Alexander Kraft: “I like the sophisticated but understated look”
Time is running out for Alexander Kraft. When he’s not negotiating the sale of multi-million pound properties as chairman of Sotheby’s International Realty France-Monaco, he’s likely to add a line to his eponymous clothing brand, keep tabs on his hotel- shop or move from house to house in the world. .
After joining Sotheby’s as a management trainee, Kraft became managing director of its European property department in 1998 at the age of 26. When the company introduced a franchise model eight years later, Kraft acquired the exclusive license from Sotheby’s International Realty France-Monaco. Since then, as owner and managing director, he has grown the business to include around 60 brokerages with an annual sales volume of over €1 billion.
Kraft is also an avid collector of classic cars, but loves nothing better than talking about watches, which he started collecting while still in law school. His first “serious” piece was a Rolex GMT-Master given to him by his parents as a graduation present, which was later stolen at knifepoint in Buenos Aires. He has since bought and sold dozens of other pieces, and he shares his favorites here.
1. Art Deco Cartier pocket watch, 1920s
Kraft bought this gold Cartier at auction, intrigued by the probable royal provenance indicated by the crown engraved on the back. He appreciates pocket watches both historically and because his habit of wearing three-piece suits allows him to wear them as intended – on a gold chain in a vest pocket. Kraft has personalized the watch with a keychain made from a Guards cap badge in recognition of its 25-year membership in the Guards Polo Club.
2. A pair of Fabo watches, 1950s
These watches were passed down to Kraft from his paternal grandfather, a Prussian-born physician with a comparable sense of dress style. Kraft says Fabo was one of many high-quality Swiss brands that were popular in the 1950s. His grandfather wore the wristwatch every day, while the pocket watch was reserved for black tie outfits and White.
3. Ralph Lauren Automotive Tourbillon, 2014
Ralph Lauren launched its line of luxury watches in 2009, combining premium movements from Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre with a new twist on classic designs. For Kraft, the Tourbillon Automobile reminds him of when Ralph Lauren (the man) invited him to a preview of his collection of classic cars in New York. The amboyna burl wood bezel is designed to mimic the steering wheel of Lauren’s 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupé, while the typography of the dial is inspired by the speedometers of pre-war cars. Kraft believes only five examples of the $80,000 watch were made and describes its tourbillon movement as the pinnacle of horology.
4. Cartier Tank Americaine Cintrée Dual Time, 1990
Kraft believes that many classic Cartier watches remain underrated, most notably the Tank Americaine Cintree Dual Time, which contains a pair of tiny independent hand-wound movements that allow it to be set to two different time zones. When he learned the watch was on sale in Paris, Kraft thought the chance to own it was “too good to be true” since it was hardly ever worn.
5. Patek Philippe Gondolo, 1950s
Kraft describes spotting this watch at auction about 15 years ago as a Thunderbolt. With its square case and elongated lugs, Kraft says it’s often mistaken for a Cartier. “Patek Philippe collectors might not consider it as interesting as the Calatrava or some complicated models, but I like to wear it because it looks sophisticated yet remains understated,” he says.
6. Rolex GMT-Master Bamford & Sons, 1990s
George Bamford, son of Lord Bamford, chairman of construction machinery manufacturer JCB, started his watch customization business in 2004 and achieved early success by treating new Rolex Daytonas with a military-grade DLC coating to create a finish blackened not available from the manufacturer. This Rolex, however, was commissioned from longtime watch dealer Tom Bolt some time before – as evidenced by the dial marked “Bamford & Sons”, which was the precursor to what is now Bamford Watch Department.
7. Rolex GMT-Master Reference 1675, 1960s
Kraft is particularly fond of this Rolex GMT watch because of the train track dial, “eagle beak” crown guards, and soft patina that make it highly collectable. “There’s a rumor that it was one of Ralph’s personal watches, but I can’t verify that,” Kraft says.
8. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Reference 6263, 1970s
The distinctive “panda” dial of this Cosmograph sets it apart as a so-called Paul Newman version due to the fact that the late Hollywood star wore a similar model that fetched a record $17.8 million at auction in 2017. 6263 in this configuration have become the most valuable Rolexes and values, even for regular examples, have soared. But, when Kraft acquired its own in 2011, prices had yet to hit six figures. “At the time, I thought it was outrageously expensive and it remains the most expensive watch I’ve ever purchased,” Kraft says. “But I had no idea that this particular version would now be valued at €500,000 or more.”