Hans, who lives in Hong Kong, is very much an international person who embodies the contemporary IWC enthusiast.
HS: HANS BRASSELER
MF: MICHAEL FRIEDBERG, IWC FORUM EDITOR
MF: Hans, you’re from Belgium, went to law school in the US and now live in Hong Kong. That’s a lot of territory.
HB: Yes, I was born in Belgium and and grew up Europe during the 1980s. But the US was always the “shining city on the hill”, so it made sense for me to move there when the opportunity arose.
I then managed to get a Fulbright scholarship to study law at Duke University in North Carolina. After graduating I moved to California to work in Silicon Valley for over a decade. Ironically, right after I became a US citizen my company sent me to Hong Kong to head up the regional legal team there. It was supposed to be a two-year assignment but like so many expatriates I had trouble leaving, and fifteen years later I’m still in Hong Kong!
MF: How did you first get interested in watches?
HB: Living in California I first was very much into the local car scene there. Through that I came into contact with the watch brands that typically sponsored these car events back then. This was long before IWC started sponsoring motorsports events and teams.
When I moved to Hong Kong I only brought one tool watch with me. When a short time later this watch required lengthy maintenance I urgently needed a replacement watch. I had heard about IWC from my local friends and decided to visit a boutique with the request to show me some simple steel tool watches. Twenty minutes later I walked out with an Ingenieur 3227 on my wrist, and the rest is history.
MF: The 3227 is a great way to start. And what happened after that?
HB: After I bought the 3227, I quickly realized that I needed a formal dress watch, given the number of formal events, charity balls, and black-tie dinners I kept getting invited to as part of my new job in Hong Kong.
Since I really liked my new Ingenieur and the service provided by the IWC staff, I went back to the IWC boutique and then bought a white gold Portuguese Regulateur. To this day it is still one of the favorite watches in my collection. It oozes class and the Regulateur complication, together with the entire history of deck watches it is derived from, made it an easy choice. The ardoise IWC dials are also stunning to say the least.
MF: Since then your collection has grown tremendously. How did it grow?
HB: Initially my IWC collection grew somewhat haphazardly and largely in a reactive way. For instance, I ended up buying a Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Kurt Klaus edition after a one-on-one chat with Mr. Klaus that IWC organized for me in their flagship Heritage boutique in Hong Kong. Mr. Klaus was kind enough to sign the warranty card and the manual, making it a very special watch with an equally special memory associated with it.
Likewise, when I mentioned to my IWC sales rep that my family is part German and that I still root for the Mannschaft in international soccer tournaments, I was given the opportunity to order the Big Pilot DFB limited edition, developed for the German national soccer team, before it was offered to the public.
Hans Brasseler’s IWC collection
Hans Brasseler’s IWC collection
Similarly, I had the opportunity to sit down for lunch with Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg at an IWC-sponsored event, and afterwards ended up buying the Ingenieur Chrono that he had designed with IWC.
Later however I became a more pro-active collector and actively started pursuing specific watches that I wanted to acquire. These mostly are limited edition models.
MF: When you buy a watch, what do you look for?
HB: A watch has to sing to me, regardless of its value or complications. I’m very much a “gut feeling” buyer and consider a watch to be a piece of art with a heartbeat. It must appeal to me at a visceral level.
If I like a watch at first sight I tend to order it. This means that I feel an emotional connection with most of the watches in my collection, which is obviously a positive. I have a lot of time — no pun intended — for some complications that are near and dear to my heart, such as perpetual calendars or regulators.
MF: I first met you a year ago at SIHH in Geneva. How was your visit?
HB: It was my first ever visit to SIHH, courtesy of IWC, and it ticked all the boxes. The hospitality was outstanding and it was great being able to preview all the new watch models, and experience them in the metal before they were officially released.
The best part, however, was spending time with my fellow watch aficionados, some new and some I’ve known digitally for years through social media. It was great finally putting faces to names, often over cigars and whiskey! Being able to meet a number of IWC executives and board members and being invited to visit the manufacture in Schaffhausen afterwards were nice bonuses.
MF: What will be your next watch purchase?
HB: I’m currently awaiting delivery of the IWC Mercedes-AMG Petronas limited edition chrono, the one with the carbon dial.
MF: One last question: what watch are you wearing today?
HB: Of course an IWC! The Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month in titanium, another watch I fell for the moment I saw it, and which has gotten a huge amount of wrist time over the past year!
Michael Friedberg has been collecting watches, especially IWCs, for more than three decades. From 2001 through 2015 he was moderator of the IWC Collectors’ Forum and has written extensively about IWC’s history and technical features.
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