My First Grail Watch: Frederick Martel

My First Grail Watch: Frederick Martel

My First Grail Watch: Frederick Martel My First Grail Watch

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.

My First Grail Watch: Frederick Martel My First Grail Watch

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?

My First Grail Watch: Frederick Martel My 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.

My First Grail Watch: Frederick Martel My First Grail Watch

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!

My First Grail Watch: Frederick Martel My First Grail Watch

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…

My First Grail Watch: Frederick Martel My First Grail Watch

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…

  • Chaz

    I’ll wager if he wasn’t working for B&M, he’d never buy a modern B&M for his personal collection.

    • Stephen Scharf

      Why do you say that?

      • Chaz

        I find B&M, as it is currently, an uninteresting, overpriced, mediocre brand with bland designs and an advertising campaign trying to appeal only to upper middle class Caucasians that have summer homes in fancy American Northeast neighborhoods, though apparently the CEO of Richemont thinks the watch lines should be named for fancy Caucasian populated locations in South Africa. Nothin against Caucasians here, but it appears they’re REALLY trying hard to promote that vibe.

        Other than borrowing the occasional IWC movement, they’re heavily reliant on ETA but the ETA they use aren’t even as good as Hamiltons, Tissots or Longines. Yet B&M charges tons more.

        I don’t get it.

        • anonymouse

          “When I think of Baume & Mercier, I do not think of the smell of oil, burning rubber, and hot exhausts, or the earth-shattering bellow of V8’s revving to 7,000rpm. I think of a yogurt commercial, depicting a family that lives in a detached house situated in a quiet neighborhood, with a nice lawn out in front.” -David Bredan in Car & Watch Review: Superformance Shelby Cobra / Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Limited Edition article

          • I think of that Sopranos episode where they are giving boosted B&M watches to Tony’s wife and friends and they are gushing, “Oh look it’s Baume & Mercier”. Great product placement I suppose – like this is a brand that is worth stealing I guess.

          • I think Kobold outdid the marketing machine that is B&M though

        • laup nomis

          The brand does live in an Abercrombie & Fitch commercial.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      I concur.

    • Nelson

      I like B&M.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    It seems that he keeps what he buys. I like that.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Is it me or do people in positions of power get younger every year ? I swear my doctor is going through puberty.

    • One of my doctors has a PA (Physicians Assistant) who looks like he is 12. Not really his fault that his is short, but coupled with his youthful looks, it’s like having Doogie Howser (American TV character) on staff.

  • “I have over 18 years of experience in the watch industry.” I read that twice to make sure he didn’t mean “I am over 18 years old.”

  • simon

    If he wants to buy a Baume and Mercier, he can go on and get a brand new one for 75% off. Which I am sure is cheaper than what he can buy from his own company. Honestly, this brand is a wreck.

  • cluedog12

    The last question could have been answered with a simple ‘no’.

    Have you considered extending this feature towards retired industry people? Besides shining a spotlight on notable careers, the choice of watches would not be sanitized.