Fred Mandelbaum Gives Us The Lowdown On Watch Collecting
How did this interest in watches come about?
My professional history is in electronics, computer technology. I had computers around me all the time because I was designing them, patenting them. I said, on my wrist, I don’t need another computer.
Since then I’ve always bought mechanical watches and became interested collecting, primarily by learning and understanding the technology, history, what builds on what, who makes the relevant movements, etc. My way of collecting includes learning and teaching.
Do you like being called a watch collector?
True collectors don’t decide to be collectors. There are two worlds here—the “I want to appear rich and important” collector, because their friends have some lovely watches and they say "I need that too"—this is not my style of collecting, where you merely look at the number of watches you have and their value.
The second type is the connoisseur collector. I think if I were to be coined under one, I lean more towards this direction.
What do you look for in a watch?
Rarity. And by rare, I mean I’ve hunted it down for years and the chances of finding another like it is akin to winning the lottery. Some of my watches are single documented survivors, and that’s exhilarating.
What about provenance?
Most provenance stories are made up. I’m lucky to own some pieces that have provenance, but it’s not what makes me appreciate them. The first smart watch, the Breitling Navitimer, was very rare and the originals have provenance. They only made 15 in the ’50s and 8,000 afterwards, but only 15 in total were made in gold.
What makes a watch collector?
Every good collector passes on their knowledge and appreciation to others. For some, it’s important to own something that others can’t afford. I collect for a watch’s beauty rather than its financial worth, and I would advise people to do the same. You don’t have to be into the ultra-expensive watches to become a collector. You just have to enjoy the mechanics of a watch.
In many ways, Breitling is the king of chronographs. Historically, every relevant innovation was first done by Breitling and other brands followed. It’s always been an innovator; charging ahead and always leading.
Tell us about your involvement with the brand?
I help with designing, specifically for Breitling’s re-editions, which are vintage-inspired watches.
How do you decide what watch to wear?
It’s a feeling—they are all very different. There are two or three watches that have something of a mood and put a smile on my face. When I feel it’s going to be a tough day, I treat myself to that watch. Surprisingly, I wear all of my watches. Nothing stays in the safe because they are all enjoyed.