Best defined by the word hustler, Jose Hardy is someone who knows all too well how to make something of yourself. Jose joins us from the other side of the pond having been born in New York to immigrant parents. Jose’s parents worked very hard and instilled the very best qualities of hard work and perseverance. 

A graduate of Southern Polytechnic State University, Jose is an Electrical Engineer and currently is a Senior Telecommunications Engineer at a Fortune 500 company in the United States. Aside from his professional adventure, Jose is a family man and lives a particularly active life.

Jose’s life is defined by a ‘go get in’ attitude saying: “You’ve only got one life to live! Treat others kindly, take that trip, buy that watch, run that race! If you want something, you’ve gotta go out there and GET IT!”

So, for our first American edition of Conversing with Collectors, we speak with the one-of-a-kind Jose Hardy about his watch journey.

What first got you into watches?

Interestingly, it was my father who got me into watches initially, perhaps indirectly. He owned an all-gold Longines Admiral, which my mother gave to him for their 10th wedding anniversary actually. 

From that moment on I was fascinated by this watch in particular and how nice it looked. I was hooked! My admiration for all things watches began and of course, never left!

What was your first watch?

The first watch that I owned, which can be considered a proper watch was probably a Breitling Superocean Heritage.

Can you tell us the story behind this first watch? 

This Breitling was purchased when I was thirty-three, so quite a long time after I first got into watches. I was in the shopping mall and decided to pop into Tourneau, to do some window shopping, as you do! 

I had a look at the pre-owned section and, of course, stumbled across this Breitling. After having asked to try it on, I immediately felt a connection and fell in love with it. A combination of the weight, the size and the mesh bracelet drew me to this watch. I knew I had to have it. At $3,000, it wasn’t exactly a small purchase. I debated it for a good quarter of an hour, before pulling the trigger. I haven’t looked back!

How has your collecting progressed from this first watch, where did you go next?

After the Breitling Super Ocean, I moved on to a Tag Heuer Formula One, coincidentally this was their first automatic version. But I knew I needed some kind of staple in my collection. For my 35th birthday, I wanted something to celebrate this milestone. I decided to purchase my first, and certainly not my last, Rolex. The Rolex in question was the Rolex Submariner ref. 116610LV, the Hulk. 

So, what is the state of the current collection?

The current state of my collection is something I’m pretty pleased about. As I said, the Hulk certainly wasn’t my last Rolex purchase. After this, I picked up a Rootbeer and a Batman, and I also won the Kermit through Lux Watch Supply. 

From there I also bought a Rolex Seadweller Deepsea, a Rolex Datejust 41 with the blue and Rhodium Dial and finally a Tiffany Blue Oyster Perpetual 41. So, my taste with Rolex certainly sits in the 40mm plus sports model range. Aside from Rolex, I have an Omega Speedmaster, a Panerai PAM005 and an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph, being obviously my heavy hitter in the collection.

So, my watch taste has definitely evolved since the Breitling. 

What is the one type or exact piece that defines your collecting style? What do you gravitate towards ordinarily?

I think I’d have to go with my Rolex GMT. I like to travel so it’s definitely perfect for that, whilst having both a sporty and classy appeal. Ultimately, it can be dressed up or down and is versatile enough for any situation I find myself in.

What is one watch or watch story that you regret?

The one watch story that I truly regret is selling my two-tone Rolex Yachtmaster. No doubt, it was one of my favourite watches, and in fact, it probably got the most wrist time. 

I decided to sell it to offset the cost of another Rolex purchase, but there’s no doubt I still wish I had this watch in my collection. Perhaps one day it will rejoin the family.

On the other hand, what is the best moment in your collecting history?

I would say that there are two stand-out moments in my collecting history. Firstly, I remember fondly the purchase of my first Rolex, it was my first “big-boy” watch, as I would say, and there was just something about owning this watch; the feeling and the history of the brand. I’ve always had to work hard for everything I ever achieved so it definitely provided me with a sense of accomplishment, I guess.

The second moment that springs to mind, is the purchase of my Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph. The design of this watch is very iconic and very few people get the opportunity to purchase one brand new from an Authorised Dealer. Much like my first Rolex, it was a representation of hard work paying off and now continues to inspire me to work harder for the things I want in life.

What is your most important watch?

This question is pretty easy. Sadly, my father passed away two years ago, so his Longines Admiral holds such a special meaning to me, I’d never part with it. My Dad actually grew up very poor in Cuba and managed to make something of himself in America and provide for his family. The message behind this watch is that anything is possible.

If money were no object what piece would you buy right now, in other words, your grail watch?

It’s an easy choice for me, that would be an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Open Worked Skeleton.

What is the coolest/best watch you’ve worn?

Out of all the watches I’ve tried, I’d have to say that the coolest watch is still the Rolex Submariner 116600LV Hulk. There’s something special about the watch itself and the sunburst green dial. Nothing quite like it!

What is next in your collecting journey, what is next on your list?

Well like many collectors I’m always on the hunt for the next watch. For me, it’s the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Blue Dial, the 41mm version, and also a Rolex Day Date in Gold with Black Dial and Baguette hour markers. So, I’m definitely continuing the theme of Audemars Piguet and Rolex within the collection, that’s for sure.

What is the brand, whether attainable or unattainable, that you admire the most and why?

A difficult question! I would have to give the slight edge to Audemars Piguet. Obviously, they are handmade and very few are produced each year, compared to Rolex for example. Even then, only 10% of the watches they make are finding their way to the US. Ultimately, the brand represents quality, craftsmanship and exclusivity. 

What do you, as a collector, make of the industry?

Without a doubt, the industry has changed over the last five years. For example, when I bought my first Rolex, I got a 5% discount, you wouldn’t even think of asking for a discount nowadays. And usually, the stock isn’t on show or isn’t there at Authorised Dealers. It is a shame for those who really want to own these but who just don’t have the buying history. And even then, it’s not just Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille are a similar story.

As a collector what trends or interesting moments have you noticed over the last five or ten years?

It has been clear to me over the past few years that people are inherently willing to pay a handsome premium for watches that they want. If we consider the Rolex Daytona for example, this is a £9,250 watch that people are paying £22,000 for. 

Although many people think that the bubble may burst, we’ve thought that for a long while and it’s only gotten stronger. I think there will be dips but the trend is here to stay, the demand will always outweigh the supply.

Where do you see the industry heading?

I’d say that the stainless-steel drought or shortage will continue. These watch models in particular which are sports, dive or tool watches are labelled as professional watches. This is an example of the exclusivity the brands want to create around their watches, and I think this will only continue.

What is one piece of advice you’d share with someone getting into watches?

I will always say do your research. Try to use a watch dealer on the preowned market unless you’re looking to specifically buy a watch at retail, be it a professional model Rolex or Patek Philippe, for example. This will save you thousands of pounds. This almost always translates when you’re selling it too, the more you pay the lower your margins.