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Interview with Kevin O’Dell

We had a very pleasant watch chat with Kevin O’Dell who is a world known watch enthusiasts mainly with his posts about his passion at www.paneristi.com

SO: Dear Kevin, first of all welcome to Horobox.. It is a great pleasure for us to have you here at Horobox.

KD: No thank you man this is rad! I appreciate you thinking of me and honestly love talking about watches anyway so the pleasure is all mines.

SO:You’ve been a long term and well known watch enthusiast especially with your post at paneristi.com. How did you get interested about watches..? And what was the reason for you to turn this hobby in to a passion..?

Well actually I wasn’t into watches at all as a kid, all I really cared about was skateboarding until I met my wife when I was 15 then I only cared about her and skateboarding hahaha. I guess I was into music too and I collected sneakers. Watches didn’t come into the picture until I was in my early 20s. My dad was a goldsmith and I was in-between jobs because the video production company I was working for at the time was closing its doors so he hooked me up with a job at once of the shops he did repairs for. It was a local pawnshop just about a mile from my house and coincidently the store where I bought my first video camera with some money I got from my first communion. It was a nice change of pace because I really only enjoyed shooting skateboarding anyway and doing weddings and commercial work was actually making me not want to shoot. Anyway I quickly had to learn about watches you know, real versus fake and all the different makers from Rolex to Omega to Breitling. I used to think luxury watches were just some silly thing rich guys had to show off hahaha and growing up in a working class family this didn’t resonate with me. However when I started learn about the quality, craftsmanship and even the art behind them I was really intrigued. I think it’s something I even fought with myself about. I mean growing up in a family that was barely making ends meet and working full time since the age of 15 myself I sort of battled with the idea of owning something “luxury” especially since they didn’t even suit my style, remember I was just a young guy with who was into skateboarding and punk rock. I wore a t-shirt, a pair of Dickies and Vans everyday hahaha. Finally I caved and picked up an Omega Seamaster automatic that came into the shop, I think I paid around $800 for it.

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As for the passion, well I’ve always been really passionate about everything I’m into. From skateboarding, to shoes and music to my wife Danielle. I can be downright obsessive to me honest hahaha but I prefer to say that I’m passionate. As my appreciation for watches grew so did my knowledge and it wasn’t long before I discovered Panerai and the brand just captured me.

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SO:What was your first important watch..? And when did you acquire it..?

KD: It’s funny thinking about my first “important” watch because I don’t really know how to answer that. It could be my first real watch which was that Omega but I would say it was my first Panerai I bought at the end of 2006 the PAM 111. That was important for me for a few reasons, of course it was my first Panerai which started a beautiful relationship with the brand and the community surrounding it. It was the first watch I bought brand new and at $4000 it was a large purchase for me at the time being 22 and recently engaged to my wife. I had saved up a bunch of money for an engagement ring, honeymoon and a safety deposit on our first place and I had almost enough left over to cover this purchase so it worked out and I was psyched! To me it was the best Panerai in the world of course I didn’t’ know as much as I know today but it felt very special the whole thing.

Something about Panerai just really captured me, the bold and iconic look, the simplicity of the dial and of course the history along with the robust tool watch DNA. All that stuff just really resonated with me and I also really just liked that no one really knew what they were and they were rare. I didn’t feel like I was trying to be a show off wear it and the simple and robust look suited my style so it was just perfect at the time. I also think that model is important because that was the first watch that made me a collector of watches because before that I only had one watch at a time. That model is still really special to me, as are all of the ETA base references of that era. I really believe these watches were the heart and soul of the brand and it’s a shame to see them moving away from this but that’s a whole other topic in itself hahaha.

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SO:When did you first meet with Panerai..? What was your first Pam..?

KD: Well the first time I saw a Panerai was in 2006 in a movie called ‘Elizabethtown’ where the main character played by Orlando Bloom wears a PAM 127 which he actually wore on the Bordeaux calf that is typically disregarded at the bottom of most collectors boxes hahaha. I watched the movie with Danielle as she was the one who wanted to see it and honestly it’s an awful film but I was obsessed with his watch, but I didn’t know what it was or how much it cost, I just really loved it. Thankfully the owner of the shop I worked for was into watches and she knew it was a Panerai and told me so I looked them up and found out there was an AD not far from me so I walked in and checked them out in person and was given a catalogue along with the book ‘Panerai Historia: From the Depths of the Sea’. I took those home and read them both over and over again and decided on a PAM 111 which I ended up purchasing shortly after. It’s funny back then AD’s only had like 5-6 Panerai’s in their cases and they had a 005 which I almost grabbed because the 111 had to be ordered but the guy working there said I should wait and get what I want so I put a deposit down and ordered the 111 and it came a month or so later.

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Also a cool side story: I met with Mr. Rafael Alvarez who is the ex president of Panerai North America back in early 2015 in his office in New York. I told him that exact same story about my first Panerai and said he had something for me and excused himself from the table. He went to the other side of his office behind his desk and pulled a framed photograph off his wall, it was a photograph of Orlando Bloom from the set of ‘Elizabethtown’ wearing the 127. He said “here this is for you, I want you to have it”. That was really cool of him honestly, and even though I disagreed with him and most people about Panerai about their direction as a brand I really appreciated that. I still have it in my closet.

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SO:We know that you had a beautiful Panerai collection featuring many limited and special models however, we don’t see you with Panerais nowadays. What are the reasons for that..?

KD: Man, this is a loaded question and there really isn’t one single answer or reason. I think the best thing to say is that something’s just change while others will stay the same. I would say a big turning point for me was 3 years ago I lost a lot of weight due to some dietary changes I needed to make as I was always overweight my whole life but it was honestly out of control and felt like really awful. I ended up getting really into eating clean and real healthy food even became obsessive about it like my other passions. Long story short I lost over 100 lbs in 10 months and my wrist shrunk and inch from 7.25” down to 6.25”. The 47mm’s I had just looked downright silly on my wrist and I wasn’t wearing them at all and they sat in my watch box for close to a year. I ended up buying a vintage Rolex 5513 off of the casual Friday market from a friend and fellow Paneristi and the size just seemed to fit me so well and suited me. The look of a 5513 is similar to a Panerai as it is a ‘base’ model with perfect balance, big maxi tritium plots and minimal text on the dial so of course it appealed to me. I ended up just wearing that a bunch and sold all my 47mm Panerai. Then I became a father to my beautiful daughter Madeleine Rose and I think this played a role as well. I suddenly felt grown up and older for the first time. My taste started to change and I have to say this was something that was really emotional to me. Panerai and Paneristi had become a huge part of my life over those past 8 -9 years they were part of my family, not just me either my wife Danielle as well. It was actually a sad time but exciting as well because I was learning about all these other watches and as time went on I started to really appreciate vintage watches. I also really felt like they better suited me my style at this stage in my life so I was wearing them more and more. I also had some friends who where Paneristi’s as well who went in this direction and they introduced me to others and it became like a mini group of individuals just texting on a smaller scale from the forum of course but the same passion was there it was just moving another direction. My Panerai collection started to dwindle as I was wearing them less and less along with a few other modern watches I owned like IWC and Rolex.

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SO:How would you describe your perfect Panerai, if you have the privilege of having a Panerai exclusively made for you..?

KD: Well I actually have many ideas for a models that Panerai should make and probably many more of others in their current collection that should be discontinued hahaha. So I have thought about this a great deal and in fact have come up with my a Panerai that I would love to own should they ever make it. I’m kind of superstitious though so if I tell you what it is I feel like it’ll have less of a chance of happening so I’ll keep it to myself…unless you force me to tell hahahha

SO:How is your watch hobby nowadays..? What kind of watches do you collect and/or wear..?

KD: Watches play a large role in my life still of course. I’m now 32, my daughter just turned 2 and life is hectic. Watches are probably my main hobby outside of family stuff which once you have a child that becomes every minute of every day. Skateboarding still exists in my life and I love doing it and being around it. I have a whole group of friends who skate and just spending time with them out in the street doing what we love is special and there’s this sense of community that I haven’t ever found in anything else, it’s just very special to me and probably always will be. Unfortunately it’s hard to actually get the time to go out with them and do it when you get older and you have a family and responsibilities.  It honestly leaves me torn because I go out and skate and I miss my wife and daughter or don’t go skate and have a family day and I’m getting texts and pictures of a great skate session so there’s this battle and it’s hard to find balance since that life requires so much of you. With watches you don’t need to go anywhere or do anything really you can be at home and connect with other collectors, even buy watches! I’m sitting here now doing this interview while my daughter is napping, so it just makes sense.

As far as collecting goes, I guess I just try to collect watches that I feel are important, rare and often times underappreciated. Also finding examples that I can be proud to own and wear is a big thing. There isn’t one brand I collect in fact I like to consider my current collection, which is ever-changing as pretty eclectic. It’s hard to pinpoint one brand though because they are all so cool to me from Omega and LeCoultre to Eberhard and Universal and there’s just so much rad stuff out there at any price point.

SO:What is your most frequent daily rocker..?

KD: Oh that’s easy my Universal Geneve Tri-Compax, I really love that watch and it’s been my most worn watch since December of last year. In fact I got one example for a good deal because it came up and I loved it so much I started to seek out a more mint example with box and papers which is extremely rare for any 1960s watch but these Tri-Compax are rare themselves so a full set isn’t something easy to obtain but I found and with a lot of help from a great risti mate in the UK I was able to add it to my collection. The reason I love this watch is because it’s just so unique, it’s a sports watch yet has many complications being three register chronograph with moonphase along with day, date and month which sounds overly busy but it’s executed so well that the dial still has perfect balance and symmetry. It’s just so cool to look at and all the functions are really useful, you pretty much have it all which out wearing something that everyone else has.

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SO:If you have an unlimited budget, what would be your choice for daily wearer…?

KD: Another easy question the Patek 570 or the 530(time only) Calatravas in stainless steel; Which are pretty similar references and had many dial variants but the ones with the Breguet numerals are just extraordinary and for me the best watches on the planet. It’s hard to choose between the black dial 530 and the two tone silver dial but either of those would do just fine. I think I lean a little bit toward the 570 in two-tone silver dial which is found on both references because I prefer the flat bezel. The dial is just undeniably beautiful it’s striking quite honestly all while being a simple time only watch in steel.

SO:How is your wife’s approach to your passion about watches..Can she name the models, references or specs upon seeing a watch ..?

KD: Hmmmm, she’s used to hate it, then got into it and now is somewhat disinterested. She can name some models Panerai especially but it never was a passion thing for her. She really just went with it because she knew I was into it and then she really enjoyed all the gtgs and traveling and meeting everyone but then that came to a halt after Maddie was born. Now if I go to gtgs it’s alone most of the time. My wife and I have been together a long time and she’s always been really supportive of my passions, I often wonder how she puts up with me, she’s my soul-mate for sure.

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SO: If you have the opportunity to get involved with watches professionally, what would be your preference for the job title..?

KD: Aside from Panerai I really can’t see myself offering much too any other brand outside of sales which I wouldn’t want to do. I thought working for Panerai could be cool but it would have to be within the design, research, development and strategy.  I figured I could genuinely help them and truly believe they could use it and benefit  from it but that was just a dream that has sort of faded now. Perhaps at an auction house or something that could be cool helping to source and auction important and unique watches, I have a good friend who does that and it seems rad and something I’d be into. Honestly though I just really enjoy being a collector and an enthusiast, that is where my heart really is and it’s on my terms which I like.

SO:We would like to hear your ideas and comments about Horobox if you please..

KD: No ideas really, just keep up what you’re doing, keep being cool and being yourself and sharing the passion. I think your presence on instagram is really great, it keeps the risti spirit alive on that platform. I often see your posts and reminisce of the golden era of Panerai, when it was just our little secret. It’s funny I heard a local risti use that term golden era and I think she meant like 2002-2008 and it really stuck with me and I still use that term to this day.  Instagram is great too because it’s so quick and easy you don’t have to get too involved or tied up which is great for most of us with busy lifestyles but need our daily watch fix and sense of community. It’s been a great platform for me since becoming a father and having less spare time on my hands.

SO: Thank you very much for your time and being with us..?

KD: Thank you again for having me it was fun! 

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