June 14, 2015
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 Mike Margolis, a fellow who has worn quite a few different hats over the years, as well as being a lifelong collector of various things.aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?
Mike Margolis: I am the North American distributor for H. Moser, Hautlence, Anonimo, Cyrus and C.H. Wolf Glashütte i/Sa watches. Previously, I was president of Girard-Perregaux North America, and Sales Director of Hublot of America.
ABTW: You’ve had quite a tour through the watch industry. How did you get your foot in the door?
Mike Margolis: I met Jean-Claude Biver while he was the CEO of Blancpain, and I was the timezone.com Blancpain Forum moderator. We became friends, and did some events together. When he went to Hublot, he asked for my help, and the rest is history.
ABTW: A great person to start that journey with, for sure! Of course, before that happened, you must have been drawn to watches. When did your fascination start?
Mike Margolis: About 1975 when I was in high school, my red LED watch died, and my father gave me his Omega Seamaster. I wound it up, held it to my ear, heard that little machine ticking inside, and fell in love.
ABTW: Now that is an enviable upgrade, especially for a high school student! After that movement captured your attention, what became your first grail watch?
Mike Margolis: Early on, I felt that if I only had two watches, I would have died and gone to heaven. For a sport watch, I settled in on a two tone blue Rolex Submariner. For a dress watch, it was a Corum $20 gold piece that captured my attention.
ABTW: What drew you to these particular watches?
Mike Margolis: Well, Rolex was Rolex, and everybody knew it was the best watch ever. As to the Corum, I found it cool because I was a coin collector when I was younger.
ABTW: Are you still a coin collector, or has that hobby faded away?
Mike Margolis: That one has faded away, although I still have all my coins from when I was a kid, including the 1909-S Lincoln cent my grandmother gave me for my Bar Mitzvah in 1973.
ABTW: Was there ever a time in your life when you could afford the watches – and if so, did you add them to your collection?
Mike Margolis: Neither one. By the time I could afford them, I had moved on, although I do firmly believe that every watch collection must have a Rolex. To that end, I own a plastic crystal GMT from 1978 with a Pepsi bezel and riveted oyster bracelet. I’ve never owned a Corum.
ABTW: While I don’t have a Rolex in my collection as of yet, I do agree it is a great addition. I am curious, though, as to why you feel that strongly about the brand?
Mike Margolis: You can not deny the impact that Rolex has had on our industry: the general message to every consumer that “you need a nice watch, you deserve a nice watch.” The millions that Rolex spends on advertising that message benefits every watch company.
ABTW: Is there any part of you that still keeps an eye out for those first grail watches?
Mike Margolis: No. Once I lost interest, it was put in the past. There were always other grails to search out!
ABTW: Given that you have had shifting grails over the years, and have worked with several different brands, is your own collection something that is more of a rotating cast of characters?
Mike Margolis: I am not a big flipper, I buy something I like and keep it forever. (Ha, I am like that with cars too). I have a collection of about 20 watches or so. I started as a vintage collector because I couldn’t afford modern watches, and I still have some great vintage pieces: a Movado triple date from the 1940’s, a Lecoultre mystery watch, an IWC Ingenieur from 1968, etc…
Over the years, I have added some pieces like a Patek annual calendar and a GP perpetual equation of time. At this point, I am still lusting after a vintage Jaeger-Lecoultre Polaris. It seems every time one pops up, the timing isn’t right for me. I have a saying that “I don’t chase watches, watches chase me.” When the right watch comes to you at the right time, you know it’s meant to be.