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The independent watch brand takeover has reached a fever pitch over the last month. It began a couple of weeks ago, at an auction dedicated entirely to the beloved watchmaker F.P. Journe, where multiple pieces moved for over $1 million. It continued this week, when the first watch to hit auction from Rexhep Rexhepi—the watchmaker rumored to have thousands of folks on the waitlist to own one of his pieces—sold for a final price of $924,000, nearly triple the initial estimate. But the latest instance might be the one with the most power to bring independents fully into the mainstream: This month, John Mayer was spotted on tour wearing F.P. Journe’s Èlègante in titanium.
We’ve thoroughly documented Mayer’s influence in the watch world. Virtually all newish, diehard collectors mention his Talking Watches videos as part of their downward spiral into full-blown watch obsession. (Ronny Chieng just mentioned it to me earlier this month!) Dealers buy up any Audemars Piguet Royal Oak references he wears. A single sighting on Mayer’s wrist will shoot up the value of an underloved Rolex Daytona model. Now, naturally, Mayer is part of the wave bringing independent watchmakers to the forefront.
Throw a winding tool in Geneva and you’re likely to smack a successful watchmaker leading their own company to glory. But few are hotter than Journe is right now. In the eyes of the brand’s super collectors, no one more successfully imbues traditional watchmaking with modern flavor. Mayer’s Èlègante was originally conceived as a women’s watch. “It was a request for clients’ wives, who wanted a woman’s watch and not a smaller men’s watch,” Journe told Hodinkee when the watch debuted in 2015. Two years later, it was the husbands who were making the requests for the Èlègante. Journe obliged with this 48 millimeter version of the model.
Will Ferrell’s Zenith Defy Revival
“I met Will Ferrell and helped him channel his inner Ricky Bobby with a new Zenith Defy A3691!” wrote Lorel Monroy of Feldmar Watches, who goes by @watch_momma_ on Instagram, just a few weeks ago. The caption sat beneath a photo of her and Ferrell grinning with the new Defy, which debuted a few months ago at LVMH Watch Week (It was one of my favorites from the mini-show.) Ferrell apparently had big plans for the watch: he rocked it on the red carpet at Cannes this week.
The Weeknd’s Rolex Daytona “Jack-O-Lantern”
The Weeknd is on a watch hot streak. He wore a “ladies” Piaget to the Cannes premiere of his new HBO show The Idol, then followed that up the next day with a “secret release” Rolex—meaning a model that was never put in the brand’s catalog or shown to the public. No big deal when you’re the Weeknd. This version of the Daytona is set with a ring of orange sapphires around the bezel. Thanks to its orange-and-black configuration, its known as the “Jack-O-Lantern” among collectors. Fun!
Tyler Herro’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Basketball writer (and frequent GQ contributor) Alex Wong tweeted one of the funniest lines I’ve seen during the NBA playoffs so far: “every tyler herro outfit looks like he’s daring adam silver to bring back the dress code.” Given that the dress code was implemented by former late NBA commissioner David Stern to keep Allen Iverson from getting fits off, I’m going to assume Wong meant that as a compliment. Since getting injured in the first round, Herro has, in my opinion, been killing it on the sidelines this postseason. Coming to the aid of his fits is his Audemars Piguet Royal Oak—the watch for players aspiring to NBA superstardom.
Kyle Kuzma’s Patek Philippe Nautilus
Another week, another dude with the super-grail Tiffany-blue Nautilus. There are only 170 of these in the world, and I feel like we’re getting close to spotting every single one of them. The hype for this watch has not died down since its original release in December 2020. It sold at auction earlier this month for 2,223,000 Swiss francs (roughly $2,456,600)—an absolutely ludicrous figure for a modern stainless steel sport watch.