An interview with Simon Fürst from D’Angelico Guitars
In our interview series "Meeting Watch Lovers", we have a conversation with watch lovers around the globe – something we are particularly proud of: All interview partners are actual customers of CHRONEXT.
Today’s guest: Simon Fürst of D'Angelico Guitars. A conversation about handmade guitars, jazz history and luxury watches from Rolex to Patek Philippe.
Meeting Watch Lovers
Caroline / CHRONEXT: Hi Simon, thanks for the invitation! We are happy to be here today.
Simon / D'Angelico Guitars: My pleasure.
Caroline: We'll get right into it and start with your story and the connection to D'Angelico: Your brand has been around since the 1930s, about as long as some watch brands. What makes you different?
Simon: Exactly, we've been around since 1932. D'Angelico is a traditional New York company, founded by John D'Angelico, who had his small workshop opposite the New York hotel. The hotel has a very distinctive roof shape, which can be found in all our guitars, in the form of the stairstep construction. Since John had a direct view of the hotel from his workshop, this inspiration flowed into his guitars. Just like the first models you see here, the & Style B for example - there is already a lot of New York spirit included. John was by far one of the most sought-after guitar builders for jazz guitars. Many great jazz guitarists played these models and some guitar builders of big brands learned from him and were inspired by him.
Caroline: So your guitars were all handmade? Is that still the case?
Simon: Exactly. Not everything is handmade today, but we still have a workshop in New York where we make custom made models. Some of them are still made to customer specifications with special woods and finishes in the workshop.
Caroline: What is the price range?
Simon: The handmade guitars are available from about 10,000 dollars, there is no upper limit.
Caroline: Open End: Even more parallels to the watch industry.
Simon: Exactly! As far as I'm concerned, I've been working with the brand for over five years. In the beginning I was one of their artists, who just played the guitars on stage, then it started to take off step by step. I was studying in Munich at the same time until I was asked at some point if I would like to work for D'Angelico.
Caroline: Does that mean that you also play in a band yourself?
Simon: I play for different artists who you also know from TV and radio. We've been on tour a lot in 2018 now and it's always a pleasure and honour for me to be part of it and to be on stage with the band in the evening.
Caroline: Sounds exciting! So we're both working with collector’s items. From the high-quality guitar to the high-quality watch: Which timepiece was your first?
Simon: My first watch was a Rolex Explorer.
Caroline: But you no longer have this?
Simon: I don't have it anymore and, funnily enough, it was my first contact with CHRONEXT. I fell totally in love with the Rolex Datejust with the Jubilee bracelet, during the search I found what I was looking for at your place.
Caroline: Understandable. (laughs and points to her wrist)
Simon: Exactly! At that time I had seen enough of the Explorer and decided to part-exchange it with you for the larger Datejust with a diameter of 41 millimeters.
Caroline: May I have a look?
Simon: Yes, of course.
Caroline: Stainless steel bezel, black dial – the Datejust series is one of our bestsellers and one of Rolex's most popular watches – and rightly so. Of course there are more elaborate or more expensive watches. Nevertheless, Rolex is in a class of its own. This model is made of 904L stainless steel, which is also used in cutting-edge technology among other things in space travel. When I look at your selection here, it seems to have drawn you straight to the next Datejust?
Simon(laughs): Yes, indeed: I’ve never regretted the purchase, but I would always have liked to have a Datejust with a white gold bezel. Whenever I saw this watch somewhere, on the road or travelling, and saw the sparkle of the fluted bezel, I was enchanted. I had to strike at some point. In fact, I rarely wear this watch, it's more of a holiday watch for me, for special occasions. Some of my friends asked me 'Why did you buy a Datejust twice?' – but for me these are two completely different watches.
Caroline: I feel the same way. Sometimes there are very special vintage models of the Datejust. But you have to like the fact that the elements of the bracelets are hollow in the older versions.
Simon: Exactly. I was thinking about buying a Rolex Sub-Date, but it was quite hard to get at the time – although it's actually even harder now. Since I work with a lot of New Yorkers, I thought the second time zone on the wrist actually made sense. That's why I went for Rolex the fourth time and bought a GMT-Master II. I didn’t stop there though, my newest watch is a Rolex Daytona. I bought it two months ago and I'm still totally blown away by it.
Caroline: The Daytona is a phenomenon: The first models in the 60s with the four-digit reference number were hardly sold. Nobody was interested in this watch for many years, it was available for just $250. That's why only a few pieces were produced. Today, especially the first models are coveted collector's items. And also this watch has a history, inspired by the racetrack in Florida and of course by Paul Newman. A beautiful Rolex collection. Do you take your watches with you when you're on tour or on stage?
Simon: Yes, I always play with the watch. We recently went on a big indoor tour and had 20 dates all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland. My performance watch in the evening was actually always a Datejust. I also had the GMT-Master II on my wrist a couple of times, but the Oyster bracelet is less flexible than the Jubilee bracelet. In this case, the lightness of the strap was what I liked best, so I prefer to wear it.
Caroline: I’ve brought you something: Maybe we'll start with the Patek Philippe Aquanaut, in stainless steel or rose gold. If I remember correctly, this model is at the top of your wish list.
Simon: Definitely, yes.
Caroline: This model comes with a date display, the so-called Tropical strap, which is not only resistant to all types of abrasion, but also to UV light and salt water. The name Travel Time comes from the dual time zone mechanism for displaying local and home time, so it's just as useful to you as the GMT-Master II. The rounded case is inspired by the octagonal Nautilus. The Aquanaut's glass bottom is particularly beautiful, allowing a glimpse inside. Would you like to try it on?
Simon: Absolutely. I was never sure about the Nautilus and the Aquanaut, especially in the beginning because of the strap. But actually, I like the fact that you don't see it so often. When I'm in New York, I'm mostly in the Meatpacking District. You meet a lot of creative people, writers, artists etc. I saw a guy wearing the Aquanaut there in the morning at breakfast, I remember it like it was today. It was the first time I had seen Travel Time in real life. The watch was calling out to me, there was probably a 20 meters distance between us. I had to go and ask the guy what watch it was. The guy was really proud and told me a lot about it. And well basically, that was simply it..
Caroline (laughs): The decision was made.
Caroline: Moving on to the facts; the model has sapphire glass and a case diameter of 40 millimetres. I also brought you some larger models: As you are Rolex-affine, the Sea-Dweller Deepsea from Baselworld 2018. Without question a statement on your wrist.
Simon: However (puts the watch on). That's why I like the Aquanaut so much, it's cut a little bigger at the side. In addition, the satin bezel has a nice finish.
Caroline: I can see that even the Sea-Dweller can hardly match up to the Aquanaut. I also have an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak with me. The special and interesting thing about this watch is the octagonal bezel with the visible screws: The design is based on the porthole of naval ships, more precisely on that of the British Royal Navy. The ships also gave their name to the Royal Oak. I personally find the back of the watch particularly beautiful. (turns the watch to the back)
Simon: The model is also available with a quartz movement, isn't it?
Caroline: Exactly. In terms of design, this watch is the opposite of the Deep Sea. The Royal Oak is very flat, but it doesn't lose its presence. Just as striking as the case is the dial, which is called the tapestry dial. This model has the manufacturer’s calibre 4302 with automatic winding and 70 hours power reserve.
Simon: It has to be said that watches are also a big topic in the music scene. The digital guitar over here, Matte Powder Blue which is the name of the colour, is currently played by Shawn Mendes, among others in his video for Nervous. He is wearing a Royal Oak. I met him at the Echo and that was quite the experience. There are many guitarists who are interested in high-quality watches. One of my greatest guitar idols, John Mayer, is a world-famous watch collector and now has an incredibly valuable collection. When I met him last year, he was wearing the Aquanaut Travel Time Tiffany & Co. A very good producer from New York named Fabrizio Sotti is also a gifted watch collector and a very good friend of mine. I am often in contact with him talking shop.
Caroline: Irrespective of how cheap or expensive a watch is, I am always surprised at how diverse and different watch lovers are. Our customers can hardly be assigned to one group – but back to you and your band, which guitar do you play?
Simon: I play these myself in the colour Chameleon. It sometimes shimmers purple, sometimes blue because of the flip flop effect. I now also play a lot of acoustic guitar on tour. In addition, we are always working on new guitar models and there will certainly be a model in the near future that is specially designed for the European market. I'm sure you're familiar with that, but it's similar in the watch sector: If you look at the models offered by the watch dealers of Rolex or IWC on other continents in their displays, it's an absolute contrast to Europe. And now and then I am glad that I can be at home in Europe. (laughs)
Caroline: And of course there are classics that cross national borders, like the Rolex sports models.
Simon: Yes – and collecting never stops. I thought after the second one that it's enough now. But it's getting worse and worse.
Caroline: I’m not making this any easier for you, I've brought you two more watches, this time from IWC. We come from the divers – to the pilot's watches, because my next model is a Big Pilot Top Gun, which has an incredible diameter of 48 centimeters. Even bigger than a Breitling Navitimer. The only color accent is the red second hand, shaped as an arrow, leaning against a jet. A very sporty watch with extreme magnetic resistance.
Simon: Wow, it's also very beautiful.
Caroline: All Top Gun models are made of robust, corrosion-resistant materials such as ceramics and titanium, the history of this watch goes back to the American flying squadron. This watch even has a 72-hour power reserve. Right next to it you can see the classic Pilot's Watch Big Pilot with a diameter of 46 centimetres, the extremely large crown is also striking here.
Simon: That's funny, John Mayer told me during our conversation that this was his first tour watch, which he always put on the dessert in the hotels. For him, it was also his room clock.
Caroline: No wonder, given the diameter!
Simon: This watch is simply beautiful and would even fit me in size.
Caroline: I agree. As the last model of this selection I brought a somewhat smaller watch: A Rolex Day-Date in full gold.
Simon: Definitely a special model. I was in Vegas during the summer and there I tried on the bigger Day-Date in white gold with the Roman indices and the green dial, which I also found incredible and put on my wishlist. I still find full gold watches suit older men a lot better than the younger ones.
Caroline: For me it has also changed over time. I originally thought 'Full gold is just too much, you can't do that'. But then comes the first two-tone model that you like quite well and so it goes on. Suddenly you look at a gold watch on your wrist and think to yourself: Why not?
Simon: As an alternative, white gold is always beautiful, I used to have the Daytona on my arm as a white gold model.
Caroline: That's true, of course. Is the Aquanaut still at the top of your wish list, or have you been convinced even more by one or the other model here?
Simon: Yes, the desire for the Aquanaut is getting stronger and stronger. At some point you recognise your own buying behaviour. It always begins in such a way that you look online from time to time in the evening, then it becomes twice a week, then daily. From the time I first became interested in Aquanaut Travel Time until today, the market price of the model has risen by 12.5%. And that will certainly be more than less, no matter where you look. You won't find this model in a single shop, it's nowhere in the display, virtually non-existent. I find this mystery around the watch so charming. Since you are our neighbours and this watch is in my immediate vicinity, it makes it easier and harder at the same time. That is why it will certainly be the next one. My grandfather gave me this thinking at an early age, he always said: "Every milestone in life should be marked somehow".
Simon: So far I've done the same thing with the watches I bought. They never came without a reason, there was always a reason where I thought "okay, now you've done something" Only then did I treat myself to a new watch.
Caroline: That's why watches are always associated with emotions and memories. There is a fitting saying that every watch has a soul. Who knows, maybe later your daughter or son will hold your Datejust in their hands and know that their father carried them on stage.
Simon: Yes, that's exactly what I mean. I'm a huge fan of values and values that are passed on. In fact, I've always been a living example of that. That's why watches are the best way to bequeath a memory.
Caroline: Is there a personal, holy grail of the watch world for you?
Simon: Yes, there is this watch. It was also a cooperation between Tiffany & Co. and Patek Philippe, the reference 5396G-012. It's by far the most beautiful Patek I've ever seen.
Caroline: Oh, very special numbers.
Simon: Beautiful. Once a piece was plopped up at an auction, the watch was around 130,000 euros. Only 25 of them were produced, that would definitely be the "holy grail". (laughs). But as you also grow deeper and deeper into the subject of watches, some models from Vacheron Constantin or A. Lange & Söhne have become very popular. Every brand has a significant model that embodies the brand.
Caroline: Like the Royal Oak, for example.
Simon: Exactly. So it's all the better that all the flagships are gathered here on one table, from the Aquanaut to the Daytona to the Royal Oak.
Caroline: Simon, thank you for the nice talk. One last question: Where will you be next on stage?
Simon: The summer tour has been running since May 24th, from there it's all over Germany until September.