From Collecting to Career.
“I suppose I’ve always been interested in watches,” says William Massena. “ I started on my own collecting path early in life. I grew up in Switzerland, so they were everywhere, of course.”
A former investment banker known throughout his adopted home of New York and internationally for his wide-ranging watch collection and his impish personality, Massena is one of those lucky few who have made a career out of a hobby. His earnest interest in watches led him to become an expert whose knowledge remains in high demand.
“I discovered Time Zone, where I’ve worked for years as a moderator and director, because years ago it was the only place on the internet to share information about watches. Back then when you typed “Rolex” into Altavista, an early precursor to Google and Yahoo, Time Zone was the first page that came up.”
Over the years Massena has worked for various auction houses, where his substantial knowledge of horology and its history have been put to good use. For a time he even ran Antiquorum, the auction house devoted solely to fine watches. That position brought him back to his birth country, but after years in the Big Apple he found that Geneva was no longer to his taste, and he returned to the States.
Massena’s reputation among watch insiders derives mainly from his long career at Time Zone, the internet forum where he is currently managing director. In that capacity, he travels annually to Baselworld where he meets with brands to view the latest novelties and cover the industry. Over the years Massena witnessed the conservative Swiss watch industry gradually change its view of the internet as a medium for publicizing its wares.
“When we first went to Basel, many of the brands turned up their noses at us,” says Massena. “To the Swiss in the ’90s, the internet was basically synonymous with porn; only a few of the more daring executives understood that we were in fact enthusiastic customers and collectors who had found a tool to teach each other about their products.”
Massena’s first watch, a timepiece still in his collection, is a vintage Omega given to him by his mother when he was only about six years old. It was on that watch that he learned to tell the time and gained a lifelong interest in timekeeping. He began collecting watches immediately after receiving his first paycheck. Because he started buying up watches so early, before the market for collectible watches was quite so mature, Massena has seen prices rise to levels unforeseeable when he was in his twenties.
“It’s too bad in a way, because it used to be that the guy who had the most enthusiasm and the most knowledge got the watch. Now it’s almost always the guy with the most money. Some of the prices are crazy.”
Different types of watches have held Massena’s interest over the years. Vintage Rolex and Patek Philippe have held prominent positions in his watch drawer, and many of the best of these remain in his collection. These days, though, Massena says he is most interested in vintage military watches and independent watchmakers. Particularly the latter, because there always remains the chance to discover new talent, transporting him back to the early days of collecting, when it was all new and exciting.