HOW KRISTIAN HAAGEN BECAME THE WORLD’S GO-TO WATCH-GUY
The Danish watch-expert on how he moved away from the world of advertising and into the world of watches. And what watch he would buy with a limited budget.
All Photos: Victor Jones
Blazers: Oscar Jacobson by Hr. Birk
It’s the mid afternoon on a Friday, the sun is long packed away behind clouds and we are finding us being next to a bunch of greatly decorated shipping containers. After entering and walking up a few steel stairs we are greeted with a big open “Welcome”. The words are coming from a guy we have been looking forward to meet for a long, long time. Namely, Kristian Haagen. If the name does not ring a bell, lets just start digging into his impressive resume:
One of the co-founders of the social media for watch-geeks, 8past10, doing consulting and strategy work for some of the biggest watch-brands including Vacheron Constantin, Glashütte Original and Graham (to name a few), founder of the magazine Timegeeks that has been published monthly since August 2009, overseeing Bruun Rasmussen’s watch-auctions, author of six books – book no. 7 is released in April – which he publishes himself. Haagen runs his own webshop where you find watches, a Caran D’ache fountain pen costing +23.000€, bracelets and much more curated by the watch-geek himself. We have probably forgotten something, however, the list of his activities is quite impressive to say the least.
Kristian Haagen is Kristian Haagen. Not to be compared or associated with anybody else. Wearing his signature army green cargo pants, his beloved Red Wing Boots and of course an enviable wrist-watch. Today it is his Audemars Piguet Royal Oak with the famous blue dial. Of course paired with his trademarks bracelets. Next to his desk sits a Rimowa suitcase. “I bring all kinds of stuff with me every single day. Most important, perhaps, is my camera. I have always loved photography and I am fortunate to be able to use this skill for our clients as well as for a handful of other medias.”
But how did he become the Kristian Haagen? It actually started back in 1992/1993. Mr. Haagen lived at Venice Beach working for the advertising company CHIAT DAY. “Staffers at CHIAT DAY was on the Internet already. People surfed online. So I started doing this as well and ended up on dedicated watch-fora and noticed that there were other people like me who had this insane interest in watches. Other timegeeks.”
In 1998 a photographer asked Mr. Haagen to write an article about watches for the biggest Danish newspaper. “I was a watch enthusiasts and collector who could also write about watches. Nobody else offers that combined skill,” he says. “Usually journalists with no passion for watches copy and pasted from official press releases and the medias seemed content with that”.
This led to many more article requests and soon he travelled the world to visit watch manufacturers and started writing for Japanese, South African and South Korean medias. “I became the go-to-guy for many International medias and that brought me to where I am today”.
A high-fling and flamboyant lifestyle is often connected to luxury watch making. But Haagen has a very different approach: “I am very happy about my upbringing in the Danish province. If I wanted to, I could travel every day cruising around on 1st class with champagne, limousines and all that. That is how these brands like to butter up journalists. I was brought up with an honest pen, so to say. The medias were not married to the advertisers back then. My articles reflect my honest love for everything horology. And I still appreciate writing stuff like ‘a dial so white that the watch company probably was inspired by polar bears or cocaine. Or both.’”
Mr. Haagen was on his first watch fair in 2001. Since then he has attended them all. When speaking about how he gets time to it all, he admits that it’s not always optimal: “I probably do too much sometimes. But I just like to start things up and develop on these.” When speaking about the project that take up most of his time, the social media 8past10, he says: “The goal is to reach 1 million users. That would be amazing.” He also hopes that it will be the go-to platform to buy and sell their watches. “We actually just sold the first watch a few hours after we launched this feature. That felt awesome!”
The fact that Mr. Haagen has stories to tell – and those types of stories you like to hear – is obvious after having chatted to him only a short time. Like when he tells you his first customer in his webshop was no other than Emmanuel Gueit – the guy who designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore in 1989. Or when he tells you about his new book. “Despite it’s about watches, it’s actually also about my up-bringing. Perhaps because I lost my father a couple of years ago. It’s so important how we raise our kids, because that shit lasts forever. Don’t try to be this big-fucking-pretender show-casing a champagne-popping and penthouse-living lifestyle on Instagram – people will call your bluff. That is also why I am communicating the way I do on my channels.”
And then to the million-dollar question: If you were about to buy a new watch without having to rob a bank, which one should you go for if you asked Mr. Haagen? “I have always been a huge fan of Casio G-shock and Swatch. In two of my books these two rands have actually been given the longest chapters. Another suggestion would be Hamilton, if they had to cost below 10.000 DKK. It’s actually a brand that you can’t get in Denmark, but they do really great watches for about 5-8.000 DKK.”
Talking about vintage watches, Mr. Haagen says: “If I had to buy myself a vintage watch for less than 10.000 DKK I would choose an Omega from the 50’s or 60’s. The movements from these years are so reliable and you just can’t kill them. Precise too. Back then Omega was known for precision and Rolex for their water resistance. Seamasters from the 60’s are great examples with a perfect diameter of 34-36 mm. And you can quickly change the look by switching straps. An amazing quality for very little money. That’s fucking impressive!” If you want a little extra and go up a notch concerning the price, he likes a vintage Rolex Datejust like the one Paul Newman wore in the movie ‘Color Of Money.’ “It’s like a symbol for grown men,” he says.
So there it was. ‘How Kristian Haagen became Kristian Haagen’. Or at least just part of the story. Now lets lean back and watch him reach 1 million users on his own social media network. And in the mean time, go follow this guy – you really should – right here.