Adrian Van Der Meijden is a “collectors’ collector”, with a special emphasis and expertise on vintage IWCs and their history. The author of numerous historical and technical articles about IWC, in this interview we learn how Adrian’s interest in watches developed.
MF: Michael Friedberg, IWC Forum Editor
AVDM: Adrian Van Der Meijden
MF: Adrian, I recall our first meeting back in 2002 during a collectors’ dinner at Schlössli Wörth in Neuhausen. Perhaps you can now introduce yourself to our forum friends.
AVDM: I’m a retired urologist from the Netherlands, married and have one son. I live in Belgium with my wife in the ultimate Northern part of Flanders near the Dutch border in a 160-year-old farm house.
MF: May I ask what is your daily watch?
AVDM: My daily watch is a 1972 IWC Yacht Club, Automatic, with a blue sun burst dial. I’ve worn it for 12 years without any service.
MF: And how did your interest in IWC begin?
AVDM: My first experience with IWC was in 1988. I entered the operating room of my hospital where it is strictly forbidden to wear rings, watches or any jewelry. However, an older anesthesiologist refused to take off his watch, afraid that it could be stolen from his locker. I asked him why, and he showed and explained to me the perpetual calendar of his special watch. It was the IWC Da Vinci chronograph, invented by Kurt Klaus three years before.
MF: After that introduction, what then was your first IWC?
AVDM: My first fine watch was an IWC Novecento square model, and I did not dare to tell anybody how expensive it was. Before that, I wore a battery powered Citizen, which cost $100.
MF: What happened from that point?
AVDM: After the Novecento came the Da Vinci chronograph, the one on the wrist of the anesthesiologist. In fact, I wanted to buy a motorcycle, but my wife disapproved because she foresaw me being killed immediately in a traffic incident. Then I said, “Okay, an IWC Da Vinci instead,” and she agreed. The motorcycle came 10 years later!
After having tried to understand the perpetual calendar inside, I bought the IWC reference books from Toelke & King and the one by Reinard Meis. At that time, the Collectors’ Forum also came online. Because of the combination of all these different sources, I became interested in vintage watches and in the history of IWC.
My daily watch is a 1972 IWC Yacht Club, automatic, with a blue sunburst dial. I've worn it for 12 years without any service.
MF: When and how did you start “really” collecting IWC? Was it then?
AVDM: My collection really started in Sydney, Australia. I bought there the Ocean 2000, civil version. After that, my collection increased rapidly, not selecting wrist or pocket watches but “everything”!
MF: How did you learn so much about IWC history and its watches?
AVDM: By searching the internet and talking and reading from vintage collectors such as Friedrich Wagener, Ralph Ehrismann, Heiko Bertram, you, and above all Thomas Koenig. Later came Alan Myers and David Seyffer on my list. All these collectors have in common that they really know about IWC and that they use evidence-based data and historical facts.
Most of the German-speaking persons on this list also knew the late museum curator, Jürgen King, who was a kind of encyclopedia but had not all data documented. Over the last 10 years, I’ve found a lot of satisfaction in studying and writing about the history of IWC and its watches.
However, the interest for vintage “stuff” is limited, especially on the Collectors’ Forum. The last two collectors’ articles received very few views and only eight reactions in total. This means that the Forum is not the ideal place to discuss IWC history in depth. Too few collectors seem interested. Nobody can be blamed for that! That said, there are other ways to publish historical data, and I have done that.
MF: When and what was your first published watch article?
AVDM: My first article was on the sense and nonsense regarding the safety of radium luminescent material that was used on the hands and indices of IWC military watches. I was able to measure in a scientific way the radiation of the KM Deck watch, the W.W.W., and the Mk 11 as well as the Ocean BUND watches. To that data I added some of my medical knowledge. The bottom line is that it is safe to wear a ‘radium’ watch as long as you don’t touch the inside. That article was published in 2008.
MF: Why do you use Horological Journal for your publications?
The Horological Journal in the UK and Klassik Uhren in Germany are among the very few non glossy independent watch journals world-wide. They are peer reviewed by experts, so you cannot publish rubbish or uncontrolled data. Moreover they are about watches and clocks and not about fashion, trends, or celebrities from the world of movies and sports. Also, some of my articles have been published on the forum if the copyright for the Horological journal had expired.
MF: Do you have IWC related collector items, not being watches?
AVDM: The most strange object in my IWC collection is the electronic unit from an Electric Lightning Interceptor Jet in which the Mk 11 camera watch was mounted.
MF: You’ve also attended several collectors’ meetings in Schaffhausen and at SIHH.
AVDM: My best experience was attending the first IWC collector s meeting organized by you in 2002, although I was contaminated with a virus in Schaffhausen: the “Uhrenvirus”. The strange symptoms appear to be universal, and there is still no cure.
The most important advice: "Take your time!" It costs time to learn collecting
MF: I know your collection has taken some turns over the years. How would you describe it today?
AVDM: Twenty years ago I could not imagine that I would ever sell an IWC. But then I discovered that my collection was equal to the value of a large house. I also considered what might happen if I was no longer around, as we have experienced with our late forum friends Kevin and Giovanni. The value of the collection would shrink at least by half if it had to be sold on the market. Thanks to Bill Barker and Mark Levinsohn the valuable watches of collectors who had passed away suddenly, instead could go to interested collectors in a way the former owners would have dreamed of.
So, many of my watches have gone -- but without exception to collectors I know. To see them enjoy some of my rare pieces gives me a lot of satisfaction.
MF: Where do you see collecting vintage IWC watches going?
AVDM: I do not see that much will change. IWC lovers and buyers will come and go as we have seen over the last 20 years. A hard core group of collectors will remain loyal at all times. They know from each other who owns what and communication between them is optimal. The hard core group will first have access to the rarest and most expensive pieces available. They deserve that because they put effort in their hobby. On the market, rare pieces have become ultra-rare but their value in terms of money, has remained about the same. The classic most sought after watches, even if they are very expensive, are keeping their intrinsic value.
MF: What, may I ask, is your favorite wrist- or pocket watch?
AVDM: For wrist watches, my favorite line is the Ingenieur line, and my favorite caliber 8541.
For pocket watches, I like the complete series of pocket watches launched by IWC in the 1970-1980’s , well executed and with complications never build in by the company before. And of course the watches which started it all: the Jones pocket watches.
MF: Why do you like vintage watches so much?
AVDM: I consider certain vintage watches as pieces of art, the result of design, development, and production executed by a team of artists in their own specific field. Such timepieces can be compared to the old master paintings of which we now know that also these were the result not of one master but of several apprentices who all contributed to the result.
When I saw top watchmakers in Schaffhausen overhauling a Minute Repeater or Grand Complication, I noticed many similarities with micro surgery in my profession. Such a watchmaker is a top surgeon and his patient is the watch. When it works again flawlessly, the family of the patient would say to the patient: “You look wonderful, you must have had a top surgeon.” The patient might answer: “I feel terrific, everything works fine.” But both the patient and the family have not seen the patient on the operating table, cut in pieces, and put together in a way only a top surgeon could do.
MF: Finally, can you offer words of advice to newer collectors?
AVDM: The most important advice: “Take your time!” It costs time to learn collecting. There is abundant literature on all watches also the ones just issued. Fortunately, this is not all heavy stuff or technical, dead boring data. The Collectors’ Forum is an excellent data base, but it remains difficult to find sometimes what one is searching for in the ‘archives’.
My second advice: Try to attend a collectors’ meeting, SIHH or local IWC event. But beware! Once affected by the IWC virus, you are lost!
MF: Thank you, Adrian, for your insights and words of wisdom.
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