Stephen Silver

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For many years, jewelry industry veteran Stephen Silver refused to consider watches in his various business ventures, including a retail jewelry store.

“I avoided the watch business like the plague in my estate jewelry business and my retail business,” Silver remembers. “I thought there was not much profit to be made and it was a real risk.”

Then, his son, who works in the business, convinced him that special watches were worth looking into, and once he did, he was hooked. “Based upon the number of watches I’ve accumulated in the past year, I am a watch collector,” Silver admits. “I have bought into collecting fine watches big time. I am a car enthusiast and I have always been attracted to the mechanics of the cars I’ve owned. I was amazed by how interconnected the two products are. Once I got in front of people who were designing watches, guys like Max Büsser, Laurent Ferrier and others, and started talking with them about complications, I realized that this type of mechanical technology is so similar to high-end automobiles. The idea that we could collect the rare pieces was exciting.”

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Silver currently wears a MB&F Legacy Machine in platinum. “I am totally enamored with this watch,” he says. “Max (Büsser) was kind enough to let me buy the last number in the platinum edition. I bought one for the store and one for myself. My next purchase is probably going to be a daily wear Audemars Piguet. It’s either that or a Richard Mille.”

Silver wears his watches and doesn’t see much point in leaving them in a safe. “If you don’t wear them, what’s the point of owning them?” he asks. “Same thing with the cars, I drive them.”

As for advice for budding collectors, Silver recommends working with people you trust. “First thing, align yourself with someone that you trust in the industry, someone you connect with,” he advises. “You can’t know everything, so it’s important to work with people who have a broad knowledge base. Start slowly, build slowly, and build on the basis of what you like, not what is sold to you as rare and important. You have to trust the person you are dealing with”

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About a year ago, Silver expanded his business with a luxury watch store in the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park (CA). “We have entry-level brands, medium-priced brands and very expensive brands,” he details. “There is a very strong quality statement and there is an innovation aspect because we are in a high-tech area. Our customers are always looking to challenge themselves and the product

“We listen to our clients,” Silver adds. “A few of the brands we carry today were not on our radar when we opened. Customers asked us if we knew about MB&F and Greubel Forsey, saying that we should carry them, and we did the research and brought them in.”

What continues to inspire Silver? The thrill of the chase, what he calls the “treasure hunt.” “When I first started in the business, I was a young graduate gemologist, and when I took vacations, I’d go to the diamond mines in Thailand and Burma,” he says. “For me, it has always been about finding things that were unique, beautiful and rare, and that’s been my driving force. My advice to my kids was, whatever you choose to do, make sure you are in love with it. There will be difficult days and what gets you through is your passion, your love for your business.

“And I love jewelry and watches,” he concludes

—Keith W. Strandberg