My Three Watch Wardrobe: Architect And Designer Mr Nick Tobias

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My Three Watch Wardrobe: Architect And Designer Mr Nick Tobias

Words by Mr Chris Hall

30 September 2021

One of Australia’s foremost architects and interior designers, Mr Nick Tobias brushes off the label of “watch collector”. But there’s no doubt that, given the chance to pick his three fantasy watches, the collector mindset comes easily – a mixture of professional appreciation and personal history. “I’m very attracted to the coming together of beauty and technical things,” he says. “That’s a very architectural approach, so watches slot in quite nicely in that sense.

“When I was in my mid-twenties and I’d started my architecture practice, I was doing a big project and I said to myself that if I hit a particular target, I’m just going to do something a bit outrageous and I’ll buy myself an expensive watch. I didn’t know a huge amount about watches, but nothing really caught my eye, until one guy at one of the bigger watch shops in town said he had some new samples in, and he was trying to decide whether to take them on as the Australian distributor. He said, ‘Oh, it’s a remake of an old watch, an old Italian brand – I don’t know how successful they’re going to be, but they had Rolex providing movements back in the day, it looks like being a quality watch.’

“He brought out five or six watches in a plastic zip-lock bag, just wrapped up in plastic. And of course they were Panerai, and I immediately thought, ‘I love it, it’s like nothing I’ve seen before.’ I did a cash deal on the spot and bought this beautiful Panerai Luminor. I went on to understand the Panerai story, with the Italian navy divers and their underwater missiles, and I thought only the Italians would try something so mad in warfare, but do it with such style. So, I was really hooked. I’m very sporty and tend to use things to death. I loved how durable that watch felt. I’ve still got it and I’ll probably use it for the rest of my life. Good things last, and often they get better with time.”

“Perhaps unsurprisingly I’ve picked another Panerai for my fantasy collection,” Tobias says. “I went back and forth, but I’ve chosen the Submersible Goldtech OroCarbo Automatic because, I just thought, ‘What an awesome, tough-looking, ridiculous watch.’ It’s expensive, but still comes with a rubber strap… I couldn’t wear it swimming because I’d probably get weighed down and just go round in little circles, but I would wear it on the beach, do some water sports. I go open-water swimming every morning, and do a lot of paddle-boarding, and wing-foiling, which is a bit like windsurfing, but with a hydrofoil. It’s a pretty awesome-looking beast, that watch.”

“I look at this Cartier watch and I remember my parents in the 1980s, partying when things were hot. There weren’t that many good or enduring designs that came out of the 1980s, but this thing absolutely is. I love how it looks like you can see how all the components are put together, with the visible screws, but there’s also something about it that’s incredibly relaxed. You can doll it up with a suit to look smart, but it still looks like a great watch if you’re kicking around in a pair of board shorts and a T-shirt as well. But, for me, it’s all about my parents. They each had one of these in different sizes. My sister still wears one of them, so I saw that and thought, ‘I would love that watch’. Obviously it’s not an industrial, Miesian, form-follows-function thing, but I can go along with it.”

“Finally, I picked this out as a really great day-to-day, good old architect’s watch. I like the black case – it’s really simple, very Swiss-looking to me. It’s a thinner, more wearable watch than the Panerai, it doesn’t feel as precious. I like the practicality of the textile strap; it feels military-inspired, and overall this watch is much more in the form-follows-function camp. Across the three watches, I wanted a good balance, which is why I went for that Panerai over one of their more regular ones, because there I have the all-guns-blazing, flashy, on your superyacht one. The IWC is the hyper-functional, hyper-honest watch, and the Cartier is very relaxed, super-chic.”

Third time’s a charm