Collectability Insider: A conversation with Nick Gould aka ‘The Eagle Eyed Watch Spotter’

Collectability speaks with the elusive Australian who never misses what watch is being worn by whom and shares an exclusive 'siting' for Collectability

Collectability: Chances are most Collectability readers have seen your work and ‘discoveries’ but don’t know the story of the man known as ‘The Eagle Eyed Watch Spotter’. To begin, who are you?

Nick Gould: I’m from Australia and I am a keen watch enthusiast.

How did you get started down this admirably obsessive path?

Timepieces have always interested me and I am constantly learning all the time. I stumbled down the path by accident. I realized I had a knack for identifying timepieces based on a small portion of the watch showing. It seems once I see a picture of a particular model it gets etched into my memory.

Do you collect watches?

I have a small collection, nothing too fancy, but the most meaningful timepiece is my TAG Heuer Monaco time only model that I was gifted for my high school graduation.

How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?

It depends really on if I have read somewhere about a particular person or seen a photograph of them with an interesting timepiece. This will lead me to browsing the worldwide web for an hour or two.

President Biden during his inauguration on January 20th wearing a Rolex Datejust that received worldwide media attention.

You recently were the first person online to cover the story of President Biden’s new timepiece before the inauguration. Are there any surprises in his collection?

Most of President Biden’s timepieces have been covered previously, such as his Omega Speedmaster and Seamaster models. His Seiko Quartz Chronograph with alarm got a lot of attention, as it was quite an understated timepiece, which he has owned for over a decade. The particular model had me a bit stumped (I’m human after all ha! ha!) but vintage Heuer expert Jeff Stein from On The Dash was able to come up with the exact model.

The biggest surprise was what popped up on his wrist on January 8th, 2021 while he was still President Elect, 12 days before his inauguration. I noted the distinctive jubilee bracelet and cyclops magnifying lens of a Rolex Datejust, peeking out from under his cuff. This completely flew under the radar and was not picked up by anyone else. The only thing I couldn’t confirm was the dial color, but that question got answered when President Biden was inaugurated on January 20th. President Biden’s Datejust then received worldwide media attention.

Your Instagram feed @niccoloy is a fountain of information! You have ‘unearthed’ over 1500 discoveries to date. What were your greatest non-Patek watches you discovered?

Not all of my 1500 posts have been timepiece discoveries, but they do make up the majority of my Instagram posts. There are some standout ones that come to mind. My most recent discovery was to do with British actress, Vanessa Redgrave and a Rolex Submariner 5513 she wore in the 1966 film Blowup. It turns out it contained a very rare “Explorer” dial in it.

American racing driver Dan Gurney wore a very rare Breguet diver back in 1965, which is the first time someone was seen wearing this particular watch.  Astronaut Wally Schirra with his Rolex Daytona back in 1968, which was hiding in plain sight for 52 years. With the assistance of Jeff Stein, we were able to identify which exact Heuer Chronograph model was worn by General Dwight Esienhower, which was a 74 year old mystery.  The final vintage one would be the discovery of who is most likely in possession of Pablo Picasso’s Jaeger LeCoultre Triple Date Moonphase, which turned out to be his daughter Paloma Piccasso’s first husband. My favorite modern watch find would be NBA Legend Michael Jordan wearing a first generation A Lange & Sohne Datograph on a matching bracelet.

Did any of the celebrities you feature ever reach out to you or comment?

They have not so far, but it would be a pleasant surprise if they did.

You famously helped ‘reveal’ to the world that US Supreme Court Justice Roberts wore a Patek Philippe Ref. 5205G during the (first) impeachment trial of former President Trump. 

Patek Philippe ref. 5205G
Justice Roberts wearing his Patek Philippe ref. 5205G during the first impeachment trail of former President Trump.

I actually didn’t notice Justice Roberts wearing a watch, as he wasn’t on my radar for wearing a notable one.  Jeff Stein reached out to me, asking if I could identify the brand and model. It didn’t take too long to identify, due to its unusual lugs but the task was made slightly difficult because of the long sleeves of the Justice’s robes.

And this question I am a bit afraid to ask but I have heard on numerous occasions that the beloved Patek Philippe Ellipse is often on former President Trump‘s wrist. I have never seen a photo beyond a doubt that proves this to my eye but rather this impossibly tight mesh bracelet watch that is not a Patek Phillippe. Can you set the record straight?

I was always under the assumption that it was an Ellipse on the wrist of former President Trump, but after recently taking a closer look, I do not believe it is a Patek Philippe Ellipse on his wrist.

Your images of watches on wrists from the past offers a historic record of not only who wore important watches but how they wore them. Any surprises you have come across on ‘how’ people wore their watches?

A lot of the older generation favored wearing their timepieces facing inwards, which I find quite interesting. A lot of the NASA Astronauts used to do this in particular, John Glenn, which makes getting a clear photo of their watches quite difficult. The first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru also did this, but it led to a great photo of his Rolex Oyster being taken since the watch was facing inwards.  Some photographs would not exist of certain people wearing their notable watches, if they stuck to the old adage of wearing your timepiece on the opposite wrist to your writing hand. Steve McQueen was right handed but wore his watches on his right hand. The shot of him on the set of Le Mans with his Rolex Submariner comes to mind, as it was perfectly captured on his wrist. We are lucky though that Paul Newman wore his iconic watches on his left wrist, which enabled the watches to be seen very clearly.

And the big question from Collectability. What were your biggest Patek Philippe discoveries to date and can you share their images and stories?

Josip Broz Tito, wearing his very rare Patek Philippe ref. 1591. The Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman was the premier of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1980

First I have an exclusive for Collectablilty, which I just found. It is a photograph of Josip Broz Tito, wearing his very rare Patek Philippe ref. 1591 perpetual calendar, auctioned by Philips in 2001 from a photograph taken in 1949.

Legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie wearing his gold Patek Philippe ref. 1463 chronograph.

There a few stand out discoveries that are above the rest. The first would be famed trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and his gold ref. 1463 chronograph. He is most known amongst watch people for wearing a first generation Rolex GMT-Master with bakelite bezel, but I was surprised to find no one had mentioned him owning a Patek Philippe. The best photograph of him wearing it was at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival.

King Michael of Romania wearing his Patek Philippe ref. 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph.

The second one was finding a full color photograph of King Michael of Romania and his Patek Philippe ref. 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph, which helped to confirm he didn’t own a mythical two-tone version of the timepiece. The third stand out discovery was finding a picture of King Faisal of Iraq, wearing a ref. 1518 when he travelled to the USA in the early 1950s.

Clark Gable wearing his Patek Philippe ref. 1526 perpetual calendar on the set of his 1955 film Soldier of Fortune.

As for cool discoveries, there are another three that stand out. The first is discovering that Clark Gable wore his ref. 1526 perpetual calendar with a Cartier buckle. My friend Jake Ehrlich of & Jakes Patek Philippe World was the first to discover a photo of Gable with his Patek while smoking a cigarillo.

Clark Gable wore his Patek Philippe ref. 1526 perpetual calendar with a Cartier buckle.

I found out last year that photo was taken on the set of the 1955 film Soldier of Fortune. Gable wears the watch in the film and in one scene you get to see that Gable actually wore the watch with a Cartier deployant buckle.

Italian film director Sergio Leone, who was best known for creating the Spaghetti Western genre wearing his Patek Philippe Nautilus.

The second and third discoveries are to do with the Patek Philippe Nautilus and their notable owners. The first owner was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah Of Iran and I came across a photo of him at his desk, sporting his Nautilus. The other notable owner of the Nautilus I discovered, was Italian film director Sergio Leone, who was best known for creating the Spaghetti Western genre.

Do you also spot watches in movies? Any Patek Philippe discoveries that you can share?

It seems that Hollywood tends to always use fake Patek Philippe watches in particular the Sky Moon Tourbillon for some reason. A fake one has been used in two films, Escape Plan and The Hitman’s Bodyguard. There was also a fake perpetual calendar in the Liam Neeson film, Non Stop.

TV gold: Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini (right) gave a Patek Philippe ref. 5037/1G (left) to his cousin-in-law as a ‘thank-you gift’.

My favourite Patek Philippe spot is in the legendary TV series, The Sopranos. Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, hands a Patek Philippe box to his wife’s cousin, who is also his financial advisor, for helping him with a deal. Upon opening the box he exclaims “Holy S**t! A Patek?!”

Any Patek Philippe mysteries that you can share?

I have heard the King Faisal of Iraq ordered multiple ref. 1518s in stainless steel, which is quite an eye opener. The whereabouts of these watches are unknown.

Thank you so much Nick for your time today and eagle observations. We look forward to more of your discoveries in the future.

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