The Collector’s Series: William S. Lerner and his Parmigiani Tonda Centum

This week the Collector series moves to the Big Apple! William S. Lerner is an independent inventor (14 issued US Patents, with a primary focus on light based research, and burn prevention), an owner of Baz Persaud, Inc. Baz Persaud is a New York based jewelry company, that specializes in custom and couture cufflinks, and magnificent jewellery. They are vertically integrated and even re-cut their own diamonds and gemstones. Additionally, they make sophisticated watch based cufflinks for the discerning collector. These cuff links can be the owner’s choice or a historical reference to a particular model, style, or case, and their clients range from the Haute Horlogerie companies to McLaren Automotive. All the jewellery is made by hand, in New York.

William also runs a charity called Billy4Kids. Billy4Kids is a child-centered charity that provides for the basic needs for children all over the world, in the form of shoes for those without them. Additionally, Billy4Kids supports their orphanage partner, St. Philip’s Mission in Swaziland. It was a pleasure sitting down with William to find out why the Parmigiani Centum Retrograde Perpetual was his choice.

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

When did you first get into watches?

When I was 15, I was taken to Tourneau on Madison Avenue in New York, to pick out my birthday present. I left with a Steel Rolex Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet. We then went out for a spectacular lunch around the corner. It was truly the perfect day, and it jump-started my horological obsession. The following year, I was given a gold Patek Philippe, on a gold bracelet, by my step-father, followed by a gold Piaget the next year. I reached the peak of the watch brands (back then, in the 1970’s), and it really liberated me. How? Well in New York, it seemed that everyone wanted a Patek, a Rolex or a Piaget. It obliterated the “if I could only have that” thoughts. It allowed me to move on, and seek out only what I liked. I then focused on brands that were truly “under the radar.” My sights were set on Audemars Piguet! I bought a Jumbo, kept it in pristine condition, and it is now in the private collection of an AP Board Member. I was honored, and the board member approached me!

What drew you to Parmigiani Fleurier as a brand?

I was invited to a dinner, and sat next to a guest who was wearing the Hemispheres in rose gold. I saw the watch for the first time, and actually never heard of the brand prior to that night. I held it, flipped it over, and saw the unique back, and the rest is history. I fell in love with the sexy aesthetics of Parmigiani Fleurier. Their watches have heft, gracious curves and are of the highest quality.

Why the Retrograde Perpetual from Parmigiani?

Practicality!!! I love a watch that tells me the day, date, time, month and moon phase. It sits in the winder and is always ready to be worn. The blue openwork dial is spectacular, and it is a watch that I wear with jeans, as well as with the dressiest of clothes! I made 40.44 carat natural cabachon tanzanite cufflinks to match the dial. I’m the president of a jewellery company after all!

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

Do you have a soft spot for moonphase complications?

Absolutely! For many reasons. I think it is a romantic complication. I grew up on the ocean during the summer, and loved looking at the stars and the moon over the water. From my bedroom window now, I have a perfect view of the moon every night (when the clouds don’t ruin it). It reminds us that we are just specks in the solar system. I am thrilled that many watches now include the Southern Hemisphere. I thought it was undemocratic to only have the Northern Hemisphere. My life now, is all about my charity (Billy4Kids) and erasing stereotypes, and fostering those who may feel or be marginalised. I somehow felt that the Haute Horlogerie watch manufacturers ignored their Southern Hemispheres audience! The Parmigiani Tonda Centum, of course has both.

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

When buying, what is more important to you: Brand/model Heritage? Aesthetic? Accuracy? or Rarity?

I am also an independent inventor and support any individual or company with a unique vision. Heritage can be important, but I am not concerned with it. I focus on what is in front of me, the way it looks (and I now loupe all the movements of potential new purchases). Accuracy is fairly standardized now. The COSC deviation is, in my opinion, sluggish compared to what many new watch rates attain. There are so many factors that affect rate, from amplitude, magnetism, or being properly or improperly calibrated by the manufacturers. I was thinking of buying a new ultra-luxury brand’s watch. I got two of the same models in different metals. The rates were good for one of them, and abysmal for the other. Rarity is a fantastic bonus in every possible way, shape and form. I try to choose rare watches, to fly under the radar, and from a comforting perspective, it never “ages” your collection. If you have 1 of 250 ever made from a decade ago, there is no slightly upgraded equivalent. You are immune from “oh, that was last year’s model”. And, who doesn’t want something no one else can have?

Can you tell us more about the movement in this Centum Retrograde Perpetual?

I can tell you that most importantly it is not ”modular”. It was designed to be the watch it is, without the bits being added later. I respect that. If you loupe the movement, it is just magnificently finished. They nailed it!

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

What is the case material?

White gold, with white rhodium plating. I don’t like the rhodium plating. Why? Well, it is a bit of a cop out. White gold can be a beautiful metal, when you have the right supplies, and craftsmen to make your cases. The plating, hides all the flaws, and makes most white gold watches all look alike. Patek does not plate their watches, nor does my company, Baz Persaud, plate any white gold items.

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

How important is the case material for you?

Very! I am on a Platinum tear these days. I love the weight, and the fact that if you scratch a gold watch, you loose metal, but if the same happens to Platinum it just displaces. Genius! White gold cases are second choice, followed by rose gold ones.

How much wrist time does this piece get?

The Parmigiani Tonda Centum is my daily watch, when I am going out socially or for business. It is always wound, and gives me all the information I want from a watch, barring an alarm (which my other “daily” watch has).

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

This Parmigiani has a mesmerizing openwork dial, does it draw many questions when out and about?

Great question, and you will be surprised by my answer. I certainly was. I thought I would have to beat watch lovers off my wrist with a stick! Well, it pretty much goes unnoticed. My cufflinks steal the show. The savvy watch guys and ladies notice it, but not instantly…

For what sort of day/event do you find yourself strapping it on?

When I leave the house, and feel like I want to look good for myself and others.

Do you tend to research the market before making a purchase?

Oh my goodness…YES! I am an inventor, and research is my life. It used to be so easy, because we did not have all of the web resources, a highly visible, and vocal collector and enthusiast community, and so many great new brands. They are sprouting like weeds. I think Watchville has a great app for your mobile. It gives you just enough information for your “daily dose” of keeping up with the market. They cull the articles from many other blogs. I have always chosen a potential watch and go right to the brand’s master watchmakers. They know if a watch will more problematic or easier to maintain and service.

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

Do you listen to the advice of anyone before making a purchase?

Only if they have had a horrible experience with the brand, but I take that at face value. I have a collector friend, who probably sleep walks and tosses his watches on the ceiling. He is always having issues! It is hard to blame a manufacturer for an abusive owner’s issues. My watch tastes fall into three categories, much like my life! There is the boring, restrained side, but the sides that really dominate are quite funny, and polarizing. I always say that: “I am half Nascar, and half Las Vegas Showgirl.” A typical Saturday consists of working on my cars (I am a really good mechanic!), and then going from the garage (sometimes covered in electrical tape and grease) to being really fancy, and covered in incredible bespoke clothing and platinum goodies. I often wear my Parmigiani Bugatti Atalante, with a Diamond bezel, and Diamond inner Chronograph Bezel. I always wear my platinum skull with Diamond eyes. I like being provocative! How do you give advice to someone who has such wacky tastes!

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

Is the joy of wearing a watch more important to you than considering resale value?

I never consider resale (unless it is a Patek or a Rolex which are notoriously fantastic value holders). I buy what I like, and so should every collector, who is really passionate. If not, then you are really a watch dealer! The heart wants what the heart wants. You have to buy what you love, and what you will wear.

What (if anything) have you got your eye on next?

Perfect timing, Justin! A good friend blindsided me yesterday. How? by showing me a specific watch from a brand, I really never paid attention to yesterday. I thought all their watches were too ”Star Trek” for my tastes. Wow, was I wrong! He sent me the link to the DB16 Perpetual Calendar with a Salmon dial.Yikes! It is rare to see a watch, that renders you speechless for a moment. It was love at first sight, and it rekindled all the boyish wonder in me, concerning my love of horology. That is the joy of a true collector. That ”must have” moment, that stays with you, until you finally get what your heart wants! The watch (as well as the whole DB 25 Series) is spectacular, and, in my opinion, classical, but oh so space age modern, concerning the design of the movement, and finishing details in the back of the case. As an inventor, I come alive upon seeing things I have never seen before, and admire all things engineered in a forward thinking way. I have a watch based patent, which uses the automatically winding watch as the base for the patent, and it looks nothing like this movement. Bravo, De Bethune!

De Bethune DB16
De Bethune DB16

Can a collector ever be fully satisfied with his/her collection?

I love my collection, but am always looking. I get fidgety and have sold many items from my collection over the years. I never regret parting with a watch, because there is always another. I guess the collector who associates events with their collection, or has treasured gifts, could be satisfied. And, conversely, many who could amass large collections, simply find the perfect watch, and stop. I think that is fantastic! My mother has been wearing her AP Royal Oak, over sized, automatic, since she bought it in 1976.

Other than Parmigiani, which brands do you think are doing interesting work out there?

There are so many brands that are really incredible, that many don’t know about. Andreas Strehler is one of them. His work is incredible and he has designed private label for some brands. Bovet makes some beautiful, emotionally appealing watches, Romain Gauthier, and Breguet.

Breguet???

Well, I have always been rooting for them. They never got the recognition they should have. Bravo, to the young Mr. Hayek for pushing forward and bringing the brand to where it should be. Abraham Louis did ”invent” the first wristwatch in 1812 for Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, and the tourbillon. I always root for the inventor!

Parmigiani Tonda Centum

What piece of advice would you give to someone considering starting a collection?

Don’t listen to anyone! Buy what you love and what you can afford, concerning the first few watches. Too much research, and rationalization can kill the passion, which is the whole goal of being a happy collector. Your collection should not be watches other’s think you should have. They should be what makes you smile and warm your heart when you see them.

When collecting do you think its important to stick to a brand or a category (ie.Patek, IWC / aviation, dive pieces?)

No, again buy what you like. As you acquire a well rounded collection, you will probably have different categories. I do! I love fancy platinum and diamond watches, steel chronographs, perpetual calendars and dive watches. I have a dive watch that horrifies everyone! I had to have it once I saw the book! It was on the brand ambassador, Roman Frischknecht. I just wanted to die and be reborn as him, in the photo, wearing his diving suit, next to his diving bell. So, I did the next best thing. I bought the exact watch on his wrist! The 51 mm Oris Prodiver Chronograph (the older version with the wavy dial and pointy fang indices). Sometimes advertising is very forceful! And, back to the inventor issues again… the rotational, locking safety bezel is brilliant. You pull it up, turn it and lock it in place. It might have saved many a diver who might have moved their bezel by accident!

Oris Prodiver Chronograph
Roman Frischknecht wearing the Oris Prodiver Chronograph

Is this Parmigiani a keeper or can you see it leaving your collection one day?

Hilarious timing! A buddy of mine who is in Dubai, wants the Centum! I have found that it is much more popular outside of the USA. Another buddy just bought one in Mykonos, even though he lives in Colombia. I think the low key appeal is important in some markets. It also does not stand out, in a corporate work environment, which is a plus. I really enjoy thinking about my next watch, and can only own so many, so it will probably go at some point.

After discovering the De Bethune’s more classical collections, I can safely say that there will be a De Bethune in the near future. And, thank you for making me even more passionate about being a watch collector, De Bethune. Every day brings the renewed possibility to fall in love again. And, what could be better?

Baz Persaud watch cuff links
Baz Persaud watch cuff links

Find out more about the Baz Persaud hand-made cuff links on their website.

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