October 31, 202315 min Read

BelgianCollector’s Discreet Passion for AP Watches

By Niclas Berglund

December 14, 2022.

The rain is pouring down in Belgium’s capital, Brussels. BelgianCollector hurries into the plane to avoid getting completely drenched by the downpour. Close behind him follow his mother and younger brother. They catch their breath and wipe off the rain as best they can, while settling into their airplane seats. BelgianCollector is filled with anticipation. He has been waiting for this day since he started on his journey with watches about eight years ago. He is on his way to Spain’s capital to meet the watch brand Audemars Piguet.

A few days earlier, at home in his apartment outside Brussels, BelgianCollector had received a message on his phone that filled him with excitement. The message came from the watch brand Audemars Piguet, and they offered him something that made the floor beneath him feel as if it were rocking. With trembling fingers, he sent his reply.

Everything still felt surreal when he closed his eyes in his airplane seat just before the plane was to take off for Madrid. In just a few hours, he would be wearing his dream watch for the first time. We’ll return to this day a bit later in the article.

I’ve arranged to meet with BelgianCollector at a watch store outside Brussels. As I enter the store, I’m greeted by a guy in a blue and white striped shirt and white chinos, sporting a pair of elegantly brushed penny loafers in brown suede. I extend my hand, greet him politely, and explain that I’m here to meet someone who goes by the name BelgianCollector on Instagram. He smiles.

– That’s me, he says.

BelgianCollector shows off his Audemars Piguet Double Balance Skeleton in steel.

Slate grey openworked dial, pink gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating.

I manage to quickly glance at his wrist and notice he’s wearing an AP 15202ST. It confirms his identity, I think to myself, smiling at my own reflection. He moves with ease, and his calm and pleasant demeanor immediately puts me at ease.

BelgianCollector is a major collector of Audemars Piguet (AP). His Instagram feed reveals several of AP’s top models. I ask him if he’s willing to participate in the report and show his face to the readers. But he politely declines, asking to maintain his anonymity, as he has done over the years on Instagram.

– The obvious reason is, of course, safety. But there’s another reason why I want to keep my identity a secret, says BelgianCollector.

He interrupts himself mid-explanation, asking if I’d like something to drink. I kindly request water. He quickly leaves and, upon returning, we pick up where we left off.

– In my family, we like to keep a low profile. For instance, my father was a major car collector. Only our family and a few close friends knew about all the cars we owned. That’s how I was raised, not to flaunt expensive things. There’s a French saying, “Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés.” It means “Live quietly, live happily.” I’ve carried that philosophy with me from my family.

I ask him if he’s afraid people around him might view him differently if they knew he owned expensive watches.

– Not my close friends. They’ve known me since I was young and know who I am. They understand that the watches haven’t changed who I am in any way. But I believe outsiders might see me differently. It would raise many questions and, in the worst case, maybe even lead to envy. I want to avoid that because these watches don’t make me any less humble, quite the contrary, says BelgianCollector.

The back of BelgianCollector’s Rolex Submariner bears a love message.

BelgianCollector’s first watch, Rolex Submariner ref: 116610LN.

The Gift That Started It All

Today, BelgianCollector is 29 years old and has been collecting watches for almost 10 years. The spark that ignited a deep passion for watches was a gift from his mother and grandfather. When BelgianCollector turned 20, he received a Rolex Submariner for his birthday.

– I remember struggling to decide whether to choose the model with the green dial and bezel, or the more classic black version. It was my mother who said to me, “The green one is nice, but think about the fact that you’re going to wear this watch for the rest of your life.” That settled it for me. If I had to sell my entire collection but keep one watch, it would be my black Submariner.

He turns the watch over to show an engraved love message from his mother and grandfather.

– This was my only watch for a long time, and I thought it would be the only watch I’d wear for the rest of my life. But as many of you might have seen on my Instagram account, a few more watches have been added over the years, BelgianCollector says with a smile.

– My Sub is the watch I’ve worn the most out of all my watches. People might think now that I only wear APs, but that’s not the case. I always have this watch with me, for instance, when traveling with my family. It’s a fantastic watch with a timeless design, says BelgianCollector.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo 15202ST, designed in the 70s by the legendary Gerald Genta.

Royal Oak 15202 in stainless steel with a diameter of 39 mm and a thickness of 8.1 mm.

Many Years Of Dedication To Audemars Piguet

BelgianCollector, as he calls himself on Instagram, shares how it took him many years of devotion to the watch brand AP to get to where he is today with his collection. The relationship between them began somewhat by chance. Belgium does not have a retailer for Audemars Piguet, and the dream of owning a Royal Oak Jumbo 15202ST slowly started to form for BelgianCollector. However, he wasn’t entirely sure how to go about buying one.

While on vacation with his girlfriend in Madrid, he noticed that Audemars Piguet had opened a new store in the city with their new concept called AP-House. It’s a concept where the store has a more personal touch, aiming to move away from the “store-feeling.”

He decides to visit the store and shares his desire to purchase a Royal Oak Jumbo 15202ST. They explain to him that it’s not a watch one can buy as a first-time buyer at AP. Additionally, BelgianCollector’s brother wanted to buy a 15500ST with a grey dial. He inquires if this could be a start to a collaboration between them.

– I bought that watch with my brother; we each own half of it. We do this with some watches, splitting the cost. So, to some extent, we have a shared watch collection, says BelgianCollector.

What he didn’t realize that day was that purchasing the Royal Oak 15500ST would mark the beginning of a thrilling watch journey with AP – a journey he had only dreamed of.

Just a few months after the first transaction, BelgianCollector sits on his couch, scrolling through his phone’s news feed, which continuously updates about the pandemic paralyzing the world. Due to the lockdown in Belgium, BelgianCollector stays home all day, trying to pass the time. Simultaneously, he delves deeper into his passion for watches, using social media to connect with like-minded individuals. He finds it quiet and misses his old life when he could move freely. But on a cloudy day in April 2020, his phone chimes. Recognizing the name lighting up on the phone’s display – it’s his contact from the Spanish AP store.

– I remember the jolt I felt seeing her name. I opened the message, and I almost cried with joy. I read the message several times to ensure I had understood correctly. She wrote that my 15202ST was ready for collection at the store in Madrid. It’s a moment as a watch collector I will never forget. If there are milestones in watch collecting, this is undoubtedly one of them.

Unfortunately, due to Covid, I wasn’t able to pick up the watch myself, so one month later the watch was delivered to my home in Belgium.

The Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin is one of Audemars Piguet’s most iconic and sought-after watches.

Designed by the legendary watch designer Gerald Genta in 1972.

For Me, The Royal Oak Embodies Perfection

Today, BelgianCollector owns several of the watch manufacturer’s models in his collection. Not only from AP’s current catalog but also discontinued models that he has purchased second-hand.

– What I really admire about AP is that they see the bigger picture of you as a watch collector. If you have models that you bought second-hand and are no longer in their catalog, they don’t see you as a first-time buyer. If you’ve bought an AP watch from the secondary market, perhaps even paid over the original retail price, it just shows even more how dedicated you are to the brand. They take note of these details and value them, says BelgianCollector.

I ask him what it is about AP that appeals to him so strongly?

– Where do I start? He answers with a laugh.

He continues:

– The Royal Oak is a model that is strongly associated with AP. It’s an iconic design. I love how it fits on the wrist; I’m a big fan of thin watches. I like how it gives an industrial, masculine look. It has sharp lines but in an elegant way. There’s so much in the details of this model that you really need to experience the watch in person to fully understand its beauty. The bracelet is probably the most beautiful on the market. All of this is, of course, subjective and always interpreted based on an individual’s personal preferences, but for me, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak embodies perfection, says BelgianCollector.

Audemars Piguet model 15202ST is known for its slim profile. The model measures 8.1 mm in thickness.

The model 15202 is a tribute to the brand’s classic model 5402.

The Royal Oak Jumbo features the iconic Petit Tapisserie dial.

Can The Royal Oak Become Monotonous?

I see that BelgianCollector has many watches of the Royal Oak model in his collection. I’ve long wondered if it doesn’t feel monotonous to have the same design throughout much of the collection.

– That’s a question I’ve been asked several times, and I’d like to flip it around. Do you ask collectors who have several of Rolex’s different models in their collection the same thing?

It suddenly strikes me that he has a point I hadn’t previously considered. Many of Rolex’s models bear the iconic Oyster case, which includes several of Rolex’s most famous models like the Submariner, GMT-Master and Day-Date. But I’d never before seen it as monotonous. I acknowledge my newfound insight and ask him to elaborate.

– The Royal Oak has a fantastic design, and it comes in so many different versions with various complications and variations of the dial. How could it become monotonous? I’m deeply in love with the model and the variations it offers. For a long time, I wasn’t keen on AP’s Offshore model. But when I had the chance to buy the new 15720ST with a green dial, my view on that series changed. What a fantastic watch! It’s big, I admit. Perhaps not a watch you wear every day, but it’s a watch with a lot of personality, says BelgianCollector.

The Royal Oak Double Balance Skeleton is a highly sought-after model in the watch world. Few are privileged to have the opportunity to purchase it directly from the manufacturer.

Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Ref. 15407ST.OO.1220ST.01

"Instagram Made Me Lose My Love For My Watches"

We’re interrupted when BelgianCollector’s girlfriend enters the store. He introduces us, and we exchange pleasantries. They share a few words in French and exchange a brief kiss, after which she leaves as quickly as she came.

BelgianCollector settles back down, opens the lid of the watch box, and showcases his impressive collection to me. He picks up the model we were just discussing and turns the dive time crown – a delightful clicking sound emanates. As he shows me the various models, I ask him how he perceives himself as an influencer in the watch world.

– I never set out to become big on Instagram. A few friends and I started our accounts to share our passion for watches. Over the years, my account has grown. It’s fun, but there are pitfalls with social media, things I’ve learned to overlook over time.

BelgianCollector takes a pause to find the right words before continuing.

– If I posted a picture of a watch and noticed it didn’t get as much attention, fewer likes or comments, I’d start questioning my love for that particular watch. There were times I’d even lose my affection for it. Thankfully, that’s changed over the years, and now I view things differently. I’ve realized the importance of not letting social media influence my genuine passion.

He goes on:

– I understand that my posts might influence my followers in their decisions about certain models. I always reply when someone messages me, and I often receive queries. It’s fun. We’re all passionate watch enthusiasts, and if I can assist someone, I do it with pleasure.

After years of loyalty to AP, BelgianCollector has established a credible profile, which results in offers for models that are hard to come by. I ask him if he believes Instagram has aided him in accessing these exclusive models.

– My contacts at AP are aware of my Instagram account, and I sometimes notice they check out my posts. I think it’s benefited me in the sense that they see I retain the models I purchase from them. They don’t need me to market their watches. I doubt they mention my account internally within AP when discussing which models I should get. But they vouch for me because they trust that I’m a loyal customer who’s not out to make a quick profit, says BelgianCollector.

The watch’s movement is skeletonized, which means that superfluous parts of metal have been removed to reveal the inner workings of the timepiece.

BelgianCollector's Dream Comes True

The plane’s wheels screech as they touch down on the runway in the Spanish capital. BelgianCollector feels a tingling of anticipation coursing through his body.

We’re taken back to that rainy winter day in December 2022. The dreary weather in Belgium has swiftly been replaced by the more pleasant Spanish climate.

BelgianCollector, along with his family, jumps into a taxi to head to Audemars Piguet in downtown Madrid. Even though he’s made this trip several times before to buy a watch, BelgianCollector feels as if it’s all happening for the very first time. The fact that his family is accompanying him to witness him receiving his dream watch makes the whole event even more ceremonial.

– It’s a special feeling to purchase a watch from Audemars Piguet. Moreover, to get the chance to buy one’s dream watch from them is an indescribable feeling. You are incredibly well taken care of. We arrived at AP in Madrid just before lunch and left the store almost seven hours later. It sounds long, but it’s a holistic experience; it’s not just about purchasing a watch; it’s so much more. It feels like a familial relationship where you feel you are a part of Audemars Piguet, says BelgianCollector.

The day at Audemars Piguet in Madrid starts with the brand treating the family to lunch in a nearby district. BelgianCollector and his family are appreciative of the generosity the watch house is showing them. After lunch, the party starts heading towards the store. BelgianCollector’s mother rushes to his side, grabs his hand, and says, “Today, you must ask for a glass of champagne in the store.”

– I’m usually restrained when it comes to alcohol, and I never ask for anything, so I typically drink water when I visit the store. It might sound silly, but I find it awkward to ask for champagne. However, that day in Madrid was extraordinary, so my mother wanted to ensure that my modesty wouldn’t get in the way, laughs BelgianCollector.

Inside the Audemars Piguet store, one is greeted by an atmosphere that feels youthful and fresh, almost like being in someone’s private residence. Despite the cozy ambiance, the decor reveals a tasteful elegance. The scent of lavender mixed with cedarwood wafts through the room, and despite the lively activity, there’s a pleasant and relaxed mood. Bright wall details harmoniously blend with gleaming glass displays, where each watch is showcased like a piece of art on its own little stage. Audemars Piguet has created an environment that is both inviting and sophisticated.

Champagne is poured into glasses in front of BelgianCollector and his family, and now the moment he has awaited ever since his journey in watches began eight years ago is finally here. In just a few minutes, BelgianCollector will meet his dream watch.

– I will never forget those moments right before. I was so filled with anticipation, and it felt almost surreal, says BelgianCollector.

BelgianCollector wears his AP Skeleton, ref: 15407ST.

The watch measures 41 mm in the case and has a profile of 9.9 mm.

I Want The Moment In The Store To Be Special

BelgianCollector’s hand was sweaty. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Despite the previous visits, despite all the preparation, he now felt the real weight of the moment.

His contact at AP returned with the distinctive green wooden box from AP. BelgianCollector realized that inside that small box was the watch he had dreamt of, studied, and yearned for for so many years. It was a feeling of fulfillment and a sense that a journey had come to its climax. Yet at the same time, he knew this was just the beginning of a new journey with the watch he had waited for so long.

She placed the box in front of him and slowly opened the lid. The watch that appeared before BelgianCollector completely floored him. The Audemars Piguet model 15407ST, better known as the double balance skeleton, is a very rare and hard model to acquire from the manufacturer. Even if you are a significant client of AP, there are no guarantees that one day you will get the chance to purchase this coveted masterpiece from the watch house.

– I had only seen the watch in photos before. But sitting there with the watch in front of me, I was speechless. It was even better than I could have dreamed. It still had the factory plastic wrap on it. It was an incredible feeling to undress this beauty, BelgianCollector laughs.

He continues:

– When I’m in the store to pick up a watch, I never take any photos for Instagram. I want the moment in the store to be special for both me and the watch. I don’t want to be disturbed by trying to find a good angle or the right light. It would detract from the wonderful moment.

The watch measures 41 mm in case diameter.

For many years, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Skeleton has been a dream watch, and a Grail as they say in the watch world, for BelgianCollector. Now that the watch has finally found its way to him, his appreciation for it has only grown, and his love for the model becomes stronger each day.

– When I sat there at AP in Madrid and had the watch on my wrist for the first time, my AP partner asked me, “Which model should we aim for next?” I sat quietly for a moment, and the answer came from the heart: “I’m going to take a step back now.”

He continues:

– This has long been a Grail for me. It’s still my Grail. Just because one day you manage to achieve your dream watch doesn’t mean you have to find a new one. I savor this watch and wear it on special occasions. Right now, there’s no watch that I’m yearning for. But I’m not particularly worried. Soon there will be that watch that keeps me awake at night, says BelgianCollector, laughing ⏱

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🎥 See the trailer with the Instagram profile BelgianCollector.