Alexander Kraft at home in the south of France © Emilie Malcorps

Time is of the essence for Alexander Kraft. When he is not negotiating sales of multimillion-pound properties as chair of Sotheby’s International Realty France-Monaco, he is likely to be adding a line to his eponymous clothing brand, keeping an eye on his boutique hotel, or flitting between homes around the world.

Having joined Sotheby’s as a management trainee, Kraft became managing director of its European real estate department in 1998 at the age of 26. When the business introduced a franchise model eight years later, Kraft acquired the exclusive licence for Sotheby’s International Realty France-Monaco. Since then, as owner and chief executive, he has grown the business to incorporate about 60 brokerages with an annual sales volume of more than €1bn.

Kraft is also an avid classic car collector but likes nothing better than to talk about watches, which he began collecting while still at law school. His first “serious” piece was a Rolex GMT-Master given by his parents as a graduation present, which was subsequently stolen at knife point in Buenos Aires. He has since bought and sold dozens of other pieces, and he shares his favourites here.

1. Art Deco Cartier pocket watch, 1920s

Art Deco Cartier pocket watch
© Emilie Malcorps

Kraft bought this gold Cartier at auction, having been intrigued by the probable royal provenance indicated by the crown engraved on the back. He appreciates pocket watches both from a historical point of view and because his habit of wearing three-piece suits enables him to carry them as intended — on a gold chain in a waistcoat pocket. Kraft has personalised the watch with a fob made from a Guards cap badge in recognition of his 25-year membership of the Guards Polo Club.

2. A pair of Fabo watches, 1950s

pair of Fabo watches
© Emilie Malcorps

These watches were handed down to Kraft from his paternal grandfather, a Prussian-born doctor with a comparable sense of sartorial style. Kraft says Fabo was one of many high-quality Swiss makes that were popular during the 1950s. His grandfather wore the wristwatch every day, while the pocket watch was reserved for use with the black and white tie outfits.

3. Ralph Lauren Automotive Tourbillon, 2014

Ralph Lauren Automotive Tourbillon
© Emilie Malcorps

Ralph Lauren launched its luxury watch line in 2009, combining top-quality movements from Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre with a new twist on classic designs. For Kraft, the Automotive Tourbillon reminds him of the time Ralph Lauren (the man) invited him to a private view of his classic car collection in New York. The amboyna burl wood bezel is designed to emulate the steering wheel of Lauren’s 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupé, while the dial typography takes inspiration from pre-war car speedometers. Kraft believes only five examples of the $80,000 watch were made and describes its tourbillon movement as being at the pinnacle of horology.

4. Cartier Tank Americaine Cintree Dual Time, 1990

Cartier Tank Americaine Cintree Dual Time
© Emilie Malcorps

Kraft believes many classic Cartier watches remain under-appreciated — not least the Tank Americaine Cintree Dual Time, which contains a pair of minuscule, independently hand-wound movements that enable it to be set to two different time zones. When he heard the watch was up for sale in Paris, Kraft thought the chance to own it was “too good to be true” since it was in virtually unworn condition.

5. Patek Philippe Gondolo, 1950s

Kraft describes spotting this watch for sale at auction around 15 years ago as a coup de foudre. With its square case and extended lugs, Kraft says it is often mistaken for a Cartier. “Patek Philippe collectors might not consider it to be as interesting as the Calatrava or some of the complicated models, but I enjoy wearing it because it has a sophisticated appearance but is still discreet,” he says.

6. Rolex GMT-Master Bamford & Sons, 1990s

© Emilie Malcorps

George Bamford, son of Lord Bamford, chair of construction machinery maker JCB, established his watch customisation business in 2004 and achieved initial success by treating new Rolex Daytonas with a military-grade DLC coating to create a blackened finish unavailable from the maker. This Rolex, however, was commissioned from longstanding watch dealer Tom Bolt some time before — as demonstrated by the dial being marked “Bamford & Sons”, which was the precursor of what is now Bamford Watch Department.

7. Rolex GMT-Master Reference 1675, 1960s

Rolex GMT-Master Ref 1675
© Emilie Malcorps

Kraft is especially fond of this Rolex GMT watch because of the railway track dial, “eagle beak” crown guards and gentle patina that make it highly collectable. “There is a rumour that it was one of Ralph’s personal watches, but I can’t verify that,” says Kraft.

8. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Reference 6263, 1970s

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
© Emilie Malcorps

The distinctive “panda” dial of this Cosmograph marks it out as a so-called Paul Newman version due to the fact that the late Hollywood star wore a similar model that fetched a record $17.8m at auction in 2017. Reference 6263s in this configuration have become the most valuable Rolexes and values, even for regular examples, have soared. But, when Kraft acquired his in 2011, prices had yet to reach six figures. “At the time, I thought it was outrageously expensive and it remains the costliest watch I have ever bought,” Kraft says. “But little did I know this particular version would now be valued at €500,000 or more.”

© Emilie Malcorps

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