Hip hop superstar, chart-topping producer, composer, painter, record executive, philanthropist. You name it, and chances are, Swizz Beatz has mastered it – including watch collector. A giant in his industry, Swizz Beatz has not only one of the most diverse and well-respected careers, but one of the most diverse and well-respected haute horlogerie collections. From his love of complications to the timepiece he’ll pass on to his children and highlights from his personal watch collection, Swizz Beatz shares his horological journey in his own words.
The art of time is just that – art. If you really think about the significance of a watch, it’s the reason why you make a meeting, or you don’t make it. It’s the reason why you’ll be there to make history, or you don’t make history. As far as the artform, it’s all about the watchmakers. These technicians, it’s almost like scientists – when you go to the lab you see them with their lab coats on, and it’s almost like a dissection of mechanical movements. For me it’s the art of the mechanical movements inside these watches, which I would say is no different than a masterpiece painting on a wall, except it’s encapsulated inside the watch and you’re seeing it through the crystal back.
My taste in watches has evolved a lot. I remember when people were cool with the Rolex Submariners, and people were icing out G-Shocks. I’ve been privileged to work with Audemars Piguet – I was able to get a front row seat in watchmaking, and dissect a watch myself, so I could really understand what I’m wearing on my arm, the importance of the movements, whether it’s automatic, the difference of a tourbillon…I learned it all firsthand. I actually took the time to go out and do that, which most people wouldn’t; they just want to wear a cool watch because someone says it’s cool. I also had the opportunity to go to the Hublot factory and do the same thing, and had one-on-one conversations with my good friend Richard Mille, who’s a legend in pushing the envelope.
Patek Philippe is out there, Ulysse Nardin, Richard Mille, IWC…there are so many other great brands out there. Why have five of the same exact watches when you can have five different watches, that show you’re a tastemaker, that show you’re ahead of the curve, that show you’re into watch collecting.
My first Richard Mille was the Le Mans Classic. That really got me into the Richard Mille world. And it shows that it’s my first because it has diamonds on it. It’s the cheapest Richard Mille that I have, but it looks the most expensive. That was my entry into taking it to the next level – graduating from the brands that we name and mention all day and every day to a Richard Mille. I love the shape, and I love that nobody really has it. This limited edition Le Mans model has a special significance for me, because it introduced me to a whole different world.
I also have number 8 of 30 Richard Mille RM011 Felipe Massa Grand Prix Brazil, which features the first chocolate face that I’ve seen – chocolate face, chocolate band. I really like that watch because all the Richard Mille watches I’d seen were stainless steel or all black, and I haven’t seen anybody with a chocolate Richard Mille. To have a chocolate Richard Mille which is also a limited edition – Richard Mille is a global company, and to be number 8 out of 30 in the entire world of billions of people, is pretty cool. I think if you’re going to collect watches on this level, a lot of them should be limited edition, so you really know you have something special.
I have an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph that was a gift from a great friend. I took a time out from Audemars because so many people were duplicating it on the market, and it was taking away from what I saw Audemars to be. My first Audemars was actually all diamonds, and it was my most expensive watch at that time. I’m on the cover of DUB magazine wearing it, with braids in my hair. Nobody knew what an Audemars was at that time. I can probably comfortably say I was the first person in my industry with an all-diamond Audemars from Audemars. That was probably twelve or thirteen years ago. The DUB magazine cover proves it!
The Ulysse Nardin Dual Time is me being diverse in my portfolio. I thought the watch was clean and Ulysse Nardin is a great brand. This is an everyday piece you can wear with your sweatsuit, or wear to a formal dinner.
Aside from the Portuguese, the Big Pilot’s Watch is what caught my attention at IWC, because of the dial; you have something that can display diamonds. This is one of my earlier ones. Being that I’m in the music business, and I’m on stage a lot, I have a couple of showpieces where diamonds just look good for the occasion. I wouldn’t wear this to a meeting – I wear this when I’m in artist mode.
Franck Muller has been around for a long time, and the elegance of a Franck Muller varies from design to design. They were the first ones testing the shape of the cases, and doing different things. They actually started the big face movement, if you ask me. This 7008 Tourbillon was actually their first circle tourbillon, and the number on this is number 2, which means number 1. I got this for my 30th birthday, with a note from Franck Muller in honor of this first round tourbillon. I happen to have number 1, platinum. It says number 2, but number 2 means number 1 because they keep number 1 in the archive. As you see, there’s no number after it – it’s not number 2 of x, y and z. That’s showtime.
I would call this Nautilus Reference 5712R from Patek Philippe the Rolls Royce of watches, the crème de la crème. Patek Philippe has been known, year after year, for creating timeless pieces. Any one of their watches, even their lowest priced watch, is a timeless piece. This is like having a gold bar in your safe. This was my 35th birthday gift, compliments of my wife [Alicia Keys]. She has great taste, with the chocolate dial, the crocodile band and the rose gold case. This is something that you pass down to your kids – this is something that I can wear now, this is something I can wear when I’m 80. That’s the true definition of a timeless piece.
I’ve got to compliment the evolution of Hublot, taking over an entire culture, and now taking over the entire world with their innovation. I just love the way the company is run – they have great leaders, a great founder, and to actually be in a partnership with them through technology [on the Inspiration™ Hublot by Monster headphones] is a pretty cool thing. Their technology in just the watchmaking world alone – if you look at the Classic Fusion Skeleton Tourbillon, it’s way different from where they started. They came out with the rubber band, the rose gold and black. That was the benchmark. Now in 2013, they’ve taken the mechanics of their watches to another level. This is just one of a bunch of new designs they have coming out, and this is also limited. This is number 27 out of 99. There’s not even a hundred of these.
My Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Carbon Concept is like a Basquiat piece, if you were collecting art, for the watch world. This piece has a tourbillon movement, but the entire watch is made out of carbon fiber, which makes it one of the lightest Audemars Piguet watches you can get and makes it very comfortable on your wrist. When I was at the factory in Switzerland, I got to see how this watch was made. I actually got this watch, with the sketches of the drawings, personally delivered to me at the Audemars factory with Olivier Audemars. I think I was also the first artist in my industry with this watch. Now Jay Z and Pharrell have this watch.
I’ve been a student of all of these brands for a long time. I actually have a great concept for a collaboration, and my goal is to make that happen, because it would be groundbreaking. Collaboration is a big thing in this industry. My thing is, don’t collaborate with someone and do the same thing they’ve been doing. Collaborate and do something different. Jay collaborated with Hublot and he’s doing something different. Pharrell collaborated with Moncler, he’s doing something different. He could have done a clothing line, but instead he did sunglasses with them, which I think is super innovative. Just do different things. So if I have a watch idea, just know it’s going to be groundbreaking and different. Or else I’d rather just wear what I have.
For more on Swizz Beatz and a close up look at more watches from his personal collection, check out our new video series Haute Collector.
Swizz Beatz was shot on location at the Classic Car Club in SoHo, 250 Hudson Street, NY 10013. For more information call 212.229.2402 or visit their website.