Baltimore-born maker and artist Matt Singer collects vintage watches, which are then restored and resold, along with his line of domestically produced and thoughtfully designed shirts, bags, and accessories. Atlas sits down with Singer to discuss the synergy between the two aspects of his collection.
ATLAS: Your selection of watches has an overall sense of being classic and dignified, and then there’s an aura of elegant history in the patina that remains on the watches: a little spray of golden dots on the faces, for example. Where do you source these watches from?
SINGER: I travel a fair bit and just go and find watches that speak to me. I’ve learned quite a bit about watches, and for whatever reason, my taste in watches falls in a certain place. I think a lot of the pieces that I am drawn to tend to be manual wind. A lot are automatic or bumper, so your arm moves and that winds it.
ATLAS: Nifty. What happens after you pick up a watch that you’re into?
SINGER: Then I have a watchmaker that I work with. We work very closely together about the types of watches that I am bringing in, and what we are trying to do together. It’s a slow process. It doesn’t happen within a month. There are watches now that we have been working on for three and a half months; you just can’t rush it. It’s a really time-consuming thing on the repair side. And that’s ok.
ATLAS: Where did your passion for timepieces originate?
SINGER: At one point I came home from college, and my dad gave me a watch that he had been given when he was a teenager. For no reason. And I had never really thought about watches that much, I started to. So I got into it—my dad had given me an Omega, and it was a really beautiful fit. My dad winds his watch everyday and it’s one of those things that I remember, him winding his watch and then putting it on—kind of that daily ritual.
ATLAS: Do you have a favorite watch? One that stands out in your mind, whether it is sentimental, or for any other reason?
SINGER: The one my dad gave me is, for all the obvious reasons. I also have one that has a face that got oxidized in a way where the dial turned orange. And it’s a color that is kind of like a really great sunset orange. It’s not super-bright neon orange, but not so muted that it looks almost champagne-y, it’s just this really perfect orange. And every time I wear it, I just think it is an amazing color. I don’t know why I like it so much, I just do.
ATLAS: You don’t seem to do a seasonal release of products, how did you approach building you business model?
SINGER: The way that I structure the business is that I don’t try to off-sell things at the end of the season. For me, if there is inventory at the end of the season, it is just as relevant to me the next season. So the pieces carry on, but I tend not to go and make more of the same.
I just kind of like the idea of that slower business, where it is more one-to-one, because it is more of a relationship. And what I wanted to start is that type of relationship. It just feels right to me. It makes me happy when someone buys a watch and gets a lot of pleasure out of it. I am very fortunate. Sometimes people will write and say that they really like this watch that they got as a gift; that’s always been really nice. It feels like you are doing something better than making big rocks into little rocks.
ATLAS: And yet, there’s this other sort of storytelling that you’re doing as well. Everything that you collect or create has this whimsy running through it, with the details that you invest into the objects.
SINGER: There’s celebrating the craft of what you’re making, how you’re making it, the materials, where you choose to produce it and, then, what’s the other storytelling? And sometimes I think that the story can be on the same level, or you can add something new. So you can kind of have fun with it, and say what is this other, kind of, life to it?