Photography by Shayan Bokaie, Interview by Shayan Bokaie
Sep 20, 2021
It’s no secret there’s a staggering and growing overlap in the Venn diagram of enthusiasts interested in both cars and watches that few other hobbies share. It’s an age-old tradition, an intimate relationship between motoring and timing, heritage and the intoxication of the analog. Within this shared ground, it’s easy to observe another strong intersection — the one between Porsche and watches, specifically.
For further pontification, we looked to the leadership team at HODINKEE, the destination for all things watches, to dissect the objective and subjective synergies of hairpins and horology. We met with both Founder and Chairman Ben Clymer and Chief Brand Officer Eneuri Acosta for an insightful chat and sampling drive with their 2020 Porsche 911, 1990 Porsche 964 911, and 1969 Porsche 911S to learn more.
Marqued: I’m seeing some really beautiful Porsches here. There’s obviously a lot of crossover for you between the watch world and automotive world, Porsche especially. At a glance, it appears this is a favorite marque amongst the HODINKEE crew.
Ben Clymer: Yes. I think collectively within our team, we've owned every single variant of the 911, except maybe the 996. So everything from the ‘65 short wheelbase cars, to long hoods, G-body, 964, 993, 997, 991, and now 992. Every single creation.
Marqued : Wow. I doubt many businesses could say the same about their parking lots.
Ben: There are certain brands that just really resonate with HODINKEE’s audience that are outside the watch world, some of which we’ve done some collaborations with as well. We’ve done a camera with Leica, an Ligne 2 lighter with S.T. Dupont. These are multi-generational brands, and that’s what we’ve always appreciated about the Porsche 911. It’s why the Speedmaster is the Speedmaster. The Royal Oak is the Royal Oak. The Carrera is the Carrera. It’s just about that simplicity and continuity of design.
Eneuri Acosta: I think that's exactly it. These are products that have been consistently great since day one. And watching the evolution of the product is exciting, versus, perhaps, being disappointed with a revolutionary take on what the product is supposed to be. And it's appealing in the watch world as well.
Marqued: For you two personally, when did you all start getting into cars? What was the spark car for you?
Eneuri: Oh, the spark car for me? A 1989 Toyota Cressida. Which was my dad's dream car at the time, and when he finally got it that was perhaps the first car that I thought to myself, that's kind of interesting. He was just obsessed with that thing and it connected us. From there, we would always talk about watches and cars, which planted the seed of, “Okay, there’s a culture here. People are into this.” My career ended up heading in that direction, to the point where I worked at General Motors for 11 years. And even though I was at Cadillac, Ben and I bonded over Porsche. The rest is history.
Ben: For me it was the VW Beetle and Herbie the Love Bug. I was obsessed, and as you can probably tell from my life, I get obsessive over things. I actually asked my mom if I could be a VW Beetle for Halloween, Herbie in particular. She made me a Beetle costume out of cardboard, which didn’t quite account for going up and down stairs with a different axis of movement.
Then when I got my first Porsche, it was the 356. There's obviously a very linear connection there. My uncle had a Beetle growing up, a really beautiful red Cabriolet, and I thought, early on, "Oh, should I get a Beetle?" And then I was like, "You know what, this Porsche, this makes sense." And I found a restored 1962 356B in Smyrna Green. I straight up could not afford it. We had zero employees, and HODINKEE was in its early days. And I found some guy, I don't even know who he was, where he is now, that said, "If you put five grand down, we'll finance the rest." And I thought to myself, "Yep — let's do it!"
That’s kind of how I live my life and I love that car. What’s funny is my dad would not teach me how to drive stick as a kid, thinking I’d kill myself, so I had friends that taught me a bit over the years, but I bought the 356 not really knowing how to drive stick! I taught myself when that car was delivered to a parking lot at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey.
Eneuri: That's a wild story. I didn't know that. It was actually the same thing with me, with my first 911, a ‘73T. Bought it not really knowing how to drive stick, and taught myself on that car.
Ben: I have another 356 now, and in hindsight that transmission isn’t easy. You have to push down to get in reverse. Looking back, I wish I still had it. It was a great way to learn, because a 356 is so incredibly simple. I had it serviced by Dominick’s European, who I met through Autodromo’s Bradley Price, and kept the car in Manhattan for three years. In the city, parked on the street at Pier 40, which I wouldn't do at all now. That car led to really going full-on into vintage cars, early 911s specifically.
I ended up buying Jeff Zwart’s 1965 Porsche 911, an early short wheelbase, which I now also regret selling. Then my current 1967 911S in its place. I went further down the rabbit hole with a GT3 Touring and 964s.
Marqued: The 911 love seemed to escalate quickly.
Ben: It reminds me of another brand that we have a lot of love for, which is Rolex. You could write books on the minutiae, the minute differences between a Bart Simpson coronet or a frog dial. And I think the same minutiae is true with Porsche and you really begin to appreciate it. I can feel and experience the distinctions in my 356 Zagato, which is basically 1950s technology, the ‘67S, which is my favorite of the vintage early cars, and then the 964, which I truly use as a daily.
Eneuri: We have this running joke in the office about Rolex and the consistency with Rolex, in that you get a Rolex and it's almost too easy, similar to Porsche. And then you think to yourself, "Yeah, let me branch out and try to explore all these other areas of the watch world." And then eventually you make your way back to Rolex, because it's that good and it does everything so consistently. Porsche is that way too, and that's how I viewed it. I've driven Alfas, Ferraris, Lancias, etc. They all are great and are better than Porsche in one or two areas. But there are not a lot of brands that can basically do everything in one package.
Ben: Exactly. That's reality. All the cars that work are here. The cars that don't work are not here. My Alfa Romeo Sprint Zagato is so aggressive, so nasty sounding. And that gives me joy that is very different from the Porsches in many ways, but I am not going out to dinner in that car.
Marqued: I think for next-generation enthusiasts and new entrants in the car or Porsche passion, it’s certainly not obvious from Porsche’s current stature that their vision was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Eneuri: Several times. It takes guts to stick to a point of view for the last 50 plus years. If you look at the interior of the 2020 992 and 1969 911 you can find connections between the two, whether it's the horizontal dash layout or the positioning of the gauges. The radio knob is on the 992, it's in almost the identical spot in the ‘69. It's wild how they’ve managed to maintain the user experiences through their lineage.
Marqued: Eneuri, given you own two Porsche 911s with similar model years, 1969 and 1970, I get the sense you like to zoom in and really study the model.
Eneuri: I've invested so much time and effort researching the brand, and getting to know the brand, especially the early stuff and learning the nuances. I still find new things to appreciate every single time I get behind the wheel and keep going deeper. Whether it's this car or the 1970T, which is a 2.2, carbureted versus MFI, and trying to experience the contrast between the two. One of the things that we were laughing about the other day, we had Ben’s '67S here, this '69S and my '70T and all three of them had different door handles. You start figuring out all these little nuances, and it's like, "What were these guys thinking at that time?!" What I've really learned to appreciate is, they were just trying to figure it out in those early days.
Ben: Eneuri knows the difference between everything. I think that's what's so charming about it. In HODINKEE Magazine, I picked certain models and went incredibly deep, so I wrote a story on my '65 911 in our first volume. The early 911s are so charming to me, because I started doing all the research on what Porsche was going through at the time. It was anything but a sure thing, but in the end it worked out.
It’s just like the Submariner was anything but a sure thing when Rolex came out with it in 1953. It's the ideas of these landmark companies, like Rolex, OMEGA, Patek, or Porsche, really not knowing the fate of their future.
And I think as a young company, HODINKEE is kind of doing that too. When we designed our collaboration watch with TAG Heuer there were technical limitations. We wanted to do a hand-wound movement with three registers, but couldn’t unfortunately. So, we combined basically a 3147 chronograph with the Skipperera and made a piece which now sells for five times retail. I think the idea of just figuring stuff out is really what I love about the early days of Porsche and in many ways, we aspire to be a brand like Porsche one day. Where it's like, HODINKEE just means quality. HODINKEE means knowledge. HODINKEE means curation and...
Marqued: This goes back to your point about attraction to multi-generational products and brands.
Ben: Right, and when I look back at products we’ve designed, whether it's for Leica, Hermès, or whatever, we don't add anything to their brand story. We just find the things that really resonate with us. And I think that is what is interesting about what we do. We're taking stories that already existed within TAG Heuer or Vacheron, and identifying them as applicable to our audience and making them really pronounced on our product.
In everything we do, we design for our audience. Our watch audience is a very particular type of consumer that cares more about craft than cost. And then, when we do this thing, the cost comes later, but it's never engineered. Cost is always a byproduct of the rarity of it and the quality of it. And I think the same is true with Porsche. My ‘67S was $6,000 when it was new, who knows what it’s worth now? The same parallel exists in the watches we design.
Marqued: The essentialness of timing is the most obvious parallel between cars and watches. Beyond this, and from a collecting standpoint, where else do you see crossovers from your point of view?
Ben: All I can speak to is for me, and then what I see in our audience. For me, everything that I do, everything that I buy, is about what went into it behind the scenes. If people knew what went into that watch, or the camera, it's exhausting work. It consumes your entire life. And that is so meaningful. You want that to reflect what you care about — there's this human element to everything we do.
Similarly, the cars that I buy now are cars that have real personal anecdotes too, whether it's mine or somebody else's that I've met. I just bought a BMW 2800CS from a guy that I know. It was his father’s car since 1971 and I know everything about him now and everything about his father. My ‘67S had one owner from 1970 to 2015. I'm on email with him. My SZ was owned by Gianni Bulgari of the Bulgari family, who I know over email. And to have these anecdotes and these stories of why Gianni Bulgari bought this Alfa Romeo in 1960, when he was an heir to a jewelry fortune, amidst owning a 250 GTO and a Porsche 904 and all this other crazy stuff. It was so he could race and compete in the 1300cc class and thought it was the most beautiful, lightweight thing he could get.
So the idea for me as a collector is having things that really tie to my own history, on a personal or professional level, or to somebody else's history that I admire. Traceable history is really important to me. I only buy vintage watches that are from the original owner or one degree away from the original owner, but validatable. I'm wearing a Royal Oak today, because the very first press trip I ever went on, the first time a brand basically took a chance on me as a journalist, to fly me to Switzerland, was Audemars Piguet. That trip changed my life in that way and this is my one Royal Oak, and I'll keep it forever. My name is on the back.
I think that is a healthy way to collect because it's beyond just consumption. And I think it's so incredibly easy to fall into this, keeping up with the Joneses, or consumption for consumption's sake. Everything has a meaning to me, and I think it just adds a different level of appreciation towards all this stuff.
Marqued: Beautifully said, Ben. Eneuri, can you top that?
Eneuri: For me, I don't look to buy a 911 or a Heuer because some celebrity is endorsing it or whatever the case may be. I want to collect things that are more representative of who I want to be as a person, and the things that I value as a person, like consistency, honesty, doing the right thing. Having a point of view that is perhaps not what the status quo is. In the early days, Porsche was so stubborn about not diverging from their vision of what they thought the car was, what the car should be. And the vision was so specific, and they were dead set on their conviction. That resonates with me quite a bit, in the way that I want to live my life and the way I want to be.
Marqued: I think you’ve knocked it out of the park, Eneuri. Thanks so much for sharing your work and philosophy. My hope is that this will continue to spark conversations about how the watch and car worlds collide. Can’t wait to see what comes next for HODINKEE.
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