caption. Keep us guessing, king.
Now, we move onto the podium. In third…
Every few days Roni posts something that just makes you laugh—or, since I’m talking to watch collectors, spit out your 25-year-old Macallan. Like, we’re all familiar with Cartier’s Crash at this point, right? But just this week Roni posted a watch he called the “Tank Crash” that looks like the familiar Tank with an extra bezel smashed on top. It looks like two Tanks tried inter-dimensional travel and were spliced together in the process. He is particularly enchanted by Patek Philippe watches designed by Gilbert Albert in the ‘50s. They’re funkier than your average Patek and are typified by their strong and sharp-edged cases. I like Roni’s feed because he’s constantly surfacing watches you won’t see anywhere else. All the comments on his Instagram are like, Oh my God, Roni, I am in tears. Thank you for posting this beautiful piece of art.
Which brings us to the final two. In second, it’s the man, the myth, the legend…
It’s author, photographer, and collector extraordinaire Auro Montanari, who goes by John Goldberger. John has the watch you’ve always wanted—plus a dozen others you didn’t even know to write down in your dream journal. Nothing is off limits for John, who wears Swatch, Casio, vintage Omega, Patek Philippe, and optical-illusion-grade Bulgari with equal gusto. He’s a legend, and he knows he’s a legend. My favorite thing about John is that, when I sat next to him at Rolliefest 2019, he used a pencil drawing of himself as both the lock screen and home screen on his iPad. He would have been the betting favorite for the WCOTY if we were making markets (next year!), but was edged out by just a few votes.
Our 2022 watch collector of the year is….
While Rob’s feed is sprinkled with bank-account busters from Lange and Patek, he mostly uses it to show off surprising, unheralded watches you want immediately. His Tudor Oysterdate flecked with blue, Universal Geneve Tri-Compax, and squiggly hands Movado would each immediately become the coolest and most unique thing in many people’s collection. Rob had ardent supporters on his way to the top this year, from folks like Adam Golden of Menta Watches. “Rob buys with his heart, and his eclectic collection really shows that,” Golden said. “He doesn’t buy trends, he buys what he personally likes. And let’s be honest, he brings the sexy back to the vintage-watch-world.” Indeed, our winners are defined not by their ability to accumulate the most hyped pieces in the world, but by a willingness to pursue their own tastes in whatever unique direction that means. I talked to Rob about his extraordinary victory.
How would you define your collecting philosophy?
I am a firm believer in the idea that you need to own watches from many different brands and eras before you can define your taste or philosophy. It’s one thing to decide whether you like a watch based on pictures or reviews, but another thing entirely to put in the time to research, find an example, and live with it. After many years of “experiential learning,” I’ve realized that two things matter most to me: I have an extremely high bar for quality, and my collection needs to be balanced across brands, styles, and eras.
What is your favorite watch you added to your collection in 2022?
Without question, my A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Tourbillon (say that 10x fast). I had admired the Lange 1 for years, but until this year, I didn’t realize that Lange had made a very limited run of tourbillons in 2000 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the brand’s first tourbillon. It has the same case dimensions as the normal Lange 1, but the black polished tourbillon bridge, dial cutout for the tourbillon cage, and intricate finishing of the movement make it a truly special piece. It’s a total sleeper and I feel very lucky to have added one to the collection this year.
What is the watch you wore most this year?
I have two little boys (two and five years old), so my blue Tudor Black Bay 58 is the watch I wear the most. It’s beautiful, wears perfectly, and can handle anything my kids can throw at it (at least so far).
What’s one watch that got away in 2022?
Just this month, I had a lead on an early Heuer Carrera that was co-branded with Fisher Scientific. They’re quite rare and the watch looked amazing in the seller’s mediocre pictures, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to expectations in-hand. It’s always hard to walk away when you’ve visualized adding a watch to the collection, but discipline is crucial in this world.
How did you originally get into watch collecting?
When I graduated college, my dad gave me his old two-tone Tag Heuer Professional from the 1990s. I wore it dutifully for a few years, but it wasn’t sized right and the twisted links made a daily habit of ripping out as much arm hair as possible. One morning in early 2013, I was reading National Geographic Traveler and stopped on a full page ad for the Tudor Heritage Chrono. It captivated me, and for the first time, I realized that I didn’t have to wear a watch that I didn’t like. I spent the entire week researching the Heritage Chrono, and by the time I was done, I was much more interested in the vintage Monte Carlo that served as the Heritage Chrono’s inspiration. The rest, as they say, is history: I bought a couple of vintage watches (a Tudor Submariner and an early Heuer Carrera) that year, made a lot of early mistakes, and haven’t looked back since.
Any watch goals for 2023?
Have my number called for a Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain II (hopefully he reads GQ)! But short of that, I’d like to continue on the same course: explore high-end or independent brands from the neo-vintage period (1980s-2000ish) and look to opportunistically add great vintage examples from my favorite brands (Heuer, Omega, Universal Geneve, Movado, Tudor, and Rolex).
Anyone you want to thank?
My wife, who has supported my obsession in so many ways. She’s never questioned a watch purchase, no matter how expensive it may be, and she even designed and built my website. I also wouldn’t have many of the watches in my collection without the help of friends and fellow collectors around the world. The best part of this hobby has been the friendships I’ve made around the globe and the willingness of other collectors to lend their expertise, opinions, or even risk their safety to complete a deal! I will always endeavor to pay it forward.
Any words for your competition?
You are all bad influences in the best of ways! I can’t wait to see where your collections go over the next few years and I have no doubt that you will all influence how my collection evolves.