QP’s new interview feature sees us ask prominent watch world figures about the watch they’d never part with. This month: the daily wearer of the man at the helm of style arbiter Mr Porter
Toby Bateman is that rare thing in the fashion world: a real, certified and signed-up watch guy. The managing director of Mr Porter, the nonpareil online destination for the sharpest of sharp menswear, first got the bug as a teenager. “I had a great friend whose father was a vintage watch dealer in Rome, so I got into watches via him. He had this really smart, nicely discoloured early 1980s IWC pilot that I always loved. So when I could first afford to invest in a watch, I got one from his dad – a 1970s Rolex Oyster.”
Inspired by his pal’s watch, Bateman later acquired an IWC pilot’s chronograph of his own, and a vintage Rolex Date-Just. Meanwhile, he was formulating a plan many thought would be unviable: “I made it my goal to add watches to Mr Porter. I just felt that we were incomplete unless we could cater for that part of a man’s wardrobe.”
It was Bremont who he convinced to make the leap first, launching in 2013; Zenith and Junghans followed, though the most surprising recent addition was that of Belgian modernist creative innovators Ressence.
“I actually met [Ressence founder] Benoit Mintiens at SalonQP, and it turned out he shopped on Mr Porter,” Bateman explains. Originally planned for a month-long trial, Ressence has been a big success. “We’re dispelling the myth that exists in the fine watch world that people won’t buy these online.”
Two years ago Bateman got himself the watch he’d always wanted: a vintage Rolex Explorer. “I think the Explorer is really underrated – you just don’t see it on many guys’ wrists,” he says. “I was having lunch with my same friend who I got into watches with, and he was wearing this lovely Explorer. I said I’d always wanted one, and he offered it to me –it took me a couple of weeks, but I pulled the trigger.”
Bateman is a firm believer in the axiom that a watch tells you something about its wearer, and like any true watch guy, he applies it to himself. “I would hope that people who like and know watches see the 1016, and they’ll judge me a bit from that – they’ll see it’s not the obvious choice. It’s the ultimate versatile watch.”