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Watches of the real Don Draper

by Michael Weare
15 May, 2012
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About the author

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

Don-Draper-Neil-French

The real Don Draper of the advertising world isn’t the tall, lithe figure of actor Jon Hamm, in fact he has been described as a ‘creepy, sweaty little dwarf.’a tribute paid to him in his own book of memoirs ‘Sorry about the lobsters’. It’s not so much a book about advertising but a book about how life should be lived if you just had the guts to go do it.

His name is Neil French. He’s won more awards, loved more whores and pissed more blood than you’ve been stuck on the M25 worrying about your P45. As another famous ad man once observed, if there was not a real Neil French we would have to invent him.

Unlike Don Draper, Neil doesn’t hail from the mid West of America, but from the gritty (and they really are gritty) streets of Birmingham. Not Alabama, but cold, wet unromantic Britain. Like Don Draper, he has a hazy, ill defined past, but Neil’s bad boy story makes Don Draper’s look like a saccharine sweet fairy tale.

Bedding a Mafia don’s daughter and refusing to marry her, resulting in a contract being put out on him. Managing Duran Duran before they were famous, working as a matador and a pornographer. Far more Mad Men than the TV show. But for all that, Neil rolled up in Singapore in the early 80s, apparently on the run from the police, and developed a reputation as one of the most outrageous, controversial, outspoken and talented creative admen anywhere in the world.

Neil French Kaminomoto ad

One of the many clients he worked on was a Japanese hair restorative product called Kaminomoto. Regulations stipulated that there could be no pictures of bald or balding guys, not even a pack shot. This was Neil’s amusing solution to the problem.

Neil French Newspaper clipping

He went on to win shelf loads of awards and court controversy all over the world. His famous quote that women do not make great creative directors ‘because they have the tendency to want to go and suckle something’ made world headlines.

Somerset Maugham and Neil French

Nowadays Neil has retired from the advertising world to Mallorca, and increasingly models himself on Somerset Maugham, another famous British expatriate writer who made his name in Singapore. The resemblance is quite striking.

Neil French

And so what in the world has this got to do with watches? Well, just like Don Draper, you really have to struggle to guess what watch Neil French is wearing. It looks like a gold Rolex chronograph of some description, no doubt a temptation for street pirates in cash strapped Spain these days. Frankly, it looks a little too ‘new money’ so we’ve taken the trouble to make some alternative suggestions.

Four watches for the real Don Draper

Rolex Cellini 1970

1970 Rolex Cellini

This classic slim dress watch was the Rolex ‘new money’ choice of the 70’s and 80s. Now it’s attained a certain level of dignity and desirability. This example is solid 18k gold with a hand wound movement. At only 22mm x 33mm, it’s small by today’s standards of half an acre of watch on the wrist, but it is undoubtedly stylish and subtle.

Vacheron Constantin 1948

Vacheron Constantin 1948

A watch much more in keeping with the Somerset Maugham ‘Grand old man of letters’ of the 1940s. This very special watch comes from the private collection of Doc, well-known in the Vacheron Constantin international community and one of the foremost experts on Vacheron worldwide. The watch features a gleaming solid 18ct gold case, 17 jewel hand wound movement [Cal 458/3B] and an unrestored dial.

Ernst Benz by John Varvatos ChronoScope

Ernst Benz John Varvatos LE watches

For a modern watch, we recommend the individually numbered Ernst Benz by John Varvatos Limited Edition ChronoScope. It features contrast finishing with brushed and polished stainless steel. Like Neil French, it adheres closely to Varvatos’ design aesthetic of ‘perfectly imperfect’. The striking 47mm watch shares the same level of construction craftsmanship as Ernst Benz’s Great Circle Collection.

Hublot Skull Bang

Hublot Skull Bang

Playing up to the real Don Draper’s bad boy image, the Skull Bang Watch from Hublot is made entirely from black ceramic and features a stylised, tonal skull on the dial. This watch is entirely fitting. It was developed specifically for long-time brand supporter the flamboyant Laurent Picciotto – responsible for the first Hublot flagship store in Paris in 2007, no doubt with the approval of Jean-Claude Biver, undoubtedly the Don Draper/Neil French of the watch world. The watch is limited to only 100 pieces. Key details include water resistance up to 50 metres, faceted, diamond-polished hands and a black PVD steel deployant buckle.

Michael Weare | Website

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

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