Watch Collectors: Bertrand Mak

Ahead of Watches & Wonders we profile five ardent watch connoisseurs.

THE VINTAGE COLLECTOR: Bertrand Mak

If it’s vintage timepieces that tickle your fancy, look no further than Bertrand Mak, who has a near encyclopaedic knowledge of all things horologically old school. Hong Kong-born but raised in London, Mak’s British accent supplants his assertion that he is a lover of all things classical. With a background as a watch specialist at Christie’s, the 33-year-old has a fine-tuned knowledge of timepieces, having been exposed to some of the world’s rarest watches. He is also the developer of British shoe brand Rupert Sanderson in Asia. Last year Mak launched his eponymous brand offering fine leather goods and accessories meticulously curated and representing his debonair style.

What is your first watch memory?

My godfather is in the watch industry; it’s very much a family business. He has a store on Queen’s Road Central – one of the oldest there and the first authorised Patek Philippe seller. When I was a toddler I would play around in the store and even though I had no idea what the watches were or their value, subconsciously a seed was planted in me.

What led to your love for timepieces? 

I had a two-year stint at Christie’s as a watch specialist, which really honed my interest in vintage watches. I’ve always had a love for watches and flipped watches at university but I never quite realised it was vintage watches that my heart beats for. It’s such a melting pot and you see so much. I was lucky to get involved between 2006 and 2009, as that’s when the market was the most buoyant. I saw a lot of vintage and modern pieces.

What was your first watch?

When I graduated from boarding school my parents gave me an Omega Seamaster. I wanted a Rolex, because a chum of mine at boarding school had one and I thought it was really cool, not to mention a status symbol. But obviously as I was 17 turning 18 that was unrealistic. The Seamaster was great; practical because it was dual-time and I travelled between Hong Kong and the UK.

What are your thoughts on smartwatches?

Ultimately smartwatches are a tool. I would have one or two but as a utility watch, as they are purely functional. It doesn’t give me any emotion or stimulate anything. It’s a great invention and goes seamlessly with Apple products but personally I’m not into the technical innovations in watches. The reason I love vintage watches is because they have been around for decades, centuries. They are pure, traditional watchmaking that any well-trained and equipped watchmaker will be able to fix.

Which timepiece is your most prized possession? And why?

I’m very into independent watchmaking. It’s immensely difficult for them to advertise but the Internet is the perfect platform. I’m a big advocate of Kari Voutilainen. I really admire what he does and we have a great relationship. His approach is very admirable – not commercial at all. I have a huge emotional connection to the watch I am wearing now; the first I ever bought from him and it is made to my specifications – I found the movement and he cased it.

What are the most important criteria for you when investing in a watch?

The price is obviously something to consider but for me it’s the longevity. Patek Philippe did extremely well with their tagline: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” You do look after your watches for the next generation, and that’s a very important consideration. You want something that will last. I look for things that aren’t too innovative and are very traditional. I’m not the type of person that will buy a watch and then keep it in the safe so it never sees daylight – it has to be wearable. It’s not too dissimilar to women’s shoes; you see customers buying four to five-inch heels and they can’t walk gracefully in them but they still buy them. I want a sensible size as I’m more old school – I’ll never buy over 37mm.

Will you be visiting the upcoming Watches & Wonders?

To be honest, probably not. I haven’t been before and there aren’t many new novelties I’d like to see.

Around how many watches do you own?

I own around a dozen. I used to have many more, I amassed quite a few but now I have honed in and have focus in my collection, which is made up of vintage and independent watchmakers.


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