Watch This Space. Financial Times Hong Kong
FT - Hong Kong - December 2008Pro Hunter Article'I am one of those guys who is obsessed with having things no-one else can get.' So pronounces Hollywood film director and bon viveur Brett Ratner. But he is not talking about his latest car or mobile phone gadget, but his watch. The black customized Rolex Pro Hunter that sits on his wrist is one of only a hundred ever made. Ratner spotted it first on his friend, banking heir and English hedge fund supremo Nat Rothschild, 'and I thought it was so cool - there has never been a black Rolex. When I heard they only made a hundred and each one was numbered, well, I had to get one.'The director of box office smashes such as The Family Man, the Rush Hour trilogy and X Men: The Last Stand, is typical of a new breed of discerning watch aficionados and lovers of luxury who are willing to go one step further for an exclusive watch. Just the name Rolex is no longer enough, now customers want a watch that not only reflects their own needs but also expresses their personality. Jean-Claude Roustant, secretary-general of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, a Swiss fine timepiece organization, says that an increasing number of customers are looking for exclusivity in watch design. 'If we speak of fine watch making, that is the case more and more, 'Roustant said. 'More people want to express themselves differently.'The new breed of owners of customised watches may not be quite as extreme and Graves and Packard, but they do share a defining feature with them. As London gallery owner Tim Jeffries - another Rolex Pro Hunter enthusiast points out, owning such a timepiece is as much about passion now as it was then, and 'appreciating the time and energy spent on production and the engineering.' For many, he maintains, it's a question of 'knowing more and spending more, now a watch is a way of inferring some sort of status.' It is this passion that led to the genesis of the after-market customized Rolexes.The development of the blackened Rolex Pro Hunter was down to the enthusiasm of Reza Rashidian, another luxury-loving bon viveur and collector of vintage Rolexes who, when his request for a custom-made watch was turned down by Rolex, approached vintage Rolex dealer Kamal Choraria. Now sported on wrists as distinguished as Sony Pictures boss Michael Lynton, Tim Jeffries and of course Brett Ratner who fell in love with the unusual colour:'For me, it's the fact that there has never been a black Rolex before,' he says. 'I get a lot of comments on it.'Tim Jeffries runs the Hamiltons Gallery in London's Mayfair and was known, before his marriage, for dating the world's most famous beauties. 'I am very passionate about my watches,' he declares showing off his favourite, the IWC Big Pilot in rose gold. 'Cars are great but obvious, the watch might look simple and totally unostentatious, but have a really fine movement that has taken somebody in Switzerland years to make.As Brett Ratner predicts: 'The watch market isn't down because the people buying them are not just high-net-worth individuals but they are passionate about collecting.' Tim Jeffries adds that: 'For many the watch is really the only legitimate jewellery for a man, apart from cufflinks.' But he also freely admits that, ultimately, for many, there is also 'an element of being a boy that hasn't grown up.