"Fantastic!" Jack Khorsandi says that word so often, you'd think it was his middle name. The always "up" Khorsandi, in fact, has many things to be happy about - hundreds of them. Literally hundreds. And most of them have a certain distinctively horseshoe-like letter of the Greek alphabet stamped on them. Yes, Jack Khorsandi is one of the world's preeminent Omega watches collectors, and he's built a temple to his obsession like none other with Jackmond - the jewel-like Beverly Hills boutique filled with everything and anything having to do with that beloved horological concern from Bienne, Switzerland.
Between the nearby official Omega boutique in the Beverly Center down the road (one of the brand's greatest AD locations), Swatch Group's new Tourbillon boutique, and Jackmond, a sort of perfect storm for Omega aficionados has coalesced, where in an afternoon stroll, one can truly absorb every facet of the manufacture. It may be one of the most profound Omega concentrations outside of Switzerland, and Khorsandi and his Jackmond boutique provide a crucial part of that nexus. Set on one of the major retail avenues that make up the famous Rodeo Drive shopping district, Jackmond has little to do with its glitzy neighboring emporiums purveying everything new and shiny. Instead, Jackmond is devoted purely to vintage Omega. The storefront is open to the public, and much that's on view is for sale. However, Jackmond is not just about merely selling vintage timepieces; it also provides a home for research, information, and primary sources and objects in the service of maintaining Omega's heritage and legacy.
And yes, then there are Jack's watches - hundreds of primo Omega models spanning the entirety of the storied manufacture's history - personally curated over decades by one of the most passionate, personally driven Omega collectors I've ever come across. Be careful if you ever visit Jackmond, as you might fall into a horological black hole. Stepping into his lair, the elegant and refined yet humble Khorsandi plies his visitors with delicious espresso and unbelievable aged whiskey, and then takes them on a tour of Omega through his expert lens of connoisseurship - from the iconic lines and models to pieces so rare and cherished, they could have come from the archives of the Omega Museum itself (in fact, Khorsandi has collaborated with and donated to that institution frequently).
So yes, Khorsandi is a true Omega addiction enabler - about the best you'll ever find. It's almost a certainty to walk out of his store drooling over either a new purchase on your wrist you didn't expect, or searching for an unattainable new grail. But really, Khorsandi is in the business of making dreams come true, as made abundantly clear when aBlogtoWatch spent a few hours chatting about all things Omega, and exploring the unique and largely unseen highlights of his collection. It's a pilgrimage every watch lover should make.
aBlogtoWatch: So, do you make your living selling vintage Omegas?
Jack Khorsandi (JK): This is not my business - it's a hobby for me. I have patents on medical devices and things of that nature. But I am a crazy watch collector!
aBlogtoWatch: How did you get drawn to collect Omega and open a store in Beverly Hills' most elite shopping area?
JK: Growing up in Iran in the early '70s, I'd always go to watch stores and look in the windows at my favorite watches that I couldn't afford. Every day, starting around age ten, I'd go look at the watches I couldn't buy! Many years passed; I left Tehran and came to U.S. in the late '70s to escape the Iranian Revolution. I finished high school in Santa Monica, California and then studied production-operation management for manufacturing in college. I started a business in the 1990s distributing Apple Computers, and then got into real estate; I've also worked on products for the motorcycle and medical industry, which is what I do today. And when I began making a lot of money, I started collecting the watches that I'd always dreamed of since I was a very young kid and never got to have.
aBlogtoWatch: What were the iconic watches that made you fall in love with Omega timepieces?
JK: One of Omega's biggest distributors in the Middle East was in Iran, so the brand had a huge, great presence there, with billboards all over the place. They had a real variety, and they were affordable. They even made special watches just for the Persian market - Omega Triple Calendars and Constellations, for example, with Farsi day and date. Now I have my own Triple Calendar with a Persian dial - all original, and extremely hard to find in such a large steel case.
aBlogtoWatch: Did anyone in your family wear an Omega?
JK: My dad had an Omega, my grandfather had an Omega, my mother got an Omega for her wedding... We were an Omega family! That's where my passion started with the brand.
aBlogtoWatch: Did you gravitate to sportier watches, or more dress styles?
JK: At the beginning, most of what I looked at were Triple Calendars. But when I started collecting again fifteen-twenty years ago, I started looking at Speedmasters and even collecting papers and documents about the moon landing!
aBlogtoWatch: What was your first Omega purchase?
JK: A very basic steel Omega Seamaster. I still have it someplace. After that, I kept on buying: I went through the Constellation line, Speedmasters... The good thing was I got to know a lot of collectors, and talking and trading with them, one thing led to another, and I became close to the Omega Museum and Mr. Richon [Marco Richon, an important curator, historian, and force in the history of the Omega Musée in Bienne, Switzerland] there. We collaborated with them and contributed a lot of watches, pictures, and information to help Mr. Richon finish the famous [ultimate Omega reference book] Omega: A Journey through Time. We donate a lot of watches to the Omega Museum: if there's something really special here, we send it there.
aBlogtoWatch: So you're very engaged with maintaining the heritage of Omega beyond mere collecting?
JK: Oh, yes! Some of the well-known collectors, when they are looking for that special piece they cannot find, they know they'll find it here, or I'll find it for them. If they have an amazing piece to sell, it will end up through our store. We work with lots of collectors, and the Omega boutiques - if they have a question about a vintage watch, they send them here. For me, it's not about selling a watch at all, but giving information and making people happy.
aBlogtoWatch: What's surprising, I think, to a first-time visitor to Jackmond is your pricing. One can encounter a lot of gouging and inflation in the vintage world. On the other hand, your prices aren't low, but they're fair.
JK: I don't sell a lot in the store. Most of the buying and selling I do is through the collector community that I know. But when people come here, usually we'll sit down, we'll talk.
aBlogtoWatch: So, is Jackmond more like a museum than a store per se?
JK: Yes. Sometimes we have kids come in here, which I love. They're excited about watches - I let them touch them and see what they are. They love it, and that brings joy to me, to give them information.
aBlogtoWatch: What qualities drew you to Omega over other watch brands?
JK: Omega is such an amazing company. It has such a fantastic background, with a variety that's incredible, in a watch you can afford. Going back to the '30s and '40s, no other company - Patek, Rolex - ever had a collection like this, with so many different dials and cases in gold, platinum, steel. Even if a collector thinks his collection is set, all of a sudden, something beautiful pops up that he never knew existed. [He takes an exquisite vintage Ploprof down out of the wall case - a particularly unique left-handed version.] Beautiful, huh? Very rare. I want to show you a pocket watch that's extremely rare. It's from the '20s, with the amazing Omega enamel work. Maybe the tree on the dial represents life - on the back, there's Adam and Eve! Or is it two women? I've been looking at it over and over.
aBlogtoWatch: Where did you even find this curious object?
JK: I got it from a guy in Palm Springs.
aBlogtoWatch: What was the moment when you realized you were a crazy Omega collector. When did you know you'd gone completely over the edge?
JK: When I looked at my safe and saw I'd accumulated 700 to 800 Omega watches! [laughs hard] But you know, the best part of it is the people that you meet - talking to the other collectors, enjoying their passions, going to different countries. I've traveled to Costa Rica, Portugal, and Germany for a piece; if a collector really wants something, I have to fly and go get it sometimes.
aBlogtoWatch: What was the most elaborate pilgrimage you've taken for a specific grail find?
JK: I found a watch in Chile once - an Omega pilot's chronograph from the 1940s; Omega actually made a museum replica of this particular model. The piece was so amazing that I couldn't ask them to ship it, so I had to fly to Santiago, and then take a bus to another city, just to pick up this watch. But the moment you look at it on your wrist and say "Wow!" - then the journey becomes fantastic.
aBlogtoWatch: How did a '40s chronograph migrate from Switzerland across the world to Chile?
JK: A lot of Germans during World War II moved to South America. That's why you're seeing right now a lot of interesting pieces coming out of Brazil, Argentina, Chile - because of that migration.
aBlogtoWatch: Damn Nazis - no time like the present to take back our people's watches! [laughs] When did you first immerse yourself in the Omega Museum's historical collection?
JK: The Omega Museum is like heaven. When I started going there, it was a playground for me. It was me and Mr. Richon together - he's such a fantastic and amazing person; he helped the brand so much with his publications and scholarship. Mr. Richon would open all the cases and say, "Mr. Khorsandi, take pictures - do whatever you like!" And then he'd leave me alone. I thought, "Wow! There are millions and millions of dollars worth of watches here!" It was an honor that he trusted me like that.
aBlogtoWatch: Was there a specific piece that blew your mind on that trip?
JK: Mr. Richon had special drawers with many watches in new-old stock condition. He showed me a Constellation Grand Luxe that was from the '50s, but like brand new, with original bracelet and pie-pan dial. I remember that watch very well - a beautiful piece!
aBlogtoWatch: So what does a collector who has (almost) everything choose for his daily-wear watch?
JK: Just a '50s-era Constellation that I love. I purchased it from my uncle, who got it from my grandfather. That adds a lot of special value to me, so I find myself wearing it all the time.
aBlogtoWatch: From the vibe of the store, it's clear you want these watches to be used - that they will go to someone who will wear and appreciate them.
aBlogtoWatch: So beyond rarity, which models do you just love to wear, period?
JK: It keeps on changing, depending on where I am, who I'm with. Sometimes I love Speedmasters - '60s era, with the 321 movement; other times, I'm like, "Let's move to the Constellations." I also wear lots of 1940s chronographs, usually on the weekend - I love those. I love Triple Calendars and their many different variations, as well as the early officer watches from the '20s - huge chronographs with a single button at six o' clock. I find I gravitate to very unique, hard-to-find pieces. Sometimes I wear two watches!
aBlogtoWatch: I find a lot of people with a technical background like you gravitate towards Omega's technological innovations, which are manifold and continue to break ground.
JK: Omega are risk takers. They take risks with different styles, different cases - look at the Bullhead! Because of the brand's legacy, they can afford to take such risks. And let's talk about value. A lot of people come into my store and leave because it's not Rolex or Patek; they think I'm crazy. But I have pieces that, ten years ago, I paid two, three, four thousand for, and now at auction I'm seeing them go for $40,000. That's tenfold - ten times. If you buy a Patek for $60,000, it may hold much of its value, but it's not going to be worth $600,000 if you hold onto it for a decade. I'm happy with those investments. But it's not about making money - it's about helping someone get what they want.
aBlogtoWatch: So, when did Jackmond officially open for business?
JK: Six years ago, I was just passing by here and I saw a "For Lease" sign in this store. My little daughter, who was eight years old, said, "Dad, let's name it Jackmond!" And that's what it came to be known as. I had around 1,000 Omega pieces, so I thought I'll put the watches into a store that's not a store. It is more like a museum: it doesn't have shelves filled with products. We have archives here, too - a lot of different books on Omega from Switzerland and Japan, advertisements from the '20s and '40s, primary-source documents and provenance that help check the originality of the piece.
We keep going back to these historical documents and study them closely to find, say, if the crown is original, the dial, the bracelet. Sometimes that's all we have to go on. We look at the straps to see what kind of buckle they used. When you're that crazy about something, you go that deep. And the more information I give out, the more people get interested in the brand.
aBlogtoWatch: What was the initial reaction to Jackmond?
JK: When we opened, the store was not a big hit; I was here alone for a year. Then I started getting a lot of collectors and clients, via referral from Omega boutiques and the Museum. Little by little, word of mouth kept going. Our store is not crowded usually - but the people who do come, they are true watch collectors. They know and love Omega; they know exactly what they want. They're educated customers - or they want to get educated about a piece.
If they purchase a piece through an auction house, they bring it here and say, "Jack, what do you think about this?" Sometimes it's a fantastic piece; other times, I tell them about what parts of their watches are original, and what's been added. We give them a lot of information, so when they walk out of here, they have a good idea about what they have. And we don't charge them: they just come here, we drink espresso and whisky and have fun! I'd love to have Omega collectors come once a month and use my store to get together, drink, eat, talk about Omega and share their pieces. If doesn't matter if it's rare or not - bring your story here. Where did this watch come from? "Oh, it was my grandfather's - he was a pilot!"
aBlogtoWatch: I was impressed at the depth of your collection - not just wristwatches, but pocket watches, wall clocks, vintage ash trays... Where do you find these finds?
JK: Sometimes I go to estate sales to pick up something - we picked up these very rare wall clocks with the beautiful cloisonné dials at an estate sale. And sometimes I trade with other collectors.
aBlogtoWatch: The first time I came to Jackmond, I was intrigued by these Omega clocks you have with the picture dials, that depict stories from mythology and folklore. They're ingenious, and seeing where they fit in context with pieces from throughout Omega's history really paints a picture of the styles and tastes from different eras. Here, under one roof, there's examples of art deco, modernism, illustration; there are pieces here that are connected to world wars, and the Olympics. Seeing it all together, one realizes that the history of Omega isn't just about watches but also the history of art, design, science, sport, automobiles, flight, and the military.
JK: Every piece that comes through this store carries with it a story. The better the story is, it's easier for me to fall in love with a watch.
aBlogtoWatch: Are you into new Omegas?
JK: Not at all. They're great watches, of course, but I'm strictly into vintage, from 1970s and before. I like the look of the older watches; most of all, I like to buy pieces that have stories. For me, new watches don't have a story. I buy stories - let's say that!
aBlogtoWatch: What is a particularly amazing such "story" that came across your path on this journey?
JK: When I first opened Jackmond, someone came to the store with a ladies Omega from the 1950s. It was a beautiful watch, with almost 60 carats of diamonds. I bought it, and then donated it to the Omega Museum, where its actually one of the rarest pieces in the museum right now. It was fantastic: the seller got the money he wanted, and the watch went to a museum so everyone can enjoy it.
aBlogtoWatch: Do you have a particular set of criteria when considering an acquisition?
JK: All of the pieces we buy and sell for our collectors, the dial has to be in original condition. If the dial is refinished, there's no way we would touch that watch, at all. It has to be original; even sometimes when the dial isn't in great condition - as long as it's original, we consider it. [Pulls out a Speedmaster] This is an all-original '50s-era Speedmaster, case number 2915-1. I have never seen another Speedmaster with that calibre that has an original bezel and a beautiful, untouched chocolate dial like this one.
aBlogtoWatch: That's incredible. You don't even see many Speedmasters from that era that have survived. Can you even put a value on that piece?
JK: [laughs] I don't know - I couldn't!
aBlogtoWatch: Does the rest of your family collect Omega as a hobby, or is it just personal to you?
JK: I make love to my watches, so you guess what it is! [laughs] Last night, I was here until 2:00 am. I'll sit down and wind the watches, talk to them. My wife thinks I'm stupid and crazy!