Vintage Watch Specialist
Louis Westphalen is Vintage Watch Specialist and Director of Watch Sales at Hodinkee, the preeminent resource for modern and vintage wristwatch enthusiasts. Louis is a Paris-born lover of vintage watches with eclectic tastes ranging from beautiful 1950s ultra thin pieces to more debatable 1970s designs. He does not own any Speedmaster yet, but has toyed with the idea many times before (and, in retrospect, should have taken the plunge a long time ago). He also dreams about a flawless De Ville 146.017, one of his recent obsessions.
1. Do you remember your first watch?
Yes, vividly. My first was a blue FLIK FLAK, and I was immensely proud of it. I also remember that I felt like a grown up when I graduated to a“real” SWATCH, in yellow. It belonged to the Access collection: it came with an integrated chip and could serve as ski pass in Switzerland. Needless to say, it was the coolest watch you could dream of. I think I got both as birthday gifts from my parents.
2. The 3 most iconic watch models?
The PATEK PHILIPPE 1518 for the prowess of producing a perpetual calendar chronograph at scale, and for the sheer beauty of the watch. The ROLEX Datejust for nailing exactly what an everyday watch should be. And I imagine that I have to add the OMEGA Speedmaster 😉 … It is hard to beat the NASA endorsement.
3. A noteworthy anecdote with one of your watches?
I melted the yellow SWATCH! Not voluntarily, of course. But I was fascinated by the lume at night, and figured that if I left the SWATCH for a couple of hours on a lamp, it will shine really bright. Clearly, the plastic case did not like the experience, and I ended up with a Dali composition. The lamp also died in the process, and I remember my parents being livid about it, although I was much more worried about my defunct watch. Especially since SWATCH decided it was not part of their warranty.
4. Are you more modern or vintage?
Vintage, no doubt about it! It gives you unparalleled sensations to wrist a beautiful survivor, rather than a shiny new thing. My prime love sided with ultra-slim pieces from PIAGET, VACHERON, and AUDEMARS PIGUET but I gradually warmed up to chronographs. To a point now where I mostly wear vintage chronos daily. I enjoy trying on modern watches, but the feeling is not even close.
5. I love Speedmasters because …
Because they have changed so little. I feel there is something incredible about an object that gets it right at its first try. The good look is one thing, but add legibility, practicality, and reliability… I am also fascinated by the love they get from vintage collectors, only a few vintage ROLEX generate this level of passion, and scholarship.
6. Your favorite Speedmaster?
The 2998-1. With a tropical dial, and no lollipop, if I dare ask. Other references might be more historically significant, but I just love the alpha hands, the Base 1000 bezel, and the straight lug case. Please add the original bracelet, and you will make a happy man.
7. A single personal item you would take with you for a long stay on the Moon?
A really good, and really long book.
8. You just won the lottery. Do you first buy a sports car or call a financial advisor?
First, a vintage French sports car, most likely an Alpine A110 or a convertible Peugeot 504 V6. Then, I would go see the financial advisor in style.
9. Where would you spend the next 24 hours if you had a teleporter?
In London, with Churchill, in June 1940. I would love to witness one of his speeches at a time when all seemed to be lost. Yet, he was calmly exposing his implacable resolution to never surrender.
10. How many times a day do you watch … your watch?
To a point where it becomes borderline impolite. But there is a lot to see besides the time itself between the reflections from the light on the dial, the lines of a case… And when I meet someone, I always fixate on the watch first.
11. The last watch you bought?
A BREITLING Navitimer, with the LIP signature on the dial. With this watch, it was much more than the French connection, the patina is just irresistible. I will not pretend I bought it for its functionality; I have never remembered how to use the slide rule for more than 5 straight minutes.
12. What’s on your wrist today?
A yellow gold PIAGET with a fantastic case shape and the very thin 9P caliber.