From his teenage years on, Bernhard Bulang was always interested in watches and specifically in the dials. An informal collector of early Rolex replica watches and other cheap models, Bulang remembers his first big-brand watch: a TAG Heuer Formula 1, which he wore surfing and when playing tennis. It was at this point that he also discovered his father’s old Heuer Camaro, a watch he would occasionally wear to school and that marked his first taste of vintage.
“As time moved on, I was always collecting vintage stuff,” he says. “I loved timeless objects that connected with me aesthetically as a designer, and objects that had a story behind them. I collected vintage fountain pens and enjoyed the emotion of writing or drawing sketches and concepts with them; writing in the modern era with a vintage pen. This has been a theme for me, the friction of the vintage and modern. A vintage piece combined with a modern surrounding – what I call pleasant friction. I love the idea of using a vintage pen and an iPhone 7 in the same meeting or writing on paper and saving an image of it to iCloud.”
Known today for his love of Rolex, Bulang actually started with an interest in other brands – classics like the Omega Speedmaster, Heuer Monaco and Patek Philippe Calatrava. Then one day he visited Dutch Rolex expert Philipp Stahl’s watch shop to view an early IWC Aquatimer. “Philipp showed me a vintage Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 and I was smitten,” he says. “I actually bought the Aquatimer, but within a week I returned and bought a vintage Rolex Submariner ref. 6536 fake watches– the ‘small crown’. From then on I was hooked and became obsessed in the details of vintage Rolex, becoming a prominent member of online forums and sharing the details and passion for these old watches. It was a crazy time where the now-accepted knowledge of vintage Rolex watches was still emerging and there were new discoveries every week.
“What excited me so much about the vintage pieces was the mixture of timeless, iconic designs coupled with the great history of the watches. Also, the style of these watches was a big magnet for me – the enduring design of the Oyster case Rolex copy watches, the warm patina on the dials, a faded inlay and the domed plastic crystal. Perfect!”
But the biggest attraction of all for Bulang was the people – a diverse group, all connected through a deep love for watches. The friendships, trust and support amongst the community was, for Bulang, the biggest treasure on the vintage Rolex scene, allowing him to make many great friends from all over the world – people with great taste, stories and devotion to vintage Rolex.