The Vacheronista's Profile: Mike Berlin

Mike Berlin, aka known as Maberlin here on the Lounge, tiptoed into our forum on a bright sunny June day in 2010 requesting information on his newly acquired Vacheron Constantin Ref 43031 perpetual calendar.  Over the past seven years Mike has built an impressive and coherent collection of Vacheron Constantin watches.

A recent retiree from the hectic world of Hi-Tech, the interview was done by phone a few days after Mike’s return from a trip from South Africa and a few before his heading to Nepal!

Mike, my 1st question is basically how did you get into watches?

When I was much younger I wore a Rolex Oyster Date but I had never paid any attention to its mechanics, it was a great accessory that told time. I think it all really started when I wanted to buy a new watch for my wife Alessandra, at the time my daughter was working at Christie’s so I decided to buy at auction and was targeting a lady’s size Royal Oak, but instead of getting one I bought two, one for myself! After that I started to go on forums to get information on the mechanics and history. A few months later, in 2010, I bought  my first Vacheron Constantin a perpetual calendar Ref 43031,which brought me to the Hour Lounge and from there on watches and especially Vacheron Constantin became a passion for me.

Why did you choose that particular watch as your first VC?

It was a combination of elements. After getting into watches I got interested in complications and the perpetual calendar is a classic and I loved the fact of having it deal with the complexity of our crazy method of counting days and months. And when I saw it in the auction catalogue I fell in love with the structure of the dial and the fact that it used the ultra thin cal 1120. It was the first watch I bought that had a complication.

After that I was a lost man and was bitten badly by the bug, every auction season, which is twice I year I ended up buying a watch.

What were the following watches?

Very rapidly I realized that Vacheron Constantin was the brand that spoke to me the most, and even though I did happen to buy pieces from other brands Vacheron was the one that attracted me the most. After the perpetual calendar I bought the Semainier Ref. 47052 followed by the Saltarello

What attracts you so much to VC that you have built an almost mono-brand collection?

I have actually given some thought about this in the past years and I think it sums up to the fact that VC has a very long history which is important, they have an uncompromised approach to technical quality and finishing and the third reason is the artistic factor. Over time, I have become more and more interested in the artistic elements, but only if they accompany the technical elements. There are watch companies that are very technical but I don’t find their watches attractive and there is no art factor. There are other brands who have beautiful artistic cases and dials but whose movements are rather uninteresting.

Vacheron has really managed to merge great designs, wonderful métier d’arts and fantastic movements.

Do you own any of these Metiers d’Art watches?

I have several in fact. I have the Debussy Chagall Tribute (Note: In 2010 Vacheron Constantin created a unique timepiece, The Chagall et l’Opera de Paris - Tribute to the Great Composers whose enamel dial is a reproduction of the Paris Opera Garnier ceiling painted by Chagall in 1964. Vacheron Constantin decided to keep this watch in its private collection but to create 11 unique pieces each representing one of the composers depicted in Chagall's original painting. The Metiers d’Art Chagall & l'Opera de Paris Hommage a Debussy represents the latter’s opera, Pelleas and Mélisande) and I wear it very occasionally, I have two Audubon watches (Note: Launched in 1997 the Audubon Birds of America models were 10 sets of 10 watches each, whose dials were inspired by the works of 19th century naturalist JJ Audubon. The dials in cloisonné enamel depicted different birds found in America and painted by Audubon). You don’t see them coming up for auction anymore and I would buy more of them if they would appear at auction. They have the same movements as in my original perpetual calendar!

Earlier on you told me what you like about VC, tell me what you don’t like about them or what you want to see done differently?

(A long pause), I would like to see more use of exotic metals like tantalum. I am happy that they are finally opening up their archives a little more and I would love to see more of that as the sense of history is a great selling point. I’m a bit concerned about the newer watches which are limited in production but not limited editions. For example considering the complexity of some of the Métiers d’Art watches such as the recently launched Copernicus, I think they should be limited editions and numbered as such.

Amongst all your VCs which are your favorite?

I love looking at my Audubon watches, even though they don’t get the most wrist time. I love my vintage 4178 chronograph that I bought at auction and sent to VC for servicing and it came back in superb condition. I also love the 4140 triple calendar which was in pretty bad condition when I bought it but also had VC do restoration and I wear my Cioccolatone quite frequently.

Which do you wear the most?

I have a rotation between the Overseas Dual time and the Quai de l’Ile in steel

The latest watch you bought?

The Hodinkee Cornes de Vache chronoghraph, I like the fact that it is a pretty unique VC since it is in steel as VC does not make any steel watches other than the sports models.

You’ve been a WIS for the past 10 years, what do you enjoy the most in this crazy hobby?

Without any doubt or hesitation it is the camaraderie amongst the enthusiasts. The Hour Lounge is a great example, I’ve had great times with many of the members such as Dan, Respo or Hewitgar. The get togethers are so much fun. The Vacheronistas are a great group of people. They all come from different walks of life, different economic situations but they all love watches and enjoy sharing collections and experiences and it has given me a whole new social ground.

thank you for a great interview, its always interesting to understand the
03/30/2017 - 17:48

mind of a collector and I must admit what a collection! Love the vintage watches and the Audubon

we have the same tastes :-)
03/31/2017 - 15:41
A terrific interview with a fine gentleman
03/30/2017 - 21:11

Mike is always full of surprises.  There were a couple of pieces I had no idea that he has in his remarkable collection. I always look forward to any opportunity to spend time with Mike and his lovely wife, Alessandra.  As Mike said, this hobby of ours is all about,, or at least the best part of it is about, the camaraderie with the folks one gets to meet, and this is especially true when it involves Vacheronistas.  I was happy to read more about Mike's thoughts on collecting VC as his remarks echo my own feelings and thoughts very closely.  That is not surprising to me, having talked watch collecting with him many times.  

In seeing so many of Mike's Vacheron watches together like this, I am struck by the diversity within his collection: vintage and new, the different shapes and designs, the enamel pieces, the sporty pieces. Mike's collection truly shows off the breadth, depth and certainly the wow factor spanning the past 70-80 years of Vacheron's long history.

Seeing the beautiful white gold Saltarello (which I think is the once on his wrist in the  handsome head shot at the top of the interview and his avatar on THL, I believe, i recall a very nice early summer afternnon lunch. Mike, Alessandra, Joseph B. and I were at a VC sponsored lunch sitting at the same table. The collection of watches at the table was astounding.  Mike's Saltarello, however, transfixed me. That was an important moment for me and started me off on a several year hunt.  Alessandra was wearing a Prestige de la France, and that also set me off on another hunt begun that afternoon.  Come to think of it, the Berlin Family has ended up costing me a fair amount of time, energy and resources.  LOL. 

I wonder what is next for Mike. Well, anyway, he is probably off climbing some mountain or something. 

Congratulations to all involved, especially Mike, on this interview. 

Best,

Robert

LOL Respo, the Berlins seem to be good (watch wise) and bad (fiscally) influence :-)
03/31/2017 - 15:42
Thanks for the kind words Robert
04/10/2017 - 14:50
I was indeed in the mountains when this article came out. I will post some photos of my trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, as well as Thailand and Cambodia, shortly.
Thanks Alex for a great interview!
03/30/2017 - 22:24

And thanks to Michael for showing such a grand collection including the beautiful enamelled pieces.

It's always interesting to hear someone expound on their love of fine watches, the reasons for admiring them and purchasing them. I'm sure many here, myself included , share the passion for these timepieces and as Michael has stated the way Vacheron combines the artistic and the technical.

As Michael has said being able to share the love and passion for these timepieces has always been a wonderful experience and has allowed many lasting friendships to develop on this continent or across the oceans.

Bravo, Michael

Best wishes,

Joseph

Exactly, the best part of our hobby is the people we meet and friends we make
03/31/2017 - 15:43
Thanks JB.
04/10/2017 - 14:51
You have been an inspiration to me since I first started collecting.
An Amazing Collection that befits you Mike!
03/31/2017 - 01:24

Great Interview!  Thanks Mike and Alex, to me it is a continuation of the "Testimonials" from THC and I'm very glad to see it!

Mike, you are an archetypal Vacheronista and I still remember our first face-to-face lunch at the Hgh Line.  Also remember your better half, the lovely Alessandra, please see hello to her for me!

I'm glad to see you enjoying retirement...some great travel adventures you're having!

I've been to Tibet, just on the other side of Nepal...with just on the other side of the "Abode of Snow" (translation of Sanskrit's "Himā-laya")

When you have time, I'm sure many of us would love to see pictures from your world-wide travels!

The diversity of your VC collection really shows off the breath of what VC has done and your refined tastes.  I love how you describe your interest and why you got each of them.

Best Regards, Dan

also hoping for some photos but if
03/31/2017 - 15:44

you want to follow Mikes adventures follow him on FB :-)

Remarkable collection
03/31/2017 - 01:34

Thanks for sharing yes.  Safe travels smiley

quite a few I would love to own myself !
03/31/2017 - 15:44
A great delight Mike...
03/31/2017 - 20:03

I've thoroughly enjoyed this post, Mike. yes..

I'm a great believer in "Don't tell me, show me!"... An astonishing array of pure VC.

A personal thank you for taking the trouble.

With warmest, kindest regards

Tony

Thanks Tony!
04/10/2017 - 14:52
nt
WOW!!!
03/31/2017 - 22:00

Thank you for sharing!!!! This are the best master pieces I had ever seen before!heart

Re: The Vacheronista's Profile: Mike Berlin
04/07/2017 - 01:03

Great interview and what an amazing collection!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Extremely impressive!