Once Upon a Time

By Stephen Watson

A Man & His Watch

“Wait. You want to talk about my watch? Of course I want to tell you about my watch,” says author Matt Hranek about the fascinating subjects covered in his first book, A Man & His Watch. As a photographer and director, and the men’s style editor at Condé Nast Traveler, Mr. Hranek is in the fortunate position of exploring the most glamorous places in the world in search of great stories.

(Don’t take my word for it, just check out his enviable Campari-fueled world travels at @wmbrownproject on Instagram.)

Bouncing back and forth between homes in Brooklyn, upstate New York, and Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc, Hranek can attest to just how compelling and varied these stories can be. And as an obsessive watch lover, his jet-setting lifestyle has allowed him to cross paths with men of exceptional taste and style, and to take note of watches that hold enormous emotional power.

“For me, this book is so much driven by—first—stories. That was the sell that attracted [the publisher] Artisan. They were like, ‘We don’t want to do a watch book,’ and I was like ‘Well I don’t want to do a watch book either. I want to do a storybook.’”
– Matt Hranek

The 7″ x 11″ slipcased hardback is arranged by collector/owner, each page featuring a single watch that runs the gamut from a super-rare Patek Philippe to the more humble plastic Swatch, paired with the revealing personal stories alongside.

“If you’re a watch guy, you want to tell the story behind it. Once the floodgates opened, of course, we had great brands like Cartier and Tudor and Omega that were very, very, very generous with their archives—and that was a real privilege,” Hranek says. “This world is very much about a very trusting fraternity of people.”

Hranek also reveals an amazing story of trust regarding one of the many highlights in the book, that of Sylvester Stallone’s most prized wristwatch, a gold Tiffany & Co. Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680.

“His assistant calls me and says, ‘Sly wants to send you a watch to be photographed for your book. Where does it need to go?’ “We had a mutual friend who helped with an introduction, but Stallone sends one of his most prized possessions, a Rolex that he bought with money after he won the Oscar for Rocky, and ships it in a FedEx box. Who the hell does that?”

Another major highlight, hidden beneath a slipcase cover, is a Rolex “Big Red” Daytona Ref. 6263 once owned by legendary actor and philanthropist Paul Newman. (“Big Red” refers to the large red “Daytona” printed on the dial). Now owned, and still worn, by his daughter Clea, the incredibly valuable watch arrives on the scene at a fortuitous moment, with enormous attention being paid to the Paul Newman watch that sold at auction for an incredible $17.8 million in October. A collectors dream, or “holy grail” watch, to Clea, the incalculable sentimental value renders the monetary value inconsequential. This legendary watch, and story behind it, was the primary reason for Hranek putting the book together.

“I had met Claire Newman because I was donating my photographic time through a friend who was on the board for the SeriousFun Children’s Network charity. I called her out of the blue, and it took a couple of months of random phone calls to convince her to let me shoot the watch. Then one day she said, “Well you should just come to Connecticut tomorrow.”

Hranek describes rushing out to the scene with the photographer Stephen Lewis: “She takes the watch off her wrist and hands it to me, and I’m just like ‘his DNA is still on the watch!’ Then we shot it, and I was like “Okay, Steve. Now the book begins.’”

A Man & His Watch by Matt Hranek, published by Artisan; $35, amazon.com