It’s been a big week for “American Idol’s” Randy Jackson. Not only is “AI” fandom abuzz over his future as a judge on the popular musical competition program, but this week also saw the launch of a new business venture for the famously watch-loving Jackson — Timepieces by Randy Jackson, a new line of watches (most of them affordably priced at $99 to $499) that will initially be sold on cable TV’s HSN Home Shopping Network. The watches will be produced by Clyde Dunier, Inc. a fourth-generation family-owned business known for its precious metals and gemstones, which has also branched out into watch manufacturing. On the eve of his watch brand’s official debut, Jackson spoke with WatchTime about his love of watches, his personal collection, and his hopes for the new brand.
WT: You’ve been a watch collector a while. When did you first become interested in watches?
RJ: Since I was about 12 or 13 years old. I’ve been fascinated with them pretty much my whole life. I was inspired by my dad, who gave me a watch as a gift when I was 13.
WT: Do you remember the watch that he gave you?
RJ: It was a Hamilton with a leather strap, certainly not a hugely expensive one at the time. My dad was a bit of a collector himself; he owned about 12 watches, including several Omegas and Hamiltons. He was a huge Omega fan, and he liked ones with really classical styles like Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC. So I inherited some of that love of watches from him. He taught me a lot about watches, too, especially about mechanical ones.
WT: What was the first major/important watch you bought for yourself?
RJ: That was a Rolex Submariner.
WT: Was it for a special occasion?
RJ: Yes, I had done my first big tour and made a bit of money. And afterward, the only thing I could think about was that I was going to get a car and a watch. So I bought a Volvo [laughs]… and a Rolex! That was sort of the start.
WT: How many watches do you have in your collection?
RJ: I’d guess 500 or 600. I’ve been collecting for a long time now! In all my travels, through places like Italy, France, London, Switzerland, I’ve only gotten more fascinated by watches, the people who make them, the people who design them, and how they work.
WT: What are the some of the watches in your collection that would make an aficionado say, “wow”?
RJ: I have an older Audemars Piguet model that they don’t make anymore. That one’s pretty special to me. In fact, I know some of the Audemars guys and when I’ve run into them, I’ve said, “Dudes, you’ve got to start making this watch again!” I’ve got a vintage Patek Philippe. It’s hard to narrow down, because I’ve got so many that I love.
WT: Since you have so many watches, is there a certain type that you’re more likely to wear and another that you might just keep in a safe?
RJ: I wear most of them, and sort of rotate them in and out based on the seasons. It’s more seasonal with me as far as style. For example, I’m already looking ahead to next year and thinking, maybe I’ll get away from wearing bracelets for a while and go back to wearing straps. Of course, I also have a big watch safe; it’s kind of a necessity.
WT: Have you been to Switzerland or know people in the watch business?
RJ: I’ve been to Basel a couple times, and I know a lot of people in the watch business. The American president of Audemars Piguet is a buddy of mine. I’ve loved watches for a long time and I’ve accumulated quite a few.
WT: What finally made you take the plunge and create your won watch line?
RJ: Because every year, on TV, people would ask me, “What are you wearing? What is that? What is that about?” and “When are you going to do your own? “ So I just decided — no pun intended — that now is the time. But first, I had to formulate in my mind what I wanted to say. So I finally got my head around what my ideas were. The idea of the collection was to really put forth my passion and love for watches and to give something to my fans that I feel is affordable in these times, but also has great craftsmanship and amazing quality, and a sense of style. The idea is classic throwback with a modern twist.
WT: What audience are you trying to reach with these price points and these styles?
RJ: I’m trying to reach what I’d call my audience, which to me is the youngest kid to the oldest, most debonair person, at every price point. Most of this line is quartz, with a few mechanicals. They are priced primarily from $99 to about $499, but we also have some models at $2,500 to $3,500, depending on how many diamonds they have. I think we have something for everyone, and for both men and women. You’ll see some that are more specifically for women, sized at 36, 37, 38 mm, but some men will wear those as well. Some of the larger watches are 42 to 50 mm, but some women also like the bigger sizes — what I call the “boyfriend watch.” There are colorful styles and more classical looks as well. [For a look at some of the new watches, click here.]
WT: How many different styles in the collection?
RJ: For the initial launch, we have about 23 different styles. We really went through and thought about each family. There are models for men, for women, for younger girls and guys, for the sports enthusiast; there are some ceramics and some great digital pieces with 25 time zones. I’m sure you hear this all the time, but there really is something for everyone. And they’re all very easy to use and set. The musically inspired piano-key model has a dual-time-zone button that’s very user-friendly. Setting your watch shouldn’t be like brain surgery.
WT: I recently interviewed Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, who is really into watches and fashion, and found out he’s seen as sort of a “watch guru” among his peers. Would you put yourself in that role as well?
RJ: Definitely! I am the watch guru because I not only love great watches but I also love fashion and style. You hear women say the shoes say a lot about the man. I think the watch also says a lot about the man. And it doesn’t have to be over-the-top, or expensive, or made in Schaffhausen, or whatever. I think the watch is the ultimate accessory and that any timepiece can make a statement about your personality.
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