As the drummer in the hard rock band Kiss, measuring beats and seconds is the essence of Eric Singer’s job. He sees an elemental connection with watches: “What I do for a living is I keep time playing music, and a watch keeps time on my wrist.”
Mr Singer got his first watch when he was about five years old. His father worked as a band leader on cruise ships and returned from one transatlantic trip with the gift of a German manual-winding mechanical watch on a Speidel Twist-O-Flex watch band.
The piece started an eclectic collection that now spans the “whole gamut” from no-name stainless steel chronographs to pieces by Audemars Piguet. The drummer often adds to this collection when on tour. He has played with the likes of Black Sabbath and Queen’s Brian May and is now a member of Kiss, the band known as much for its theatrical stage performances and band-member make-up as for songs including “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”.
Mr Singer, 58, who wears the “Catman” make-up when playing in Kiss, found the conversation often returned to watches when he toured with shock-rock star Alice Cooper in the early 2000s. “He bought about 45 watches on that tour,” he says. “I’m not exaggerating, it was crazy. Every day he’d come on the bus and . . . go, ‘Hey Eric, watch of the day,’” then show him his wrist.
Last year Mr Singer was on the jury for the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève watchmaking award. He says he looks at watches “like pieces of art, just like somebody goes to a museum and loves looking at paintings or sculptures”.
Jaeger-LeCoultre triple calendar moonphase (1951)
Mr Singer says it is this Jaeger-LeCoultre that sparked his interest in watches. His father bought the piece, which has a 10-carat-gold-filled case, for $150 in 1951 and it was one of two “really nice” watches he kept in his dresser drawer or in the dining room buffet cabinet. The other was a Gallet mini-chronograph.
As a child, Mr Singer would play with the watches. He liked the “man in the moon feature” and look of the Jaeger-LeCoultre, which his father later gave to the drummer’s older brother, who in turn gave it to him.
Mr Singer was always attracted to watches with complications, but his taste has changed as he has aged: “In the past 10 years I’ve found myself gravitating more towards watches that just show the time . . . and not really caring about all these other features because, unless I’m wearing glasses, I can’t really see them.”
Longines flyback chronograph (1940s-early 1950s)
Inspired by his father’s watches, Mr Singer started out collecting vintage pieces. He found his stainless steel Longines in a small watch repair store in Los Angeles where he would “hang out and talk shop” with the man running it. The shopkeeper bought pieces from customers who had watches sitting unworn in drawers for years.
The drummer cracked the Longines’ Plexiglas crystal, which he says is a different shape from other acrylic crystals he has seen from that era, while on tour with Kiss in Australia in 1995. Although he managed to buy another crystal, it was the last the supplier had so he no longer takes the watch on tour.
Stainless steel Rolex Daytona (2010)
Mr Singer often buys new watches while travelling. He bought his Rolex Daytona, which he thinks is a “must-have” for watch fans, at Wempe in Madrid in 2010, towards the end of a European tour with Kiss.
Such shopping trips are a common feature of Kiss tours because a number of the band’s members and crew, including singer Paul Stanley, band manager Doc McGhee and tour manager Tim Lougee, are also “into watches”. “It’s contagious,” says Mr Singer.
Patek Philippe pocket watch (1920s)
Though he is not a pocket watch collector, Mr Singer was attracted by the “feel-good” story behind this open-faced gold piece. The somewhat incredible tale goes that a leper colony in Hawaii gave it to the opera singer Tandy MacKenzie as a thank-you present.
“His manager booked for him to sing there so he went . . . on mule or donkey through the mountains to this leper colony and performed for them,” he says. “And they were so impressed and so grateful for what he did [that] somehow they pooled their money together and bought him this pocket watch.” Mr Singer wonders how they came by that kind of money.
Mr Singer owns a book that tells the story of the watch, which came with its original paperwork and box. The piece has an inscription engraved on the dust cover inside the main case that reads: “Presented to Tandy MacKenzie by the people of the leper settlement Molokai July 31st 1922 with aloha nui [fondest regards].”
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (2006-2007)
Mr Singer’s favourite watch brand is Blancpain and he owns different versions of the Fifty Fathoms model, which he considers the “king of dive watches”.
His favourite remains his first, a stainless steel piece on a sailcloth strap with a deployant clasp bought in 2008 from a jewellery store in Florida, following a successful Kiss tour.
The piece is one of “definitely more than 50 and definitely less than a thousand” in his collection. “I’ve probably never counted on purpose because I don’t really want to scare myself, because then I’m going to think: ‘What the hell are you doing?’ ”