Meet Michael Friedberg: launched the first brand forum on Timezone, Moderator of IWC’s own forum and one of the world’s leading experts and collectors of IWC pocket watches. Quite a list of accomplishments especially when you realize that the man who achieved all this also has a day job. Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Michael and talk about IWC, pocket watches and the current online watch community.
How did you get into watches?
My father always liked them, and for his 40th birthday, he proudly got a Rolex, which peaked my interest. Then when I visited Ireland in 1990, I saw a complicated watch in a shop window and was amazed by it! I sold my own Rolex and got the watch. It was an Omega Louis Brandt Perpetual Calendar.
What do you find important, or look for in a watch?
Actually several things. First of all there is the movement. It forms the heart and soul of the watch and needs to be of outstanding design and execution. Also purity of design is an important aspect. It is so much harder to make something simple. We also shouldn’t forget that watches, however nice they can be, also are economic commodities. They therefore should have an intended use. I’m a collector that wears all my watches.
With your involvement in Timezone you are one of the online watch pioneers. What do you think of today’s online watch community when you compare it to those days?
Today’s online watch community is a not only overcrowded but also all over the map. Many use a scatter field approach to get noticed, and also there are a lot of online writers who don’t understand watches that well. There’s a great need for not only more focus, but also more leadership within the community. There are a lot of new watch buyers that need to learn properly and that is the duty and task of the watch community.
You are currently the moderator of IWC’s own forum. How did your interest in IWC start?
In 1994 I got an IWC catalogue in my hands. I was quite taken by the Mark XII and actually went to the store to purchase it. Unfortunately it was not in stock and I ended up buying a Fliegerchrono instead.
IWC is a very successful brand. It has high end complications, beautiful dress watches and it almost single handedly invented pilot-watches. What is in your opinion the secret to their success?
Georges Kern (IWC’s CEO) is a brilliant leader. He has surrounded himself by key staff people who are very bright. Smart people make smart watches. Another reason for IWC’s success is that it produces the right watches, for the right market and at the right time. IWC has also covered the market very well. They have watches for beginning collectors, and they have watches for the pros!
You have your own website dedicated to IWC pocket watches, IWCpocketwatch.com. Can you tell us something about your collection and the background on how it all came together?
When I started collecting IWC wristwatches I picked up a couple of their old pocket watches along the way, sort of as an addition to my collection. When I learned more about them I became infatuated by their history and how well made the movements were. Through IWC’s forum I met experts like the late Fritz Wagner and Alan Myers. Through the forum, collectors meet, discuss and teach, and that’s been a great opportunity to learn more about these amazing pocket watches.
What is your most unique watch find?
It’s not my rarest, which is an IWC Boston Caliber 26 Seeland, with an oversized balance wheel and both stem and key winding. I believe there were only 300 made. However, my most unique watch must be a Calibre IWC from 1893. It was purchased then in Paris and taken to Brazil. There it was lost in a wager and it ended up in the hands of a Jesuit missionary who used it in the jungle for 40 years. It comes with all papers to prove its provenance, and was truly an amazing find.
What is your all time favorite IWC?
That is like asking me who my favorite child is….. (long pause). Probably, if not my most recent one, the Collectors’ Forum Ingenieur, a limited edition of 100 IWC watches especially made for forum members. I like it because it is not only an outstanding watch, but it also represents something. It stands for tradition and it stands for the future. It also stands for a community and I consider that the accomplishment I’m most proud about. We’ve built a great community.