Do you still remember the very first watch that attracted your attention?
At 13 or 14, I discovered IWC pilot watches. The back side has engravings, air force insignias and serial numbers on it. It occurred to me that one of them might have actually belonged to someone who flew a Spitfire or a Junker, maybe got shot down and had to parachute out, and suddenly I found myself daydreaming. There’s no doubt that an antique watch has been through more than you have yourself. It’s like a time machine that sweeps you into another era.
On his wrist, Bacs wears a simple Patek Philippe from the 1940s, for which his parents loaned him the money when he was 14. They advanced him 1,600 Swiss francs under one condition – that the youngster pay it all back. For two solid years, Bacs turned over every penny he saved to his parents, until the coveted day arrived when he could finally wear the watch for the first time.
How did you first get involved with watches?
My father always appreciated a nice mechanical watch – and still does, for that matter. I’d go with him on trips to the watchmaker’s, to antique shops and to the goldsmith’s. Almost before I knew it, I had become a bona fide watch freak.
Did you have any idea then that you would be earning money with your hobby later in life?
No way. I started off studying economics and law at university, but to be honest, I only did that because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t study very hard – always just enough to get me through the next test. After three years of that, my mother showed me a Sotheby’s help wanted ad in a watch magazine: they were looking for an expert to work in their watch department. They probably thought my application was some kind of prank at first: a 23-year-old kid thinks he can head up the Geneva watch department!? I still got the job, but after the first month I thought it was so awful that I almost quit and went back to university. But in hindsight I’m very grateful to my first boss. She taught me the real meaning of hard work. I really had to buckle down those first six months though.