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Great watches that can stand the kitchen heat

15 October, 2014 at 7:19 am in Computer

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March 27 (Wall Street Journal) — JASON ATHERTON’S FASCINATION with watches began around the same time as he started to get serious about style. “In my mid- to late-twenties I really understood how a watch can make a statement about a person,” the 42-year-old, Michelin-starred chef says. “A lady can wear diamonds or a beautiful necklace, but a man who wears jewelry … It is a little bit 1970s. Very few men, apart from rock stars, can wear jewelry and get away with it.” Fast forward more than a decade and Mr. Atherton is still in the early stages of building a collection, with just six luxury watches so far—and his love affair with watches is still growing. At his Pollen Street Social restaurant, in Mayfair, London, which he opened in 2011, he is wearing a http://www.speedroc.com/replica-breitling-chronospace-automatic.html Carrera, the first high-end watch he bought. “I am a working chef and this is one of my preferred watches for the kitchen,” says Mr. Atherton, who is the first British chef to spend a season at Ferran Adrià’s noted Spanish restaurant elBulli. “You bang it about a little bit and it’s OK.” Apart from being sturdy, his watches carry a sense of achievement—or sentimental value: for instance, his replica breitling Chrono Galactic Oyster Perpetual, which he received from his wife, Irha, two years ago as a 40th birthday present. “In the old days we didn’t really have a lot of money, but my wife saved a little bit every month for seven years,” he says. At the time, this replica omega De Ville Co-Axial Chronometer was his dream timepiece. “She woke me up and said, ‘We are going for lunch.’ Then she said she had a surprise for me and we got into a taxi and went to the Rolex store at One Hyde Park.” Once there, she told him: “You have ?6,500 to spend.” He says it was “One of the only times when I actually had a little cry. She put a little bit of money away and I never knew anything about it.” His collection has grown slowly ever since. But he buys to a plan: He is allowing himself one watch every two years, or when he has reached a milestone. Last December, for example, he bought himself a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust to celebrate the opening of his new restaurant, Ham and Sherry, in Hong Kong. He still has dream watches he’s aiming for. He hopes to buy an Audemars Piguet, and he has his eye set on a limited-edition Patek Philippe for when he achieves a second Michelin star (something he feels is coming closer). “If I hit two Michelin stars, going to buy the [Patek Philippe] watch will be of significance to me,” he says. “Then every time I wear that watch and look at it I will think, that took me 27 years of really hard work to get. Otherwise, it’s just like going to buy a shirt.” THE FIRST WATCH Fran?ois Payard wore was an old-fashioned gold Omega Zenith, which he got for his first communion in his native France. Since then, the New York City-based pastry chef has built up an eclectic collection of more than 50 watches, which includes brands such as Panerai, Rolex and Breitling. But Mr. Payard, 47, who made his name as pastry chef for Le Bernardin and Restaurant Daniel in New York and who now oversees restaurants from the U.S. to Korea, never set out to become a watch collector. He simply likes timepieces. For him, buying a watch is about acquiring an object he appreciates—whether it’s new or secondhand. “When you like something,” he says, in a telephone interview from his offices in New York City, “it’s not always because of the price tag.” On the other hand, a price tag will not put him off, even though the most expensive watch he has bought was about $5,000/€3,640. He has, however, been given more expensive ones. Being at work in the kitchen all day, the watches Mr. Payard chooses tend to be robust rather than flashy: “I don’t like brands in general. People attach too much importance to brands. After a certain price they become too much, with diamonds around, and I don’t like these things. It’s not about showing a watch to people. It doesn’t make sense to have a beautiful piece of jewelry like that if I bang the watch against the wall,” he says. For the photoshoot, Mr. Payard brings out his exceptionally robust Franck Muller Conquistador King, worth about $10,000. Though in the kitchen day-to-day he often likes to wear his red Michael Kors MK8105, which cost him about $160. “It is a funky watch to work with,” he chuckles. Still, he has some exquisite pieces in his collection, such as his Vacheron Constantin “Mozart” edition—a gift that is worth well into six figures, and which he likes for its looks and “very good movement.” And his favorite watches? “I like the classical Rolex—the Submariner—with no wristband and with the chain. I think Rolex is one of the most elegant watch brands there is.” And then there is the $1,000 Breitling he received from his first girlfriend about 25 years ago. “That’s the best of the best,” he says. “It was made in the 1980s and the movement inside is 100 times better [than modern watches].” He may be a bit of a watch buff, but he isn’t looking to expand his collection any time soon. “If your collection is pretty big, it is certain that you will not wear the same watch more than 50 times because there are so many of them.” And he likes to wear them as many times as possible. But “I buy what I like,” says Mr. Payard. “I am not a fashionista. I just love things.”

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