Welcome back to an original aBlogtoWatch feature, "My First Grail Watch." In this series, we ask prominent people in the watch industry about the first timepiece that they lusted after. Today, we are speaking with the President of Baume & Mercier North America, Frederick Martel. Read on to learn how celebrating special occasions has informed his own grail hunts.
aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?
Frederick Martel: My name is Frederick Martel and I’m the President for Baume & Mercier North America. I have over 18 years of experience in the watch industry.
ABTW: When did your fascination with watches start?
Frederick Martel: I think I have always been fascinated by watches, one of the only pieces of jewelry for men. More precisely, I was 10 when I received a watch that belonged to my grandfather. It was an old sport Lip Meca-Quartz watch from the '70s. This watch holds great sentimental value and is still part of my collection today. Later, when I started working within the industry, I was very fortunate I could continue to build a collection.
ABTW: Quite a quirky start to your collecting! What was your first grail watch?
Frederick Martel: My first grail watch was a Panerai Luminor Base PVD version with black dial. The production of this watch was in 1999, year B (very rare nowadays).
ABTW: What drew you to this particular watch?
Frederick Martel: Its simple design. The Luminor Base is the simplest of all Panerai models: a hand-wind featuring just hour and minute hands. The case is the classic 44mm Luminor case with the crown-lock device on leather strap. It is equipped with the OP I mechanical movement. Of note, The PVD case was the precursor of Titanium in Panerai’s collection, and there was only a very small quantity produced.
ABTW: Was there ever a time in your life when you could afford it - and if so, did you get it?
Frederick Martel: I remember in 2000, I was working within the Richemont Group, and I received my first bonus. I still coveted the Panerai, so to celebrate I used my bonus to purchase the watch as a self-reward!
ABTW: A great way to pick up a grail, for sure. Do you still have it in your collection?
Frederick Martel: I still have it and take very good care of it. But I also continued to enrich my collection year after year with timepieces from different brands. I also helped my wife build a collection of her own. The first luxury watch I gifted my wife (girlfriend at the time) was the beautiful steel Catwalk by Baume & Mercier. And now 16 years after, I’m running the brand in North America… What a coincidence! Maybe I should celebrate again…
ABTW: I like hearing how these watches have stayed in collections. Given your affinity for watches, I have to assume you have moved on to other grails. Can you elaborate on any of those?
Frederick Martel: I like watches. So I’m always looking for the new one that I would love to wear and own. Getting older, I like complicated watches. I already have my eye on the steel [Baume & Mercier] Clifton Chronograph Annual Calendar with an alligator strap. This Clifton combines beautiful design, precise proportions, and nice complications for such a great value! And the steel case makes it versatile, so I can dress it up and dress it down. Now, I just need to find an occasion to celebrate…