Interview with Bob Bunnik

Bob Bunnik --who is Dutch or more accurately a Nederlander--  is a very good friend of many IWC collectors throughout the world. He has attended numerous collectors’ meetings in Schaffhausen and at SIHH in Geneva. In this interview, Bob shares about himself and interests.

 

MF:  Thanks, Bob, for allowing us to learn more about you and your connection to IWC. Perhaps by way of introduction you can tell us a bit about your background.

 

BB:  I was born and raised in a small village next to the city of Gouda, the famous ‘cheese city’. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and have an older brother and younger sister. My father was an old-fashioned milkman who delivered milk --and more-- at the doorstep. We also ran a tiny grocery store at home, so there was always work to be done --6 days a week.

 

MF: Did you go into the grocery business?

 

BB: None of us kids had the ambition to take-over that business!  Instead, after I got my Engineering and MBA degrees I started my career working for British Telecom in Amsterdam. I spent 20 years in international marketing management and strategy positions in telecom, but two years ago I started my own boutique consultancy firm with four guys.  Different challenges, but I love the diversity and the much better work-life balance (smiling).

 

MF: Speaking of work-life balance, I understand you have a wonderful family – I even recall when your daughter was born.

 

BB: Thank you. I’ve been with my lovely wife Mélanie for over 20 years’ and we have a 9 year old daughter, so I spend my spare-time along the hockey fields and doing activities with the ladies.

 

MF: When did you get interested in watches?

 

BB: As a kid I already liked watches, but unfortunately I don’t have my very first watch anymore.  It was when I graduated from university that I decided to buy myself my first ‘proper’ watch. I was searching for my own graduation present and almost bought a Tag Heuer which was high on my short list. However, I was a bit disappointed by the looks when I finally held one in my hands at a dealer, but that dealer also happened to sell IWC so the rest is history….  I immediately fell in love with the Ingenieur Chrono Alarm (reference 3815) and ended-up buying  that.

 

MF: You belong to a special club when your first fine watch was an IWC.

 

BB:  Yes, it was a nice fit for an Engineer (chuckling).  As you know, the Ingenieur Chrono Alarm has a JLC based 'meca quartz’ movement: a quartz base with a mechanical chrono module and an electronic alarm that could be set and activated through the crown at 10 o'clock. Originally it came on an alligator strap but I added a steel bracelet later. 

MF: When did you find the collectors’ forum?

 

BB:  I believe I joined the forum in 2001 but I would guess that became ‘active’ around 2005. Around that time my UTC Pilot’s watch had some minor issues and I asked for advice on the forum. I got the answers I needed and was immediately approached by some other Dutch collectors. That really raised my involvement. I then got invited to SIHH and, the more people you get to know, the more involved you become.

 

MF: And after your joined the forum you bought your first vintage IWC.

 

BB: I wanted to acquire a silver dial reference 866 Ingenieur and put a ‘want to buy’ ad out on a well-known watch sales website. I was then approached by a guy living in Schaffhausen who offered me a much rarer blue-dial 866 for a very good price with a brand new reference 10 Oyster bracelet still in the original plastic.

 

I remember contacting you, Michael, to check out the seller and, as you predicted, the delivery process had some serious ‘hick ups’, but at the end I got this fantastic watch and I still wear it every week!

MF:  I recall that, too –and it’s a great watch. Do you have any other good vintage watch  purchase stories?

 

BB:  At a Collectors’ meeting in Schaffhausen I told my table-mates that I wanted to acquire my first pocket watch, which should meet a simple set of criteria: steel case / blued hands / Portuguese style dial.

 

It happened to be that I was surrounded by some of the finest vintage and pocket watch experts --Adrian v.d. M., Ralph E.,  and Martin D. In just a few minutes they figured out that I really needed a calibre 67 pocket watch and only a few weeks later one was offered to me in pristine condition.

 

I’m still amazed how ‘unbalanced’ vintage prices are: pocket watches are relatively cheap compared to wrist watches. I’m not talking about the very rare or complicated pocket watches of course, but I still find the price difference striking.

MF: By the way, what's your most recent IWC purchase --why did you get that one?

 

BB:  That’s a good question! I recently got the ‘Special Watch for Aviators’ (SWFA) pilots watch. It’s a ‘pure’ aviator’s watch, with a design based on the insights of Antonio, Nelson, Mark, Andrew and some others. I liked their idea from the beginning: no date, black dial, blued hands, pure & clean functional design. A real IWC tool watch!

 

This watch really proves the strength of the forum again and the special relation we collectors have with IWC! We had collectors from 3 continents and 4 countries literally drawing up a watch on the back of a napkin in a restaurant and IWC committed to produce this watch in a very small batch of only 27 watches, with a lot of passion and enormous attention to detail. 

MF:  I recall when the idea was first proposed during a collectors’ meeting. You've also  attended several meetings in Schaffhausen. 

 

BB:  My first visit to Schaffhausen was in October 2007. It was a very special with everything packed into a busy weekend trip: from crossbow shooting to drinking from a goblet with the Mayer of Stein am Rhein, a factory and museum visit, diner with IWC staff and Herr Klaus and his friendly wife at Hohenklingen, Herr Pantli showing parts of his amazing private collection etc. etc.

 

But the most fun again was meeting with like-minded friends and meeting the people behind the forum with nicknames from all over the world: Bill, Nelson, Andrew, Ralph, Tonny, Dick, Argiris, Richard, Tilo, Adrian, Terry, Giovanni, yourself, and so on.


MF: You also were at the most recent meeting in November 2017.

 

BB: I must admit, at the last Collectors’ meeting in Schaffhausen, IWC outdid themselves again with a visit to the new production facility, a watchmaking session, the Santoni strap workshop, but also the presentation by Herr Homberger talking about his family and IWC’s history. What’s also worth mentioning is the excellent presentations by expert collectors like Adrian v.d. Meijden and Mark Levinsohn, telling special stories about watches and their background.

 

MF:  You likewise have been at SIHH several times.

 

BB:  My first ever SIHH was back in 2006. But where to start about SIHH… it’s impossible to explain to non-watch-geeks how you can spend three days talking watches with people you never met before. Clearly the shared passion for the brand and its products creates a lot of bonding. 

The best SIHH experiences were the ‘anything you like to ask’ sessions with George Kern, meeting Kurt Klaus and IWC staff at the collectors’ diners, flying in a Junkers JU-52 on several occasions, Andrew Thomas bringing Ardbeg-10 when he joined for the first time (and with that probably starting the late night whisky sharing sessions at the hotel bar). 

 

To me, meeting collectors, IWC staff and the new CEO Chris Grainger-Herr remains the most special part. Don’t forget, it’s particularly special that IWC takes the time to welcome a group of collectors at their most important trade show of the year.

 
MF: You’ve truly evolved into a seasoned collector.  Do you have any advice for "newbie" collectors?

 

BB: I follow a few simple mottos, but they are based on very personal preferences and are not per se general ‘advice’. However, perhaps they can serve as food for thought for new collectors:

  • First, I like diversity in my collection: I like to have vintage and modern, Pilot’s and Portugiesers, steel/gold/titanium and so on. Since I can’t afford an enormous collection, and despite only buying what I really want, this implies I sometimes also sell a watch. 
  • For example, when I got the SWFA pilots watch I decided to sell my Mark XVII. I also like diversity since I enjoy switching between very different watches: from a ‘fat’ white gold 5001 Portuguese Automatic, to a titanium 3319 quartz Bund Aquatimer or 866 Ingenieur. I let it depend on the occasion and the mood I’m in. Having said that, from a more serious collecting perspective, I completely understand and appreciate that ‘real’ collectors aim to complete a series of watch models or families, but that’s simply not my goal nor interest. I’ve even said on the forum I don’t consider myself a real collector.
  • Second, go for the perfect watch: I like my watches in perfect condition.  I do like patina but that doesn’t mean I like over-polished cases. If I can, I like to get watches in the state as they were sold in. Certainly don’t buy watches with non-original parts.

  • Next, only buy what you really like and be patient: I only buy watches for which I feel really really attracted. Often this means once I get interested in a watch, and I still feel very attracted to it the second or third time I see it, I know I will try to get it. Downside is that sometimes the watch virus can lead to impulsive buying. So my strategy for vintage and rare limited editions is to tell people what you’re looking for, but also to be patient. If you’re after something very special it will come to you, one day! 
  • Finally, don’t collect to make money: I really don’t think watches should be bought as an investment. First of all it’s not obvious you will ever make money on it, and second watches should be worn and enjoyed!  Perhaps you can make money if you find that rare vintage watch in perfect original condition at a very low price, but you might as well buy yourself a lottery ticket instead.

 

MF:  Sound advice! One last question if I may: what watch are you wearing today?

 

BB: I’m proudly wearing the Special Watch for Aviators Mark XVIII, number 25 out of 27.

 

MF: Congratulations on it and thanks again for your insights.