An interview with Roni Madhvani (@roni_m_29), a renowned collector with an impeccable penchant for aesthetics and the eclectics.
If you are in the vintage watch circle (or even generally), there is a high chance that you would have heard of Roni Madhvani. Known for his perceptive tastes in watches, Roni’s enviable and revered timepiece collection is a showcase of style and taste, no doubt sharply cultivated over decades of experience as a watch collector. As a huge fan of Roni’s collection and his refined tastes, I am exhilarated that he has kindly agreed to entertain me for this short conversation.
Q: Do you have any principle philosophies when it comes to curating a watch collection?
You should always listen to yourself and buy what you like and what makes you happy, rather than what others say. Buying within your means is also very important. Lastly, the condition of the timepiece is paramount. I always ensure that the watch movement and case are as immaculate as possible.
Q: Your collection predominantly features vintage watches. What do you appreciate about vintage watches compared to modern pieces?
I feel that vintage watches were manifested in an era where creativity and design prevailed. Putting it in a historical context, this belle epoch of watch design was, in my humble opinion, from 1945 to 1965. The depression of the interwar era, coupled with the wartime austerity, paved the way for a boundless and teeming tide of expressionism in watch design during this era. Particularly, when compared to modern timepieces, designers were much less afraid of pushing the boundaries of watch design and explored as much as they possibly could.
Q: Not only is your collection largely vintage, but it also consists of many watches that are of charming, esoteric shapes. Such shapes are pretty uncommon in the contemporary watch industry, except for certain brands (Cartier, for example). What do you find endearing about shaped watches?
Wearing a watch of an unusual design is akin to wearing a lovely piece of art on one’s wrist. They are distinct and make a very memorable impression. Regrettably, I get the feeling that many contemporary brands fear to push the envelopes when it comes to design as contemporary corporate culture is largely conservative. This unfortunately stifles creativity and expression. Furthermore, it appears that the fear of the cost of failure is dear in every way possible, particularly affecting corporate egos and profits. I do believe that all individuals should seek a degree of individualism and differentiation when it comes to timepieces as they can be very powerful tools of self-expression. Do not be hesitant to wear something unusual and different; strive to stand out from the crowd. This is where I feel shaped watches can make an impact in this time and age.
Q: You have many delectable special-order pieces from Cartier, such as your black-dial Tank Cintrée and Crash. How have you found your experience with the Maison to be like?
Cartier has always been at the forefront when it comes to creativity and design. These extend beyond their timepieces. Thus, the timeless appeal of its vintage timepieces, and especially in the recent past when they have embraced this heritage to release their historic shapes (Cartier Privé), have elevated the Maison to the attention of discerning collectors. My attraction to Cartier is based on this peerless aesthetic and classical quality, combined with the fact that they have been ever so kind to consider and execute timepieces that I have been able to have a hand in in terms of their designs. Consequently, I feel much more connected to these timepieces at all levels which makes them very special and dear to me.
Q: As a seasoned collector, can you describe your observations on how the contemporary watch-collecting landscape differs from those of the past?
In the past, watch design triumphed. Those with the best designs are celebrated and revered. However, I’m saddened to see some historic brands embrace the popular culture of short-term gains today. The wave of steel sports watches dominating the watch industry in terms of focus and collectability is similarly rather disheartening, especially since I’ve always considered and perceived such brands to be aloof (in a positive manner) and exemplary in setting the benchmark when it comes to horology.
Q: With your bountiful experience on watch collecting, what advice do you have for beginners who are starting out their own collection?
Firstly and very importantly, never stop learning. Personally, I endeavour to learn something new every day; the experience and knowledge should grow constantly. Newcomers to the passion should buy only what appeals to them and which draws an emotional bond. Fads and trends should best be steered clear of. Focus on quality and condition and thoroughly research before taking the plunge. Good luck and enjoy!
A sincere thanks to Roni for his precious time in doing this short interview. All pictures can be found on his Instagram page, @roni_m_29.