Man of the Hour
Seconds, hours, days, perpetual calendars, GMT, automatic movements, moonphases and chronographs.
Welcome to Kristian Haagen's world of haute horologie
|WORDS: ANDERS REDDER NØRGAARD|
PHOTOS: ElZABETH HELTOFT
INTERVIEW: VICTOR THOFT
Vintage watches Always have a good story to tell. Their age, provenance and former owners are their DNA, and for me that’s almost impossible not to feel drawn to.
With an insatiable passion for watches and a collection that would make any watch owner envious, Kristian Haagen is almost undoubtedly Denmark's watch aficionado No 1.
After years working in the marketing industry, Kristian decided to quit his job and turn his passionate hobby into a full-time job. He has become well known for his insight into the stories of some of the most respected watches from watchmakers such as Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Rolex and IWC. But Haagen’s interest for vintage watches isn’t rooted in the brand hype or price levels. Instead, he’s fascinated by the level of energy, amount of craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into producing these finely made watches.
"Depending on wealth, anybody can just walk into a store tomorrow and buy a new watch. Looking into vintage watches, you need to do a lot of research. You have to dig deep and contact experts, auctions houses, read books and so forth," he says.
There’s no doubt in his answer when we ask why people are willing to pay big money for vintage watches:
"Because they have a history, and that’s really valuable. Maybe you want to buy an Omega Speedmaster from your year of birth or a Rolex Submariner from the year you were married. Vintage watches are emotional products, and it’s pretty hard to put a monetary value on emotional values. When you buy vintage watches, it’s with your emotions on the top of your mind and your money in the back of your mind."
The Times They Are a-Changing
With groundbreaking releases like the Apple Watch, everybody in the watch industry is talking about the new smartwatch trend in the industry. But, despite what traditionalist ideas you think Haagen might have, he doesn’t mind the new smart watches at all.
"For me it’s alright – I don’t have problems with smartwatches. I’d rather have people spending their 349 dollars on a smartwatch than on a stupid fashion watch with some designer's label on the dial, even though the watch has never been anywhere near the designer."
"Smartwatches are gadgets, and I’m not a gadget freak. One day I'll probably buy an Apple Watch, but it would need to sit on my right hand – my left hand is reserved for a mechanical watch," he smiles.
Kristian developed his interest for watches in peculiar circumstances. He grew up in Næstved, a small Danish town a few hours journey from Copenhagen, and bought his first watch at the age of nine. In his youth, he started collecting digital watches, because as he describes it "digital watches were the iPads and iPhones of my youth."
Later, he purchased imported counterfeit watches from Thailand. "Being 17 or 18 years old, everybody knew my Rolexes weren’t real – but I just couldn’t help hiding my fascination for the big Swiss brands. And I never tried to hide the fact that those watches were copies."
When Kristian entered the marketing business in 1989, he started as an intern in London where he decided to quit the replicas and buy his first authentic quality watch: A Rolex Oyster Precision Reference 6694 for £120.
Since then Kristian Haagen has bought several iconic watches such the Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual and the IWC Big Pilot reference 5002. But as he says with a big smile on his face: "It’s true what they say. When you buy real quality, you only cry once."
Even though collecting watches might seem like an expensive hobby, it need not be so. As a horologist, Kristian is mad about the science and mechanics of watches. But collecting is first of all about passion for a certain product, he states.
"Anybody can collect anything, and that logic applies to watches too. Some people collect Swatches, the Swiss plastic watches, and those people are cool. It isn’t about the money; it’s about the passion."
Recently Kristian has launched a site called 8past10 with some fellow watch collectors. It serves as a forum for other enthusiasts in the form of a social network where they can share their passion. Recently he published his sixth book on watches, Hashtags and Watches, which is available for purchase via his Instagram account. Shot over two years from 2013 to 2015, it celebrates his excitement for Instagram as well as his love for mechanical watches.
Kristian Haagen could go on for hours with nerdy stories about vintage models, but we ask him about the essence of good horology:
"Craftsmanship makes a good watch. That’s obvious for me. For instance, it’s hard to look at the Lange & Söhne watches and not be seduced by the movement, wheels and the overall mechanics. You can visit the Lange factory and flip over your watch, and from the engraving on the movement plate they can tell you which watchmaker made the watch. It’s so obvious that a product like that is made by true artisans. If you mix craftsmanship with the functionality of a perpetual calendar or a chronograph and top it of with a beautiful design, you’re close to having a perfect watch."
Current City: Hellerup
Occupation: Co-founder of 8past10.com, author, freelance journalist, watch specialist with Bruun Rasmussen Auctions
Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Panerai, IWC Schaffhausen & A Lange & Sohne are registred trademarks.
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