‘All the members of the band have their own passions outside of music,’ says Guy Berryman, the bass player for Coldplay. ‘The others are into restaurants, wine, surfing. I think they recognise the particularity of my interest, too.’
Berryman, 42, is a design fanatic — something that success with one of the world’s biggest bands has allowed him to indulge (Coldplay have sold more than 100 million records over a 24-year career).
He has a collection of cars, synthesisers, cameras, clothing and, perhaps most notably, watches. ‘I’m a completist when it comes to collecting, so I have to restrain myself,’ Berryman laughs. ‘At least with cars you have to have space to keep them all in. But you can get a lot of watches into a drawer.’
Prior to Coldplay, Berryman studied engineering at University College London. His father was also an engineer. So he is, as he puts it, geared up to love mechanics, whether under a bonnet or behind a dial.
‘When we started making it big, I was in my early twenties, and suddenly had more money than I’d ever had,’ he recalls. ‘So, I spent a couple of thousand pounds on a Rolex Air-King. It was quite a nervous purchase, because it was a lot of money, but also a very significant purchase for me. There aren’t many things you can really say that about.
‘The mechanism inside a watch is so small and yet so complicated,’ he continues. ‘Watch movements are a real demonstration of human ingenuity. But they’re aesthetically very appealing, too.’
Berryman is particularly drawn to the ‘Big Red’ steel Daytona and the Rolex Submariner, both above, offered in Christie’s upcoming Watches Online: The Collector’s Edition. Likewise the ‘incredibly well-designed’ Rolex Paul Newman Panda dial chronograph, part of Christie’s Rare Watches sale on 20 July in Geneva.
‘The watches I like all tend to be “tool” watches,’ he says. ‘Ones designed with a special purpose, that is — chronographs, diving watches, and so on.’
Berryman reveals his favourite watch to be his vintage Rolex ‘Double Red’ Sea Dweller, but also mentions from his collection an ‘Ed White’ Omega Speedmaster and a 50th anniversary edition Tag Heuer Monaco.
‘For me, design is most beautiful when form follows function — in a watch as in a car. I love the 1960s cars coach-built by Zagato for the same reason. Everything about them was to make them lightweight, streamlined, more efficient. The results are designed to do a job, yet are incredibly elegant, too.’
Berryman regrets, however, that in numerous fields over the decades, designers of great products have gone unacknowledged. He cites the B15 flight jacket from the Second World War as an example.
‘Rolex, too, will brief a designer to create a diving watch of a certain capability, size and price,’ he says, ‘and that designer might create a classic, but [he or she is] behind the scenes and all too often forgotten.
‘It’s like the Funk Brothers, Motown’s backing band and one of my inspirations for starting to play bass guitar. They produced one of the most instantly recognisable sounds in music history, but it’s only really in recent years that they’ve been acknowledged for that. I like to think that these people rise to the surface eventually.’
Overdue acknowledgement is one of the reasons Berryman has founded Dawghaus, an online catalogue aimed at curating ‘the best in design’. It’ll serve not just the already well-acclaimed, but also the creations Berryman thinks deserve more attention.
He plans for it to launch later this year. Watches will feature. ‘This is about putting great design on a pedestal,’ he says, ‘and also, of course, a way for me to formalise my love affair with these different objects.’
Berryman reckons his love of watches dates back to his childhood. ‘My father hoarded quite a few in drawers,’ he recalls. ‘I’d run around the house exploring them, even though the drawers were meant to be off-limits.’
He admits that he can be ‘rather impulsive’ when it comes to adding to his collections, and to having sold a fair number of items on. The ones that survive, he says, are the ones that really resonate.
With watches, resonance stems to a large extent from originality. ‘Look at a Submariner,’ he says. ‘It’s just such an elegant design, and it’s telling that other brands have done so many versions of it ever since it was launched.’
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However, there’s also an emotional resonance that a watch can have. ‘Watches have great significance, in both conceptual and personal terms,’ Berryman adds.
‘All any of us have is a short bit of time on the planet, and for me that gives a watch appeal on a kind of philosophical level — a watch can mark milestones in life like few other things can.’
Follow Guy Berryman’s Instagram account @guyberryman