If you can name a watch just by looking at a blurry internet photo, then you must have spent a whole lot of time staring at watches. Which is what Sieg Suarez, the man behind the Instagram account @watch_mnl, invested into his passion.
The 30-year old has spent much of his younger years eyeing watches, studying them in stores, stealing glances while they’re coiled around people’s wrists, and perusing watch books shipped to Manila by relatives abroad.
One might even say he’s had courses in horology. Well, kind of. “I did study watches—up to a certain extent, watchmaking,” says Sieg. “I had tutoring lessons from those who fix mechanical watches, from aesthetics down to the movement.”
All this knowledge may not directly serve the career he chose for himself—he’s a lawyer and currently legal counsel at Lamudi—but it has greatly fed his passion and benefited his pandemic-born IG page. Watch_mnl features some of the most prominent tycoons in the country and the watches they like to wear.
Unlike social media pages or website stories that focus on the stuff celebrities arm themselves with, the nature of @watch_mnl is not primarily to expose how much money these VIPs are spending on personal luxury. “I just want to share a passion,” Sieg says, “for people to see the real beauty of the watches.” He also chooses to focus on Filipino businessmen rather than political figures because he doesn’t like to court controversy or invite trolls to the page.
JAZA et al
Sieg believes a watch can say a lot about its wearer. Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, or JAZA, for example, wears his elegant Patek and Audemars when he’s sporting his business suits. When he’s enjoying the outdoors, it’s his Rolexes that show up. “It shows that he’s a solid business guy when it comes to the boardroom, but when [he’s] outside [he’s a] fun guy.”
Manny V. Pangilinan, meanwhile, shows his own brand of adaptability with his Panerai. “Panerai is a versatile watch so it shows him as a versatile person,” says Sieg. “He could go to a business appointment or out of it immediately.”
The Rolex Datejust is apparently very popular among the moneyed set, as shown by how many times it appears on the @watch_mnl grid. “It’s the longevity,” says Sieg. There may have been new metals introduced to the design over the years, technical improvements here and there, but it is essentially the same watch that Rolex launched in 1945. “If you bought it before, you won’t be so out of date when you wear it today,” Sieg advises.
Recently, a particular watch and wearer combo has caught the attention of the public: Joe Biden and his inaugural watch, a $7,000 Rolex Datejust. Sieg says that before the election he would only see the presidentiable wearing his Seikos and Omegas, or the “workhorse watches,” as Sieg refers to them. But a major win demanded a different watch.
“After he had won the election, he suddenly had that Rolex watch,” observes Sieg. “We don’t know if it was a gift to himself or a gift from someone else. We’re pretty sure it came to him because of his victory, and it signifies a success for him. And for many generations to come, when it’s passed down, it will always be the watch that Biden wore becase he won the presidency. It signifies that it’s a victory watch.”
Beyond razzle dazzle
While many are of the opinion that watches have lost much of their relevance, seeing as people look more to their phones for telling time, and there are currently no occasions to show off one’s Rolexes and Pateks in our new reality, not for the creator of @watch_mnl. For him, timepieces are artworks that offer rewards beyond the usual splash and bragging rights.
Like most avid collectors, Sieg attaches meanings and sentiments to watches, especially those he owns himself. The two most precious to him are his Rolex GMT Master, and a Tag Heuer Monaco. The former appears faded and therefore looks fake in the eyes of those not in the know (in truth, it is a kind currently coveted). Purchased in 2007, Sieg wears it every time he needs all the luck in the world, like during his bar exam. The Monaco, on the other hand, was bought in Paris, during his honeymoon. When it was just him and his wife in the most beautiful city in the world. “When there was no noise in the world,” he says. “No Covid yet. A better time.”
The other side of @watch_mnl features watches Sieg himself deems worthy of the spotlight. It gives his followers a glimpse of the man behind the account. It shows he puts a premium on aesthetics and heritage. It shows he hates hype and the accompanying inflated price tag that comes with it. For the young lawyer, his Instagram page is ultimately his way of sharing his knowledge and deep appreciation for something that's fascinated him for most of his life. It could also work as a guide to aspiring collectors on how to look and what to look for when it comes to watches.
“Buying a watch is not simply buying a device that will tell time because you can get that from your phone,” Sieg says. “But if you appreciate that someone devoted a year to make your watch, then you understand your watch more.”
[All images courtesy of Sieg Suarez]