Driven by time machines

Why are watch guys almost always also car guys?

Interview  Brian M. Afuang  | Photography  G-nie Arambulo

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At first glance there seems nothing extraordinary about this particular Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, especially as it sits beside an A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk and a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme Lab2. Unlike the latter pair of haute horlogerie examples the Royal Oak is a basic time-and-date affair, exactly as it was created almost 50 years ago by the late, great watch designer Gerald Genta. There is something a bit off with this particular piece, but it proves a struggle to figure out what it is.

Its owner, Roberto “Raffy” S. David, thankfully calls out the unique touches: indices and hands finished in subtle rose gold, and—as he turns over the watch—a rotor more intricate than usual. On closer inspection, one recognizes its shape is actually that of Mr. David’s monogram. By any measure, this timepiece is clearly not ordinary (as if the descriptor can be assigned to a Royal Oak in the first place). It tells us much about Mr. David, of his attention to detail and the degree to which he embraces innovation.

It’s this same character that has made Mr. David successful in the Business Process Outsourcing industry. A company he cofounded pioneered in supplying a number of innovative, tech-driven services, allowing it to continue drawing top clients. This March, Mr. David also launched an online automotive performance parts ordering store called partspro.ph. This recent foray is a testament to his entrepreneurial bent and his passion for all things technological and mechanical. Since fine cars and fine timepieces fall in this category, it’s no wonder that Mr. David is a fan of  both. 

Do you see any incongruity between you being engaged in a field heavily involved in technology and your passion for mechanical timepieces?

None at all. Watches are functional art and not just technological showcases, and these make them appealing to me. In fact, many of my friends in the same field are also watch enthusiasts who have deep and diverse collections.

Why are watch guys almost always also car guys?

I have no clue why, but I agree 100% that watch lovers are into cars too, and the other way around.

Regarding favorite things, what is your “grail watch” (or the one watch you most want to have)?

I am just enjoying the journey of collecting without really setting a goal as to what watch I would want the most to have. Even among my present collection I can’t pick one favorite as each has its own purpose and character. They are all my favorites.

Have you already gotten your birth-year watch? What is it?

Yes. I have two, in fact. I was born in May 1972 and I have a nice, correct 1972 Rolex 1665 Sea Dweller and a Seiko 6105 diver. Great thing about Seikos like these is that they state both the year and the month of production.  

Any timepiece you regret having let go?

A Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a. But it went to a very close friend so I guess that’s fine. I sold it to make room for a watch I dearly love—an A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk. 

If you had been born earlier and were already a collector at the time Seiko’s quartz technology was launched, would you have considered it as the work of the devil?

Oh yes! Quartz almost really did spell the end of Swiss watch-making then. Having said that, I just bought a quartz-powered Grand Seiko SBGX 093 in September last year. I set its time to the one kept by a global atomic clock, and as I checked recently, it was still accurate to the second.  

In your opinion, what were the horologic stars at this year’s BaselWorld?

There are too many winners this year to choose from. It’s like the Swiss decided to cheer the world up with so many awesome releases, and all of them put out together in one show.

How do you view independent watchmakers, ranging from the likes of Kari Voutilainen to the guys on Kickstarter?    

I view their small-operation approach as a breath of fresh air in the very predictable watch industry. I like the way they push the boundaries, like with H. Moser & Cie making simple-looking calendar complications, and HYT using fluid to display the time. Another notable brand is Ressence, with its oil-filled case that displays the time via a dial with rotating discs. 

The Watch Snob advice column has repeatedly told people never to buy watches that cost between $1,000 and $5,000. Agree?

I’ll have to violently disagree with him. Grand Seiko and Nomos are clear cases for quality and value in that price range. But, okay, there are also a lot of less impressive watches that fall into that range.