Most serious watch collectors stick to a particular theme. They may only collect vintage watches, or tourbillons, or minute repeaters, or only divers watches. At the very least, they may specialise only in luxury watches above a certain value. This is why my meeting with Dr Haruhisa Handa was all the more surprising. His collection is driven simply by what he likes and what resonates with him, regardless of what it costs. This might explain why, on his trip to Zermatt earlier this year, he purchased both the Tissot T-Touch model and the Hublot Big Bang limited edition that feature the Matterhorn on them. But it also explains why he is the first Japanese to own the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater and the only Japanese to own the Maitres du Temps Chapter 1, one of only 11 watches produced, which costs 800,000 US dollars.
So what exactly motivates this relatively new watch collector, who has spent 12 million US dollars on watches in just six months?
What attracted you to the world of mechanical watches?
Everyone knows that the precision of a quartz watch far surpasses that of a mechanical watch, but what attracts me to the mechanical watch is its fragility. You have to take care of them and look after them. My poetic mind draws me to the beauty of the craftsmanship.
How long have you been collecting watches for? How many watches do you have in your collection?
I have only been collecting for six months but I already have over 100 watches in my collection. I have spent around 12 million US dollars.
Dr. Haruhisa Handa and Paul O’Neil © Samuel Rubio
How do you choose a watch for your collection?
A watch has to touch my heart and it has to be authentic. Take the Charming Bird by Jaquet Droz, for example, which has no connection with time. I love the automaton. I also love the delicate movement of the minute hand on the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon. These are the kind of original features that appeal to me.
How do you find out about new watches?
I have a very good relationship with the biggest retailers in all the major Japanese cities. I meet them in my office and they obviously like to sell the more expensive watches, so they are always carrying tourbillons.
Many watch collectors stick to a particular theme, but you don’t. Why is that?
I buy what I like and the price is not usually a consideration, but in the case of a brand like Longines, for example, I do appreciate the value for money. I don’t stick to particular categories or brands. I do like the signature models of some of the major brands, such as the Patek Philippe Calatrava and Nautilus models. When I first enquired about buying a Patek Philippe Nautilus in Japan I was told that I would have to wait eight years because they have such a huge waiting list.
Personally, I wasn’t a massive fan of the glossy leather included in the first run and texture that the gold plated centre links with polished edges on the bracelet match the watch better. The bead studded polished case measures in at 39mm with a slim 8.4millimeter thickness, carries a .65 carat weight, and includes a sapphire caseback (we will post images as they become available) — displaying the Côtes de Genève decorated PF702 in-house movement. Of both watches, I feel that the ideal addition to the Parmigiani Fleurier portfolio would be the Tonda Métropolitaine Selene. The Métropolitaine line is expansive, filled mostly with guilloche heavy or mother-of-pearl dials and Parmigiani Fleurier has done an excellent job of advertising them towards girls. That explains the reason why I was amazed when looking back and recognizing that there wasn’t a “Galaxy” dial included before now. When the Tonda 1950 Galaxy set was published, a consistent criticism was that it looked feminine.The polished stainless steel case measures in at 33.1mm with an 8.6mm thickness — large enough to love the dialup, but small enough to maintain maximum classiness. The bezel includes 72 diamonds making a entire carat weight of .496 (tripping many OCD tendencies). Featuring a 50-hour power reserve, the PF310 movement uses a recessed 60-second sub-dial at 6 o’clock and a date window centered inside of it.
Do you wear all the watches in your collection?
Yes, I try my best to wear as many of them as possible. I’m trying to be the Japanese Hayek, because he used to wear three watches on each wrist. If I had more hands I could wear them all [laughs].
How do you choose which watch you will wear each day?
If was wearing a kimono, for example, I would go for the Blancpain automatic tourbillon with the white dial on the left wrist and the Parmigiani Tourbillon with black jade dial on the right wrist. I like to have a balance, so I would wear the black and white ceramic versions of the same Chanel J12. If I had a challenging day ahead of me I would choose the Roger Dubuis tourbillon in titanium or an Audemars Piguet tourbillon – something powerful. When I wear something like that I feel like the king of watches.
In addition to watches you are also very passionate about opera. Does this make you more appreciative of the minute repeaters in your collection?
As well as being an opera singer I am also a painter, so I always look at things from an artistic point of view. I like to see the inner beauty of the watch, so for example I like the Piaget Altiplano skeleton model.
How important is innovation to you in a watch?
I have no philosophy other than wanting to buy something exciting. An expensive watch may not necessarily be good and a cheap watch may not necessarily be bad. It’s more important to me how I feel when I wear the watch. It needs to make me happy.