In our search for people who meet the aspects of ‘Watch Head’, there are almost no boundaries. If you speak watches, you’re not afraid to tell us your opinion and you like our questions, you meet the requirements. This time, a photographic watch hero, writer of six books and 8past10 genious: Kristian Haagen. The man from Denmark took some time to answer some of our questions and we have to admit, it came out very nicely. Enjoy reading.
-Hello Mr. Haagen, we are glad we finally have a chance to talk watches with you. How’s the watch loving life in Denmark?
The interest in watches has been solid for decades already. And Scandinavia has played an important role for certain brands for many many years. Of course Omega and Rolex are popular brands and have been so since the 1950s, but Certina’s most important market is actually here. And this since the early 1970s.
-Since you are the author of six books on watches, we can say you know what you’re talking about. How did your passion for watches start?
When I was six years old I started flipping through my family’s extensive collection of National Geographics magazines. I noticed that the watch of the adverts (Rolex and Omega) often were found on the wrists of the divers, explorers, mountaineers etc. in the stories inside. That made a big impression on me and I started to follow those brands in other medias too and started to notice the watches on people around me. So you can say my interest in watches started really early.
-Do you agree with us if we say that mechanical watches are gaining terrain again, compared to 10 or 20 years ago? Is it safe to say the passion from people like you is affecting others?
We have seen a Smart Watch trend the last two years. So of course there is a competition between traditional watchmaking and Smart Watches. However I am convinced they can co-exist. But in terms of mechanical watches gaining terrain I am not quite sure anymore. Except if we are talking vintage watches as they are indeed becoming more and more coveted. New watches have become too expensive the last ten years or so and I believe the consumer is starting to react on this and look “backwards” instead. To answer your question in regards influence, I certainly hope my passion is obvious and if this inspires others then two thumbs up!
-If you had to decide the future of the industry, would you give micro brands more influence or do you think the current balance between large companies and smaller independent watch makers is as it should be?
I am a big fan of both indie brands with micro production (Kari Voutilainen, Urwerk and MB&F just to name a few) as well as mass production like Timex, Casio and the likes. Both fascinate me immensely, but of course the unique craftsmanship needed to create a small production of mechanical watches impresses me more.
-In our humble opinion, there should be more brands like MB&F, Urwerk and HYT. Just because of the fact they do something different and traditional horology is left behind. We talked with Mr. Büsser and he told us that the purpose of the large brands are very important to smaller brands like the ones we mentioned above. Do you think one cannot exist without the other, or is there enough attention and free space for these brands to exist on their own?
Of course the microbrands need the bigger brands. Everybody grows up wanting a Rolex. Once they have it they realise there are other brands outhere and start looking. And when you have been through your share of Rolex, Omega TAG Heuer and other high profile brands you probably would like to try something more exotic that oozes “knowledge” more so than “wealth”. And the micro brands certainly represent the knowledge of horology.
-What are the most essential characteristics of a good mechanical watch in your opinion? Do you have an example of a watch that approaches perfection?
I think the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is one the best looking watches on the market. Take the 15202. Perfect size (39-mm), iconic design (from 1972), probably the best designed integrated bracelet and still offering one of the slimmest automatic movements and a proven pedigree. That said I also want to mention the original IWC Doppel Chronograph ref. 3711 as I consider that a near perfect watch with the rattrapante chronograph as well as day and date aperture. Perfect size too (42 mm) and one of the best dial layouts ever made. Throw in a vintage Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 and I am set for life.
-If we take a look at your photography, we see a lot of different surroundings combined with the most special timepieces. Do you really take your time for a shot or are these all ‘moments in time’?
I spend a lot of time taking pictures of (mainly) my own watches. Once in a while I do a wristshot with my iPhone, but 99% of my pictures are shot with cameras as I want the best possible shot. Also, I use many of my pictures for my latest series of books called “Hashtags & Watches” (the sequel is almost ready to go into production). And iPhone pictures are not really all that nice on print.
-Going on about those pictures, we can say there’s a great variety of timepieces displayed. Some of them are yours, others are well-spotted on someone else’s wrist. Do you actively collect watches with a specific characteristic or is it love at first sight?
I have been collecting watches since 1993. My first was a Tudor “Big Block” chronograph as I thought it looked like a Rolex Daytona (which I could not afford back then). Today I have a wonderful collection of both contemporary and vintage pieces, of which some have been displayed in several of my book on watches.
-Which part of being a watch head do you like the most: collecting watches, talking/writing about watches or monitoring the industry?
I write books and articles, do speaks and seminars, work as specialist for an auction house, consult watch brands in SoMe and am the co-founder of 8past10.com. In other words I live and breathe watches. And it is a privilege to live from my passion. In other words; I like all aspects of being a “Watch Head”.
-Choose one: the beautiful curves of a mechanical masterpiece or the curves of a woman?
Curves of a woman. I am passionate about watches, not a freak, haha!
-We saw your ‘Top 5 watches’ from Basel World 2013. What surprised us was the fact that the Breitling Emergency 2 was a bit of a weird ingredient in that row. Is it safe to say you are interested in the design aspects but also the practical use? Which one has your favour?
I wear my A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk like I wear my Casio G-Shock Mudmaster: with fascination. And I am fascinated by all sorts of horology. That being mechanical as well as functional. And the Breitling Emergency really impressed me at Basel World 2013 as it offered improved functions of a watch that was already unique in its league.
A while ago, we wrote an article about the difference in the price range between Tourbillons. Being that Lange&Söhne sells one for about $300.000 and Tag Heuer then pops one out of their sleeve with a price around $15.000. It’s a strange thing within the watch industry and we think these kind of situations could eventually mean a collapse of the whole marketing stories. How do you feel about that?
Biver likes to shake the bag and provoke the established colleagues. And the older I get the more I approve of that. There is no doubt that most brands (if not all) overprice their watches, tourbillons especially. The tourbillon is not even needed in a modern mechanical watch. Sure it will make certain onlookers go “uuuh” and “ahhh”, but then it is merely a peacocking complication. And if you want that why not spend the 15K on the TAG Heuer 02T instead of 300K on a Vacheron or Patek? Of course we can start to discuss the finish of tourbillons, but then we are speaking to a very small group of hardcore connoisseurs. Function wise though I don’t think there is much difference. (Let the bashing start, hahaha!).
-If there were no boundaries, your imagination could be the only limitation.. how would your dream watch look like? Is there anything existing that approaches your dream?
When I bought my A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk my dreams stopped. I have not lusted after a contemporary watch since, like a I lusted after the Zeitwerk. With that said I’d like to one day add an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15202 to my collection eventough I already own a late production ref. 15300. But it is not included in my nocturnal dreams.
-Have you ever sold a watch of your own, with more regret than you would’ve ever imagined?
I bought and sold a Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time twice. And again I have sellers remorse. I could see myself own that piece and believe third time around is when the love is sealed and we can live happily together for the rest of our lives.
-Seriously, how come watch heads like yourself are always such well-dressed and good looking men? Sorry, but we have to ask. It’s part of our visualisation of the market. Not really, but still..
Well…that is just…like…your opinion…man.
-We know you like bracelets, that can be seen in your pictures, but you also said that once in another interview. There’s an account @shameonwrist that always roasts people with too many bracelets accompanying their watch. How do you feel about that? Is there a healthy balance (bracelet warriors pay attention) for a stylish man to wear his watch and bracelets?
@shameonwrist is hilarious! I am a huge fan of his Instagram profile! I think the balance of watches versus bracelets is decided by the wearer, not the onlooker. I know some are not into my colourful #haagenbracelets (yeah, they have a name). But here is a shocker: I don’t care. That said, I am pretty sure I am not a candidate for a shaming post on @shameonwrist.
-The reason why we asked the last question is this: a watch should be a compliment to its wearer, not a thing that leads an own life. How do you think of all the aftermarket things that happen to the Rolex’, Pateks and AP’s of this world? For instance fully covering it with diamonds.
I am from the cold North. I do more wood than bling, more steel than gold. And my first car was a tractor. I think this answers your question well.
-If you have to give us one tip regarding our website, what would it be? If you have more than one, please tell us behind the scenes, we don’t want to be embarrassed in front of our readers.
No tips, mate. You are doing a damn fine job.
-Shall we say, until we meet for a cup of Coffee at Basel World 2017? Thank you very much for your time Mr. Haagen. It was our pleasure, we hope you enjoyed this interview as well.
Likewise. Beers on me during Basel World 2017 for sure!