Forget about the hype, go your own way… Look beyond the mainstream, seek new brands, look for the unusual and go for what you truly love! This is how you could summarize this new instalment of our collector’s interviews. Today we meet with Scott (29), a collector from Seattle, Washington in the USA. And he has a love for unusual, weird watches, preferably from brands that are not made the usual suspects. The model he highlights in today’s Collector’s Series is a Behrens B023, a brand he had never even heard of before a few months ago! It was the combination of design and intricate mechanics that made him fall for the brand. The reasonable pricing was a plus.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Do you remember where and when you first came across this brand?
Scott – A few months ago I was scrolling through random watch articles at home (as you do) and I somehow came across the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie’s site. All the usual suspects were there, brands like Bovet, Armin Strom, Parmigiani, H. Moser & Cie, AP, MB&F; brands I only dream of owning. But one of the watches there caught my eye: a brand I’d never heard of called “Behrens”, with a rather unique complication based on a rotary engine. Some google digging led to a single video from Watches TV doing a short unboxing and I was totally hooked with their design ideas. Fully expecting a Grand Prix finalist to be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, imagine my surprise then when I found out they were sitting comfortably around $2-4k.
What is it you admire in this brand in general (if you do)?
I am a big sucker for weird/unusual watches. I’m also a huge fan of Urwerk, in particular the sort of odd methods of telling time in combination with the futuristic look of their timepieces. I love the bright green hand markers and the complete avoidance of any traditional watchmaking paradigms in their pieces. Behrens fits that for me as well; they don’t really do any “normal” watches. There are a few other relatively affordable brands that do quirky watches, but I always feel like there’s sort of superficiality to the way they implement it; there are brands that sort of just mess with the dial but keep a normal, 1-cycle-per-twelve-hours hour hand and normal minute hand with some general quirkiness to the way it reads out on the dial. These are interesting and have their own merits, but I appreciate the fact that Behrens is adding a complete complication on top of the movement to abstract the way the time reads out. In this particular watch, there’s a reducing gear in the main geartrain (the main dial makes one complete rotation every three hours meaning the overall movement has to be reduced by 66%), and the Geneva gear on top of this is an additional complication that allows the sapphire plates to swap out the correct hour marker as it passes around the bottom of the dial. I also adore skeletonized movements and the exposed date wheel and bits and pieces of the movement are mesmerizing to look at, to boot. So this really checks all the boxes of what I’m looking for in a watch.
So you like ‘weird’ complications…
One of the first pieces I ever came across when I initially became interested in watches was the original Urwerk 202 Hammerhead. I distinctly remember sitting in a Borders Bookstore (when that store was still a thing) in around 2006 or so on a rainy day and I was flipping through a watch catalogue, and saw this totally alien-looking contraption and thought, “That is the coolest thing I have ever seen.” Ever since that time, wandering hours complications to me have been synonymous with high-asking-price watches, but I’ve always pined for one. Since then, my tastes have become even more eclectic; I have a few “traditional watches” (in comparison to this thing) but I still have a soft spot for the weird and quirky watches and am probably happier wearing them than I am the normal watches, and by extension, my collection has more of these weird watches than the traditional ones.
When did you buy it, and where?
I bought this from the only manufacturer-authorized dealer on Chrono24, in September of this year.
What have you learned about this watch, because you must have done some homework first?
Behrens has a number of other watches with odd time-telling functions (including one which has an accurate perpetual calendar for both Earth and Mars time adjacent to one another…. that one was certainly tempting), as well as some very unique ways of displaying wandering hours, though this one just sort of spoke to me in terms of dial intricacy and overall design language. The watch has the nickname/moniker “The Da Vinci Code” from the manufacturer, owing to the rather unique design on the dial which takes its inspiration from the Notre Dame cathedral’s stained glass window design.
The technicality of the movement, the overall appearance and intricacy of the dial, and the very clear homage to Urwerk’s design language are all factors that drove me to this piece. The Rotary watch by the same company was also a strong contender and draws very closely from the Urwerk + MB&F Nitro C3H5N3O9 collaboration which is another beautiful piece. All in all the B023 won out just based on preference, no other deeper meaning. I just liked it more.
Does your watch get a lot of wrist time?
This watch probably gets the most wrist time of any watch I own at the moment. I’m still sort of obsessed with looking at it and truth be told most of the times I glance at it, I come away having not even registered what time it was; I’m usually just staring at the dial. I spend most of my time in the hospital or in the OR, so on those days it’s either a smartwatch or something simple on a NATO), but basically any clinic day this gets the most wrist time, at least at the moment.
That must lead to some funny reactions…
A few of the people I work with have commented on how it’s one of the craziest looking watches they’ve ever seen, which is always fun. There’s an understatedness to classic watches that sometimes doesn’t attract much attention to anyone who doesn’t expressly know what they’re looking for or at (a Patek Nautilus is a classic and gorgeous design, but will likely elicit little to no reaction from someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking at). The opposite is sort of true with this watch; the fewer people know, the more they’re interested in the unorthodox dial and unconventional way of displaying the time.
Do you care to tell us what you paid for the watch?
I paid $4,000 for the watch, which all things considered is a pretty screaming deal for any complication, and a far cry from the asking price of even the most affordable Urwerks, which I’d consider my grail at this point.
The process of buying from the dealer on Chrono24 was an absolute treat, by the way. If anyone is looking to pick this up, I believe there’s essentially only one dealer who sells it on Chrono, and the entire process was remarkably reassuring. Photos of the entire process, instant communication even though we were on opposite ends of the globe, and thorough follow-up were there the whole time. In fairness, it was a lot of money to drop on an unknown brand but the process of actually buying it was deeply reassuring and made me happy I supported the brand. I would happily buy from them again and might wind up picking up another Behrens at some point in the future.
Ah? Have you seen another model that interests you? Why?
Their Mars/Earth perpetual calendar is really enticing. I really sort of like the idea that at some point in the future when we finally colonize Mars, someone will find that piece in a drawer somewhere and it’ll wind up in a museum. Konstantin Chaykin also did a Mars watch with a tourbillon for OnlyWatch this year which is also gorgeous but it’s not a dual timer like the Behrens. However it is a crazy, weird gadget that’s just awesome for the sake of being awesome. Totally useless on Earth. I love that; it sort of hammers home the point to me that one of the last reasons any of us really even wear a watch is to tell the time.
How would you describe your watch collection so far?
It’s a very eclectic mix of whatever I find visually appealing, and I don’t really find that price dictates my enjoyment of any particular watch. I do appreciate haute horology and the stunning amount of craftsmanship that goes into some of the higher-end watches, but basic dials tend to bore me a bit. I love chronographs and the complexity of their associated movements, but a well-laid-out dial is just as appealing to me as is the fine finishing that goes into some of the more expensive pieces I have.
To that end, I have a Daytona 116500LN on a white rubber strap (gorgeous contrast) and an Omega Seamaster 18.104.22.168.01.001 on titanium mesh (both of which I was lucky to obtain shockingly close to MSRP), in the same watch box that I have a Fossil ME1122 and a Sternglas, and all of those get around the same amount of wrist time because I find them all equally interesting. I have a few other nifty microbrand watches as well; Vario, Boldr, Farer. Overall I’ve kept most of the watches I’ve ever purchased.
Are there any more watches you would like to buy? Which ones, and when?
I have not yet been able to bring myself to spend Urwerk money on a watch but the UR100V is deeply tempting me. This is likely going to be my next “big” watch, but I’m not sure yet when I’ll take the plunge. No huge purchases currently on the horizon.
Which brands do you think are doing interesting work out there?
I’m infatuated with the collaboration pieces between De Bethune and Voutilainen, particularly the Kind of Magic made for OnlyWatch. Another brand I’ve seen that seemed to fly under the radar is Vanguart with the astonishingly complex Black Hole Tourbillon. The Vianney Halter Deep Space Resonance is another one I find extremely interesting; you probably start to see a pattern. I love seeing the machinery work, and I love brands that put it at the forefront of the timepiece. On a slightly more affordable note, Trilobe is another brand that has been doing some very interesting things at reasonable prices (especially for a completely custom micro-rotor movement) and is one I might find myself picking up in the not too distant future. Last mention: Ming is also a gorgeous brand that everyone seems to love as well, however, the artificial scarcity and overall sales model of their watches have unfortunately been a huge turn off to me.
Can you give tips to other collectors who want the watch you possess?
Realistically, I’m not sure I see the Behrens as an investment piece that’s going to increase tremendously in value over the years. But that’s not why you should buy it; you buy these pieces because they’re fantastic little nuggets of watchmaking, they bring you joy, and they’re fascinating to look at. For someone looking at getting into off-beat watchmaking (ha!), I don’t really think you can beat Behrens for an unusual, gadget-centric mechanism at this price point.
Do you have general tips for people who want to start collecting watches?
Start somewhere! Just look for the things you like and you think you’ll stick with. I found my niche in weird, eclectic watches and that’s been where I’ve stayed for the most part. With very few exceptions, I still have every watch I’ve ever owned. My first watch was a $15 Target brand “Mossimo” watch with a blue dial when I was like six years old. Still have it in my watch box next to my desk. Try not to let the pretence and expense of fine watchmaking get to you; there are plenty of brands doing amazing, innovative work that doesn’t require a second mortgage to get into.
Are you in touch with other collectors?
I am not really in touch with other collectors save for a few people I’ve met on Reddit who also purchased Behrens’ watches, and this very small community seems to be the people I’ve interacted with who are most interested in what they’ve acquired, mores so than a majority of the people on the Rolex forums who seemed more interested in the status afforded to them by an expensive watch over the love of the craftsmanship. This is a somewhat cynical and perhaps “reverse-pretentious” viewpoint, I realize; everyone has their own motivations for why they’re interested in watches and watchmaking, and truthfully all are just as viable as the next. But I find that those that are more interested in the craftsmanship or gadgetry aspects of watches, tend to have tastes and interests that align more with my own, and thus that’s the crowd I gravitate toward.
Thanks Scott for this insight into your collector’s mind
I’m very happy to have been given the opportunity to share this really cool contraption with you guys, and to bring some awareness to an otherwise quite underappreciated brand. Selfishly I’m hoping this gives them a bit of a boost and they keep making more interesting watches so I can continue to fund an unhealthily expensive hobby.
For more details about the brand, please visit ww.behrens2012.com.