The collector: Jack Gertson, 'retired' Design & Print Consultant, East London/Essex borders.
The collection: Featured here is my Braun LCD watch collection. However I would now describe myself as an ex-collector as I am not currently searching for anything in particular. My past collecting passions (shared with my wife) have included Art Deco ceramics, Classic Cars, 1970s glass - Holmegaard and Whitefriars etc, current Contemporary glass, 1960s Poole pottery, 1970s West German pottery and Brian Willsher sculptures. One of my collections led to a really interesting project which was the design and print production of the book The Rich Designs of Clarice Cliff by Richard Green and Des Jones - a combination of my work experience and collecting passion.
The story behind the collection...
In 1971 I bought myself a new Omega sports watch which was on special offer mail order. It was around £21 and I had to pay for it with monthly instalments as my income was around £12 a week. I replaced the Omega in 1983 with a Cartier watch and eventually sold the Omega to a work colleague in the late 1980s. In 1998 I celebrated a 'significant' birthday and decided to treat myself and replace the Cartier with a new watch. Whilst looking around for something interesting I drifted into the world of 1970s digital watches.
I started collecting 1970s LCD watches but found a lot of them just tried too hard to be different. The Braun models really grabbed my attention. The Braun DW20 and DW30 are completely understated and just reduced to the basic functions - typical of the Bauhaus ethos of form follows function.
In 1998 when I started collecting them, the internet was still in its early days and it was very difficult to find information on a watch that had been out of production for nearly 20 years. As other collectors will know research and the assimilation of information is part of the challenge of collecting. My knowledge was gained via faxes, joining specialist collector's groups and regular trips to Germany the country of manufacture. I found my first example after placing a wanted ad in the newspaper 'Loot' although it was a non runner. After many months of taking the module apart and rebuilding it I had a Eureka moment when it suddenly became clear what the problem was and it sprang into life. I have lost count of the number of Braun watches I have repaired since some of which have been sent to me from as far away as USA and Australia.
After my Braun collection was complete and having by that time owned most of the major brand digital watches produced in the 1970s I really felt I would like my original Omega back as I had always regretted selling it. It took six months for me to track it down as my ex work colleague had moved to Spain. Although the watch was not in the best condition I bought it back and sent it to Omega in Switzerland for a full restoration. I now enjoy wearing it in rotation with my other watches and it is the one watch that I will never sell.
What, if anything, do you think your collection reveals about you?
My personal view is that the things my wife and I collect show we appreciate good design and like to be surrounded by it or wear it if it is a watch. Others may have different view but we cannot influence that.
How do you display your collection?
Most collections are fluid and grow when new items being added. With a mature collection this can mean a new acquisition replaces an existing piece especially when display space becomes limited. We try to operate a simple rule which is that if an item is relegated to a storage box or cupboard and no longer on display then it needs to be sold on so that someone else can appreciate it. The Braun watch collection bucks this rule as it is only on display via my website www.braunlcdwatches.com and does live in a cupboard. Maybe it is time to think about selling the watches? Serious enquiries only please.
Do you have a favourite?
My particular favourite Braun watch was the first DW20 that I found through the 'Loot' advert. I learnt so much from that watch and it was really nice to buy and pick up a watch directly from its original owner. He was a retired Bank of America executive whose German wife had given the watch to him as a wedding anniversary present - he still had the original bill. He originally contacted me to see if I knew anyone who could repair and at the time I didn't. He rang back a week later to say that if he could not get it repaired he would sell it to me - he must have sensed my enthusiasm.
All images © Jack Gertson and used with kind permission.