Collector’s Perspective: Mark Hammerschmidt 

Text: Lunglung Thun Photo: 周耀恩

If you have ever picked up a new watch in Hong Kong, chances are you have met Mark during your visit to MisterChrono for a strap change. That was how I met Mark in 2018 when I moved to Hong Kong and started exploring the watch scene here. I chose to interview Mark, not because he’s some strap guru but rather, he’s one of the most passionate watch collectors I’ve come across. Passion to me isn’t just about having an obsession, but it’s seeing someone’s emotions come through during conversations about their watch journey. The watch scene has evolved with social media platforms like IG, it’s been refreshing to break free from the echo chamber and have conversations with people in this hobby who have an opinion and aren’t afraid of sharing it like Mark. 

How did you get started into collecting and what is it about watch collecting you appreciate?

About 20 years ago, a close friend who was interested in watches gifted me a 1970’s Omega Geneve which was the initial spark for me, although I’d always liked watches prior to that but more from the perspective of them being a nice accessory rather than a full-blown passion. From that I started to look at watches from a technical viewpoint, I learnt to take apart and rebuild commonly used ETA movements, and that basic understanding of how a movement works is what turned into my obsession. I have a craftsman’s background having had a 45-year career as a dental technician and am used to working with very fine details so my love of watches is really all about that same type of skilled craftsmanship as well as the ingenuity involved. It never ceases to amaze me that the lever escapement that we take for granted was invented some 270 years ago and is still in use today.

What is something you learned about collector’s spending habits or tastes when it comes to straps?

It never ceases to amuse me that someone with a HK$500,000 watch thinks that HK$3,100 is far too much to spend on a strap.

How would you best describe the Hong Kong watch community and how do you think it differs from other countries?

HK has a very vibrant, thriving and inclusive community where the passion is all that matters, and it differs from other countries in that you can wear anything to a meeting without fear of your life! 

You have seen and touched many of the most special pieces out there, what has been some of the most memorable ones?

Ooh gosh, a 90’s IWC Tourbillon repeater perpetual calendar based on a Valjoux 7750 (by Richard Habring), a Roger W Smith Series 2, several early brass movement FP Journe tourbillons and Resonance, MB&F Perpetual Evo and the Grand Seiko constant force Tourbillon among so many.

I know you appreciate everything from Grand Seiko to independents such as Trilobe. What is your collecting philosophy?

Ha, buy high and sell low!! No, it’s purely about the passion and often the brand is irrelevant, when I see a piece that makes me gasp then it’s really just a question of can I afford it! 

What is your take on how social media has changed over the past 3 years and the influence it’s had on watch collectors?

It’s had an enormous effect in the last 3 years especially. Social media helped drive the commoditisation of watches as people looked for investment alternatives to park cheap money, and prices just became so inflated it took much of the fun out of collecting largely because of the social media influencers, which has led to some brands becoming rather arrogant and the true collector no longer matters. On the positive side it’s accessibility has no doubt helped to educate the younger generation about mechanical watches so that the industry can still thrive despite the current global challenges.

Which brand do you think is doing a good job as a whole (everything from customer service, products, experience, pricing etc)

Rather than one specific brand I think many Indie brands are doing a far better job as a whole simply for being more accessible and listening to their collectors. Taking Trilobe as an example Gautier Massoneau personally phoned me to say they would take care of an issue I had with my watch. I couldn’t imagine Francois Bennahmias doing that!

Are there any purchasing regrets or experiences with watches? Any tips on how to avoid them?

Ooh too many! I’m probably not the best person to advise how to avoid those mistakes. When you buy with your heart there are all too often big losses to have to stomach when the time comes to move them on. My biggest regret was selling an FP Journe before the prices went crazy but at least I didn’t actually lose on that one.  My only real advice would be to know what you are buying, do your due diligence and don’t fall prey to the FOMO that prevails among the current watch related WhatsApp groups.

If your watches could talk, what would they say about you?

Ha, I think my latest watch says the most about me. It’s an Urban Jurgensen One that shouldn’t really ever have been made and wasn’t very successful! It would tell me to lose weight for sure, and it’s being rather unconventional and oddball totally sums me up.

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