Daniel Matatov: We know Gai or “Classic 55” for his eccentric dress watches and unique taste. Where did this come from? Why focus on brands such as Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe?
Gai Gohari: My passion for unique and eccentric dress watches stems from the pursuit of daring aesthetics and design language within objects. I get enjoyment from the execution of different shapes, colors and details that make a useful object like a wristwatch into a form of art.
Most of all I like to be unique so no one can have the same watch as mine, it’s all about individuality. The focus on brands such as AP and Patek enables me and my clientele to acquire a watch that not only is the best in it’s category as far as mechanics and materials along with a fabulous look that stand the test of time but is also an everlasting value in monetary terms. Hard to achieve that overall stability with lesser brands.
DM: What did you do before selling vintage watches, and how did you get into the hobby/business?
GG: Before watches I had two different career paths, and what I’m currently doing is the culmination of both. I started working at 18 years old with and for my father in the precious stone and jewelry trade in Italy. That enabled me to be involved in the jewelry industry at large and muster an eye for fine details and colors. I then worked in the States for a large precious gem company traveling the country and the world for sales.
I then pursued my dream of being in the fashion business and I started as a Custom Clothier, following my passion for style, elegance and aesthetics. I thank God immensely I saw success in the 7 years I was involved and built up a great private client network that stands for me to this day. I then decided to start something new and fresh utilizing the knowledge and contacts of the jewelry world and garnering to my clientele that already trusted me.
I started by pulling out a couple of vintage Datejusts that I had on consignment at the end of each clothing appointment and I sold one, two, three and the rest is history. I decided it was time to make the leap.
DM: Where do you think you get your taste from?
GG: I definitely get my taste from the fact that I grew up in Milano and that my parents were always focused on aesthetics, style and good form. My dad was always strikingly dressed in his heyday and my mom to this day looks like she walked out of a movie scene, literally.
Style is a big thing in Milan and it has always been a big thing for me. Taste is about balancing good form and your individual quirk. Being noticed and remembered but in the most striking and tasteful way possible.
DM: Who are your style icons? (Why the obvious appreciation for Ralph Lauren?)
GG: Ralph Lauren is my prime style icon because in his and my mind the way you dress or the accessory you enjoy can literally make you feel the way you need just like watching a certain movie can. Today I am cowboy, tomorrow I am a british gentleman, and next I am Indiana Jones. I dress and accessorize according to the energy I need that day. Ralph Lauren is a master at this art… it’s not a costume, it’s a frame of mind. Ralph really embodies many styles that I enjoy, he clearly takes the cake above all style icons. Nobody comes close.
DM: What are your thoughts on the vintage vs. modern business? Do you ever deal with modern watches?
GG: I love vintage watches because I enjoy the purity, honesty and character of an old object. The warmth and softness of the metals, the ultra fine details of the dials, the conservative sizes.. it just resonates with me. “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” is my mantra, it is really like this. Modern watches for some reason feel so clinical to me, they don’t have a soul. The metal is shiny and looks laser cut, the dials are cold, the cases are so blown out of proportion in terms of thickness and width. Something’s off for me, it doesn’t strike a chord. Vintage all the way!
DM: In your time dealing with unique dress watches, have you seen any changes in taste from collectors or in the market?
GG: Regrettably the only thing I see that makes a change is the stream of energy that make sheep want what they are told to like and want by the influencers and the elites. Nobody cared about Cartier vintage watches one year ago, now they all NEED one. They all HAVE TO HAVE ONE. You don’t.
DM: Do you think the market will start to appreciate dress watches more over time? Or is your style meant for the select few who appreciate them?
GG: I think my style is meant for the select few who appreciate it and I’d rather have it like this, I don’t need the mainstream approval. Though the flux of demand for my kind of watches has certainly increased with everything becoming so unobtainable. I am happy to play in my own league.
DM: Do you believe in educating your client on what you have to offer or is it more about catering to clients that are like-minded and are seeking your specific taste?
GG: I seek like-minded individuals that resonate with what I have to offer. Some clients’ taste evolved just like mine did. When I first started 7 years ago I sold much more vintage Rolex sports models, I would have never looked at what I like today. I evolved with the times.
DM: Do you think prices on vintage AP, VC, or PP are going to increase over time or are they meant to stay where they are now?
GG: I hope prices stay where they are because when things heat up it’s less fun, less interesting and much more stressful for myself and the collectors.
I am not happy when things double in price every year, I am not the one holding the watches I am the one selling and buying everyday. It’s upsetting to me to see a $8000 watch trade for $30000 because the market is hot, though some people think it’s good. I love value, it’s the second determining factor for me.
DM: What’s your experience over in Italy with watches?
GG: Italy is the homeland of watch collecting. It all started there, the passion for vintage watches and details. Italians are the bearers of good taste and trends, they always find the good stuff and can make the uncool — hot. In a normal world I go to my hometown for business every two months. I can’t wait to start again.
DM: What, in your opinion, do you think is the future for watches, collectors, and the overall market?
GG: The future is bright in our world, let’s say I think we are reaching the Zenith of the momentum. Tastes and trends will surely change.. in a while no one will care for Royal Oak or Nautilus just like they didn’t care for it when I started. The wheel turns and new objects of desire will be found and it will surprise but in the end you will subscribe to it too.