Why these CEOs love the watch they wear

Five top executives and watch fans tell the story behind their favourite timepiece.

By Michael Stahl, October 5 2019
Why these CEOs love the watch they wear

People, possessions and career positions come and go, but the most constant and closely-kept thing in our daily lives might well be a wristwatch.

Strapped habitually to one’s arm each morning, the watch is a partner on life’s journey, or even through journeys of generations. No laptop, smart phone nor (we predict) smartwatch is as likely to foster the same enduring admiration and sentiment as that for a beating, mechanical timepiece.

Not all executives stop at owning one watch. But even among those with sizeable collections, there’ll be the default ‘daily driver’, or a sentimental stand-out, made special by its own story.

We asked five executives, from very different fields, to share theirs.

Paul Cohen

Position: Director, Cube Design and Paul Cohen Design

Watch: Sinn EZM 1.1

I have half a dozen nice watches; a Panerai, Bell & Ross, TAG Heuer Carrera. My father left me a solid gold, 1960s Patek Philippe when he passed away. It’s beautiful and it means a lot to me.

I’ve also got a Marc Newson Ikepod. Another designer, Michael Young, did a watch for CIGA Design. I have one and I’m designing a watch for CIGA now, too.

I buy watches when I’m travelling, because they remind me of a place. I’m a jury member for the international iF Design Awards, so I go to Germany twice a year. I wanted to buy a German watch, which is how I came to buy the Sinn. It’s a dive watch, and I swim and surf, so it’s ideal.

I love German products and I love innovation. This watch has its crown and pushers on the left, so they don’t dig into your wrist. It’s pressurised with Argon gas, and there’s a window on the case so you can check for moisture inside. I nerded out on it.

Not many people know the brand here, and I like that. I get to tell them the story. 

Guillaume Brahimi

Position: Executive Chef, Bistro Guillaume

Watch: Rolex Oyster (vintage)

I have a few watches, including two Rolex Daytonas – one black dial, one white – and a Panerai. But my favourite is a 1967 Rolex Oyster, in pink gold.

Someone very special gave this to me for my 50th birthday, being from 1967, the year of my birth. At first it felt like a woman’s watch because, at 36mm, it’s so small. I was always a big-watch guy, but I think I’m getting mellow. 

I wear the vintage most days, although when I’m going to be in the kitchen for the whole day I’ll try to wear the Daytona or Panerai.

Rolex is special to me because my mum had one. I bought my first, the black Daytona, 16 years ago. It’s not a show-off thing, you just feel good about it. With my Daytona, I go in the water, I surf, I train – it’s a practical piece. This vintage one is waterproof, but I’m not going to test it!

My watch goes every three years to Rolex for servicing. You imagine the person in the factory, a real artisan. For me it’s about craftsmanship. 

Oliver Workman

Position: Director, Ribco Australia high-performance marine

Watch: Panerai Submersible BMG-Tech

I have a variety of brands, primarily Rolex, Patek Philippe and Panerai. Sports watches suited to particular applications – that’s what interests me. So, a Panerai for water sports, given its depth rating and durability.

My go-to is a Panerai Submersible BMG Tech. It’s a new case material, stronger than steel and about as light as titanium. There’s a lot of interest for me in the technology, in a daily watch for working on the boats, swimming, and out enjoying the water.

Being involved in high-performance, high-tech boats, I can appreciate the potential for that material to be used elsewhere.

This Panerai has superseded a stainless-steel Rolex Sea Dweller as my get-in-the-bilge watch, never take it off, just do whatever you need to do. The rubber strap makes it very versatile and the BMG case hasn’t got a mark on it, after everything from doing mechanical repairs to washing the boat to getting in the water with it.

I hadn’t had a Panerai for about four years. They went away from their core of diving watches, and there wasn’t anything that interested me for a long time. Now they’re going back to diving watches and high-tech materials. That’s what the brand means to me.

Greg LaManna

Position: Director, LaManna & Sons greengrocers

Watch: Heuer Calculator (vintage)

I wear this Heuer Calculator [made from 1972 to ’82] every day. It was my first vintage watch, bought about 10 years ago. 

I had the taste for old cars before watches, and then I bought this Calculator from Cameron Smith, a friend who’s now our general manager. 

I’ve since picked up a few more 1970s watches – Heuer Autavia and Monaco, Omega Ploprof, Rolex Submariner – and Cameron has trained me on what they’re about.

A Heuer Calculator is the first vintage watch that greengrocer Greg LaManna ever owned, and he has since hunted down two more Calculators to gift to his sons.
A Heuer Calculator is the first vintage watch that greengrocer Greg LaManna ever owned, and he has since hunted down two more Calculators to gift to his sons.

I don’t wear new watches. I’ve got a Chopard, and my wife surprised me with a new Rolex a few years ago. It’s just not really me. And we’re in retail; you don’t need someone saying, ‘That’s a nice Rolex on your wrist …’

You wear a watch because you like to wear it. I see an old Monaco on an older guy, he’s owned it forever, that’s the coolest thing.

A few years ago, I hunted down two more Calculators for my two sons on their 18th birthdays. Now the three of us have a Calculator each. They’ll be wearing them decades from now and I hope they’ll think of me, even when I’m not around.

David Barbour

Position: Co-creator and Executive Producer, The Block, Nine Network

Watch: Pulsar Calculator Digital (vintage)

David Barbour's go-to watch is a TAG Heuer Carrera.. Angie Summa
David Barbour's go-to watch is a TAG Heuer Carrera.
Angie Summa

My usual go-to is a TAG Heuer Carrera that I bought back in 2010, celebrating The Block kicking off again after a seven-year hiatus. I’ve also got a TAG Connect, which I wear just to tell the time. So many people already have so many ways to annoy me, I don’t need another one on my wrist!

I grew up in New Guinea, from age four to 15. Brands like Casio, Pulsar, Citizen and Seiko were all that we saw, and digital watches had just come on the scene.

In 1979, in Lae, my mum bought a Pulsar Calculator for my dad. I still remember the first time we saw the red digital display, and the little pen for the tiny buttons.

This Pulsar Calculator is a treasured heirloom for TV producer David Barbour.. Angie Summa
This Pulsar Calculator is a treasured heirloom for TV producer David Barbour.
Angie Summa

Dad loved it – although, because of the heat in New Guinea, he would get a rash from metal watch bands. So he took to wearing this over a tennis sweatband.

I got my dad’s watch when he passed away three or four years ago. The band is so oversized that it flops around, but I don’t want to change it, because it reminds me of that quirk that he had. It’s a lovely touchstone for me.

Michael Stahl

One of Australia's foremost feature writers, Michael Stahl casts his eye across motoring, design, watches and more for Executive Traveller.

04 Oct 2019

Total posts 1

1958 Rolex Oyster. Best birthday present ever!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2011

Total posts 187

Interestingly there isn't a Apple watch on any wrist..

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