Chef Time

Thomas Keller, Michael Chow, Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert and Daniel Humm have a few key things in common. The first is obvious: they are among the most famous faces in the food industry. Another less overt trait that unifies these chefs and restaurateurs is their love of watches. Here, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon shares how he managed to track down a vintage Panerai; Michael Chow of Mr. Chow reveals the real reason why he wants a Patek Philippe Chronograph 1943 Perpetual Chronograph; Le Bernadin chef Eric Ripert discusses a humbling moment involving a beloved Vacheron Constantin; Daniel Boulud of Daniel talks about his favorite gift, a Cartier Santos 100XL; and last but certainly not least, Swiss-born chef Daniel Humm explains why he has such a deep-seated affection for Blancpain. We find out not only what these storied chefs have cooking in the kitchen, but also what chronographs you’ll find on their wrists, both when they’re holding a frying pan and when they step away from the fire.

Thomas Keller

Thomas Keller

What is the first watch you ever purchased?
The first collectible watch I purchased years ago was a Girard-Perregaux.

How did you start collecting watches?
I was always fascinated with the craftsmanship, workmanship and overall aesthetic of watches. There was always an attraction for me to timepieces both in form and function. Like cooking and baking with the best possible ingredients and techniques to get the best result – there is a process to watchmaking that I respect.

Thomas Keller-1

What is your favorite everyday watch?
Most of my time is spent cooking or in the kitchen, so while I own a number of great dress watches, my favorite everyday watches are usually more sports-oriented with metal bands. Because of the ongoing heat and water I am exposed to in the kitchen, I am limited in what I can wear while working.

What is the most prized possession in your collection?
Right now I would say my Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporarine Retrograde, an automatic in pink gold with an open back. It has a combination of unusual date placements, and overall simple, clean lines and elegance.

If money was no object, what would you want to buy/own?
I would buy three watches. Richard Lange’s “Pour le Merite” is the first. No timepiece executes simplicity at it purest than the Pour le Merite. The movement is highly complicated and fantastically cool. The movement is hidden behind three rare and extremely difficult to create enamel dials. It is simple, handsome and elegant. Secondly, I’d want the VAC Ultra-Fine 1955. This is one of the most elegant watches ever made (and also created the year I was born, so that is interesting as well). Finally, I’d want the Patek Philippe reference 5970. In the horological world, a Patek Perpetual Chronograph is iconic and a “must have”. It is a true investment-grade item.

What is your favorite brand? What do you appreciate about this specific brand or design?
I love Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Panerai. The history, elegance, technology, craftsmanship and quality of these watches is incredible.

Tell us a personal watch story.
I had read about a specific, rare, limited-edition watch from Panerai that had a unique dial configuration and case layout. It was a sold out collectors item, the Panerai 1936, that I wanted to try to locate, so I called a dealer who I work with at Betteridge. It was a process to locate and he went on an odyssey of sorts to find it for me. I had the patience and he had the contacts and persistence. It took him several years to find it – but he did and it is now one of my favorite pieces.

What is your favorite place to purchase watches?
Betteridge, a multi-generation family business in Greenwich, Conn. They are experts in the business of high-end timepieces.

Daniel

Daniel Boulud

What is the first watch you ever purchased?
At age 12 in France you receive your first watch. Mine was a gold watch made by a French watchmaker in Lyon. I later bought myself a casual watch with a cool design, until I bought a Cartier gold tank rectangular watch with a blue lapis lazuli background.

How did you start collecting watches?
When I was dating my first wife and asked her to marry me, her wealthy aunt gave me an Audemars Piguet extra-plated in rose gold from the 1960s. Then my father-in-law gave me his Omega gold and from that moment I kept buying, trading and sponsoring watchmakers.

Daniel-1

What is your favorite everyday watch?
Panerai Radiomir black seal in ceramic for the kitchen because ceramic is 5x harder than steel.

What is the most prized possession in your collection?
Besides the Audemars Piguet extraplate rose gold from the 1960s that I rarely wear, I love the watch I wear now: a Panerai Radiomir GMT in copper gold with a triple barrel reserve for eight days of charge. As someone who travels a lot between time zones, the GMT arm is very useful. The metallic coppery brown face makes this watch my priciest and sexiest.

If money was no object, what would you want to buy/own?
I’d buy a sporty Richard Mille RM011 Felipe Massa Black Kite Flyback or a dressy limited-series FP Journe Octa Perpetuelle.

What is your favorite brand? What do you appreciate about this specific brand or design?
The ceramic Panerai for everyday wear because I work in a kitchen and the weight and style suits the practicality I need, while still having the elegance I am looking for.

Tell us a personal watch story.
A wonderful client of mine from the Middle East wanted to thank me for the meals he had in my New York and London restaurants, and gave me a Cartier Santos 100XL black and brushed gold as a gift.

What is your favorite place to purchase watches?
In Toronto at Louis Black, the store of Lou Kostopoulos, one of the world’s best experts in fine watches and watch collecting.

Michael Chow

Michael Chow

What is the first watch you ever purchased?
When I was growing up, children didn’t have watches because they were very expensive. However, I was five years old when I acquired my first watch. It didn’t even work. It was one that had been discarded. At the risk of being cliché, I took it apart in the crudest manner.

How did you start collecting watches?
I call myself a born collector. I collect everything — including door hinges — so it was natural for me to collect watches. But within my collecting philosophy, I always narrow it to a specific area. For example, I only collect Russian stamps and tried to be the best of that area. I wanted to be king of watches so I only collect early Cartier watches. Before that, when I was poor, I collected Mickey Mouse watches.

Michael Chow-1

What is your favorite everyday watch?
I never wear a watch everyday – only for photoshoots. Since we live in the age of iPhones, a watch is redundant and somewhat perverted. Don’t put that into print because it doesn’t do the watch industry any good.

What is the most prized possession in your collection?
An old platinum Cartier tank from the 1920s. Since my philosophy is that heavy, difficult and expensive is usually good, this watch certainly qualifies.

If money was no object, what would you want to buy/own?
Since a Patek Philippe Chronograph 1943 Perpetual Chronograph broke the world record and sold for $5.6 Million at Christie’s, I’ll take one of those.

What is your favorite brand? what do you appreciate about this specific brand or design?
Cartier. I’m not a purist, but since they invented the men’s wristwatch in 1904, they can’t be bad.

Tell us a personal watch story.
Once I bought a watch of a man and a woman having sex. From time to time, my friend always used to ask me “What’s the fucking time?”

What is your favorite place to purchase watches?
At auctions. It’s a shortcut for one’s research, and the best and quickest way to learn.

Daniel Humm

Daniel Humm

What is the first watch you ever purchased?
The first watch I ever had was a Swatch. It’s what all of the kids in Switzerland had, and that’s the watch with which I learned how to tell time. But my first real watch was a very simple Blancpain with a black leather strap; it is one of my most prized possessions. I got it when I finally felt as though I was beginning to make it as a chef. I have always thought of it not as a simple possession, but as an heirloom that will be in my family for many generations.

How did you start collecting watches?
I always loved watches—how they could look so simple but have all of these precise moving parts inside, each of which had to be put together perfectly and meticulously in order to work properly. After I got my first one, I realized that it was much more personal than anything else I would ever own.

Daniel Humm-1

What is your favorite everyday watch?
My 50 Fathoms is my favorite everyday watch. It’s super sporty but also elegant, and it’s a diving watch so I can wear it in the kitchen without having to worry about what will happen to it.

What is the most prized possession in your collection?
The 50 Fathoms was given to me by Blancpain to celebrate a few important milestones in my life— my James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef and our three Michelin stars.

If money was no object, what would you want to buy/own?
I’d buy the Blancpain 1735—a watch that looks so simple and elegant, but is actually incredibly complex.

What is your favorite brand? What do you appreciate about this specific brand or design?
Blancpain is amazing because each of their watches is handmade by a single watchmaker in Switzerland from Swiss-made parts. Wearing it makes me feel like I’m holding onto a piece of home.

Tell us a personal watch story.
Since I was a little boy, I’ve admired Blancpain watches. Two of my greatest mentors, my father and Chef Gerard Rabaey, always wore theirs. Also, when I was still living in Switzerland, I would walk by the windows of the famous Bahnhofstrasse watch shops, saying to myself that when I made it, I would buy myself one.

What is your favorite place to purchase watches?
Switzerland. It’s the capital of watchmaking, and getting a watch that was made there makes me feel as though I’m wearing a piece of Switzerland, a piece of home.

Eric Ripert

 

Eric Ripert

What is the first watch you ever purchased?
My first watch was given to me by my father, and it was a Lip – an iconic brand at the time but not necessarily expensive. The first watch I purchased for myself was a Swatch. I also had many as gifts in between, including a Cartier.

How did you start collecting watches?
I didn’t realize I was starting a collection. I started buying watches if I liked them – just like I would buy shoes. It was only when I realized I had a lot that I was a collector!

Eric Ripert-1

What is your favorite everyday watch?
Usually, Vacheron Constantin Overseas for when I’m in the kitchen, but I change watches all the time.

What is the most prized possession in your collection?
A Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Platinum limited series.

If money was no object, what would you want to buy/own?
A Patek Philippe or the Rolex Daytona with the Paul Newman dial.

What is your favorite brand? What do you appreciate about this specific brand or design?
I like a lot of brands, but I have a weakness for Vacheron Constantin. Through a friendship with the brand, I have had access to amazing and unique experiences such as visiting their ultra secret laboratory in Switzerland where the Tour de l’Ile was created – the most expensive and complex watch ever crafted.

Tell us a personal watch story.
When I was starting to get a little bit of attention as a chef, I was traveling with my longtime chef de cuisine (also called Eric). We were in the Atlanta Airport, waiting on a flight, and an older couple kept staring over. Eric kept telling me – “Oh, they recognize you!” I must say, it felt pretty good! The couple then started to walk towards me and as I was thinking of something to say, the man said: “Is that a Vacheron Constantin you are wearing?” He was looking at my watch – and not at me – all along! It was a small lesson in humility.

What is your favorite place to purchase watches?
It’s not the place that drives me, it’s the watch….

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