Collector’s Corner: Justin Hast, Watch Culture’s Brilliant Millennial Multi-Hyphenate
— 14 April 2023

Collector’s Corner: Justin Hast, Watch Culture’s Brilliant Millennial Multi-Hyphenate

— 14 April 2023
Randy Lai
Randy Lai

A big, gregarious bastion of a man, one can easily envision Justin Hast making an impression in any field he chose to pursue. Fortunately for us, he settled on watches. The 33-year-old lover of all things horological is one of the lucky ones: having gotten to leverage his passion for mechanical watchmaking into an honest-to-God career – shooting video for The Rake one minute; and putting together his own print mag (The Watch Annual) the next.

In fact, in the decade-plus that Justin has been working in and around watch brands; there really isn’t anything that he hasn’t tried his (admittedly very adaptable) hands at. An early break involved shooting photographs for IWC’s social media accounts in the UK, and since then he’s steadily been developing a toolkit of skills – incisive enough that even businesses adjacent to the watch hobby (e.g. Drake’s and Mr Porter) routinely seek his counsel.

Justin Hast

Of course, the other element in Justin’s heart-and-mind winning equation probably has something to do with his candour. Possessed of a genuine curiosity and good cheer – both qualities that are frequently absent in the sort of people who buy and sell $50,000 watches – it’s all too easy to get swept up in the love that Justin has for our objectively nerdy little hobby.

Earlier this month, via the newfangled medium of the internet, Boss Hunting dove into a quick call with the big man himself: getting Justin’s personal take on quality timepieces under 1,000 quid; how his taste (as a collector) has been evolving; and what his favourite new releases of 2023 are thus far.

RELATED: The Best Watches We Saw At Watches & Wonders 2023

Collector’s Corner: Justin Hast, Publisher & Marketing Consultant

Justin Hast

Randy Lai: Was there one watch in particular that started you down the path of collecting?

Justin Hast: There was! It was one that an uncle I mine used to wear – a classic IWC Portugieser chronograph in steel. He’d often get comments on it when I was working for him during the school holidays, and I always noticed. It’s really a special piece of design: so much detail in the dial and cask, and just so wonderfully proportioned.

RL: If we’re looking at your collection, would you say there’s been a ‘progression’ vis à vis the watches you enjoy collecting?

JH: I struggle with the term ‘progression’, but I absolutely do feel there has been an evolution – especially in the last year or two. I’m a super-geek, and so have an Excel spread of all the specs relating to the watches I’ve bought and sold. It’s a fascinating, satisfying, heart-breaking read all at once – and a document never to be shared with my wife [laughs]!

But to your question: the general evolution has undoubtedly been in sizing – establishing that (for my personally) watches with a diameter of 38.5mm-40mm are optimal. Too small and I feel exposed; too big and the elegance in design is compromised.

I also feel I’ve become more critical and carefree at the same time. I’ll dwell on details: for example, with the particular Lange 1 I own, I intentionally held out for the platinum variation because the matte grey of the dial is something I simply can’t get enough of. But at the same time, I’m more care-free in that if something fun crops up for an approachable price, I’ll jump on it. Recently, an example of this is the Louis Vuitton Escale that I picked up: at 39mm that sizing is spot-on, and the dial like nothing else!

RL: As a passionate advocate for ‘neo-vintage’, would you mind telling Boss Hunting a bit more about this particular category? More importantly: why has it experienced such a surge in popularity?

JH: I think it’s because, in the last five or so years, the market has evolved beyond ‘vintage’ and ‘modern’. Neo-vintage has absolutely become the third, other big category. Generally, this comprises watches that were made in the late 1980s and 1990s: for years forgotten about by collectors, simply because they fell between the cracks.

Pictured: Justin’s personal IWC Ref. 3705 – colloquially known as the ‘Black Flieger’.

To me, a great neo-vintage watch is one that has it all: the functional robustness of modern manufacturing, the ‘charm’ of vintage (tritium dials!) and perfect proportions. The best personal example I can think of is my IWC 3705: the first ceramic pilot’s watch made in the early 1990s. It’s 39mm, with tritium markers which have aged beautifully and powered by a rock-solid modified ETA.

RL: You’re one of a few young, dynamic personalities in the watch world who loves a good table clock. What’s the appeal of collecting this particular niche?

JH: First off Randy, that’s very kind of you to say!

I think it comes down to value and variety. With table clocks, there are plenty of fascinating designs from a myriad of great makers – aloo with a relatively approachable price tag. Some of my personal favourites include Asprey-signed travel clocks and table lighters by Dunhill.

Pictured: Justin’s Vacheron Constantin American 1921 (left), side-by-side with the rare Ref. 8262 pocket watch in aluminum – an example of the wristwatch-adjacent curiosities that more and more young collectors are discovering.

Ultimately, I think it’s just about appreciating beautiful objects: you may not be able to use them on your daily commute, but when I pick them up and wind them, I’m transported to an era of jet-setting, over the top elegance that [us younger collectors] never got to experience.

RL: We’ve been talking about some pretty lofty stuff, so in the interest of fair play – what are 3 watches our readers could go out and buy right now for around £1,000 that you still feel offer compelling watchmaking?

JH: When you asked this question I immediately thought of NOMOS Glashütte. Most of their models range between £1,500-£3,000, but I’ve just spotted the 33mm ‘Ludwig’ for £1,148 (AU$1,920). Slightly over budget, I know: but we’re talking about a maker that prides itself on designing and making a majority of the watch in-house – it’s pretty spectacular value.

Pictured: Justin contends that Seiko Prospex models like the glacial SPB299J offer serious horological firepower for the money.

I also love Seiko Prospexes: especially the ‘Glacier’ model ($1,950) sporting an ice effect dial. This is an homage to Seiko’s work in the 1960s crafting tough watches for polar exploration and is just about in budget.

Last but not least, I’d pick the Timex Expedition ‘North Field Post’ ($455). A 38mm watch that is directly inspired by military-issue designs from decades past, its screw-down caseback gives it 100m of water resistance. It’s also powered by a hand-wound movement and fitted with impressively tough sapphire crystal – value propositions seldom get any better.

RL: All really solid choices. It’s pretty great that we live in an era when you can buy a mechanically powered watch for less than a grand.

JH: Definitely. As a little bonus – for patient shoppers, I’d definitely recommend going to your local vintage market/flea pop-up. In all likelihood, you’ll come away with something sexy from the 1960s/1970s with great proportions.

RL: As somebody working at the fault line between social media, editorial and collecting-as-hobby, how do you feel watch culture has changed in these last 5 years?

JH: Mate, it’s gone properly mainstream. I can’t tell you how many of my friends who, just a few years back, were deeply ambivalent are now interested. The rise of video of video has been hugely important: on platforms like YouTube, watches (as with any niche specialty) do extremely well.

No doubt, the pandemic also played a role. On a first date, it’s now almost acceptable to talk about taking photos and making films about watches – and still get the other person’s number [laughs]!

RL: Tell us a little bit about your next watch purchase – what are you chasing/keeping a close eye on at the moment?

JH: I have to confess – it changes daily! I’ve been getting really into vintage Piaget, particularly the Beta 21 stuff – from a wild era in watchmaking – or anything that the brand did with a stone dial. In that vein, I’d also an Ellipse from Patek Philippe: not the most popular model by any means, but to me, an encapsulation of the brand’s old-school elegance.

Talking of elegance, Andersen Geneve is doing some incredible enamel worldtimers in collaboration with Benjamin Chee. Gosh, I’d do some naughty things for one of those! And on the other end of the spectrum: I’ve always craved a RESSENCE Type 5 diver. I’ll stop there…

RL: Since Watches & Wonders 2023 wrapped a fortnight ago, have you had some time to settle on your ‘Top 3’ releases of the shows?

RELATED: Chopard Plays The Hits With A Grip Of Dashing And Very Wearable 2023 Novelties

JH: Firstly – what a show! It was great to reconnect with so many mates and see so many watches.

The IWC Ingenieur was great: offering perfect proportions and a better bracelet than the original by some margin. Chopard dropped an L.U.C with a stunning salmon dial – the 36.5mm case really nailed the sweet spot. And finally, while they weren’t technically for sale, the Piaget ‘Collector’s Commission’ – consisting of 10 ‘Andy Warhol’ timepieces with various stone dials – was outstanding.

RL: Complete the following sentence – “you know you’re a ‘watch guy’ when you”…

JH: …check Chrono24 every night before you go to bed.

RL: Finally, in a riff on a question we like to ask every collector, what’s one thing you shouldn’t do when you’re just starting to get into watches?

JH: Buy what others think you should buy.

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Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].


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