Photography by Andreas Branch
As the saying goes, it’s a small world, and nowhere does that ring true more than in the world of Beverly Hills real estate. The most jaw-dropping properties, which pass from sports icons to actors, executives, royalty and the like, are handled by a small group of realtors who are as powerful as their clients. Jeff Hyland, a founding member of Christie’s International Real Estate and the president and co-founder of Hilton & Hyland, is one such elite Realtor. The son of a Hollywood screenwriter and a successful painter, Hyland grew up in Little Holmby, a prestigious Los Angeles neighborhood filled with homes that ignited in him a love of architecture. Together with Rick Hilton (whose grandfather founded the Hilton Hotel empire), Hyland founded Hilton & Hyland, a real estate brokerage firm, in 1993.
Today, Hilton & Hyland has 100 agents, and makes $2 billion a year—the largest volume of any one brokerage office in the country, perhaps even in the world. In its twenty-one years, the firm has also handled some of LA’s most famous properties, including the sale of Candy Spelling’s $85 million estate to F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, a transaction in which Hilton & Hyland represented both sides.Staggering sales figures aside, Hyland’s mantra remains the same today as it was when he and Hilton founded the firm. “Our philosophy is, it’s really the quality, and not the quantity,” Hyland said. “Rick and I founded the firm ourselves, with no partners. We don’t believe in having partners; you have too many cooks [in the kitchen]. You have people who end up being managers who don’t know the market. Rick and I are out every day, every night with our clients. We know anything and everything—our agents look to us for our expertise that we wouldn’t get if we were hired guns, if we were hired managers running the firm.” That same mantra of quality over quantity also goes for Hyland’s watch collection. While many boast about having more watches than they could ever wear, Hyland has quietly built one of the world’s most carefully curated collections. The real estate mogul was also one of the earliest clients of independent watchmaker Richard Mille, a testament to Hyland’s taste.
Although today you couldn’t part him from his collection, Hyland jokes that left to his own devices, he never would have entered the world of haute horlogerie. “I blame my wife, Lori. It was she who said to me, ‘Why are you wearing that little passé watch? You need to get something that’s impressive.’ It was probably a $300 watch, that had no value if I lost it – I didn’t care, that was the reason I bought it! She came home one day with a Dennison brand watch that was huge. It was like 44mm, and I was shocked. Today, it’s small. It was one of the first large watches. You could actually hear it self-wind.”While that first piece of the collection spends more time in his safe than on his arm these days, it was the spark that Hyland needed. “I really do believe, just like in running my business, that’s it’s the quality and not the quantity. So I don’t have a lot of watches, but what I do have is of the best.”
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