The Unlikely Watch Collector: Pharrell Williams
This Grammy-winning producer is also a watch N.E.R.D.
Between the Men’s Fashion Week shows that took place in February and the prêt-à-porter presentations that concluded on March 7, there certainly were a lot of stories to come off the catwalks. But the biggest news was Louis Vuitton’s announcement that Pharrell Williams, the American rapper and music producer, was to become its new creative director for men’s wear.
Of course, celebrities and fashion go hand-in-hand. So, when fashion week takes over a city, the stars the brand is able to get into the front row are an essential part of a brand’s marketing strategy – sometimes even generating more buzz than the new collection itself. The fame game also applies to watchmaking because not only is Williams a well-known watch enthusiast, he’s also known for his collaborations with brands like G-SHOCK and Richard Mille.
We can’t say how successful Williams’ tenure with Louis Vuitton will be in the long run, nor can we guess if he will produce a timepiece with the brand’s watchmaking division (though we’d love to see Pharrell’s take on the Tambour). However, in the meantime, what we can do is tell you all about his collection to date. And, as a bonus, we’ve created a playlist of Williams’ greatest hits.
The Neptune Sound
The announcement (via Instagram) of Williams’ appointment came about 16 months after the sudden death of the previous director of menswear Virgil Abloh. In the post, Louis Vuitton stated, “[Williams] is a visionary whose creative universes expand from music to art, and to fashion – establishing himself as a cultural global icon.” They definitely aren’t wrong!
Pharrell Lanscilo Williams, along with his musical partner Chad Hugo, showed his first flashes of genius as part of the production duo the Neptunes in the 1990s, with one of the team’s most memorable tracks being 1999’s “Caught Out There” by Kelis. And in the music video, Williams appears at the end wearing a bold gold watch.
The song is over 20 years old, and our eyesight isn’t quite what it used to be, so we can’t say for sure what he’s wearing. Instead, let’s ogle two watches we know Williams once owned: ultra-rare early examples of the Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar. One was yellow gold with a Mark 1 skeletonized dial (Ref. 25636BA), and the other was platinum with a Mark 2 skeletonized dial (Ref. 25636PT).
In the 2000s, the Neptunes dominated the charts producing era-defining tracks by Jay Z (“I Just Wanna Love U”), Britney Spears (“I’m A Slave 4 U”), and Justin Timberlake (“Rock Your Body”). At the same time, Hugo, Williams, and Sheldon “Shay” Haley had a side hustle, the hip-hop rock band N.E.R.D.
Williams’s sartorial style also samples from many genres. The eternally youthful musician has been photographed wearing everything from strands of Chanel pearls to minimalist Japanese street style. That’s why it should be no surprise that his collection includes a flashy, factory-set Chopard Imperiale with pavé set with radiating baguette diamonds on the dial and bezel. And just like their 2004 song “She Wants to Move,” this timepiece comes alive when the light hits it.
The multi-hyphenate has produced so many collections, in fact, that last October, he launched his very own auction house to sell his possessions. Named Joopiter, Williams has described it this way: “Joopiter is about letting go of the past. Of EVERYTHING.”
At least two of the possessions that Williams has parted with since opening Joopiter are his “Unauthorized” BAPE x G-SHOCK DW-6900 bejeweled by Jacob & Co. watches. One features yellow gold and yellow diamonds, while the other is decked out in white gold and white diamonds. As it turned out, this latter timepiece turned up on the wrist of Kim Kardashian during a segment of Carpool Karaoke, so we know who bought it.
However, if you need more convincing that Williams’ influence crosses all pop cultural boundaries, allow us to direct you to his 2013 collaboration with disco legend Nile Rogers and French electronica duo Daft Punk, a little number called “Get Lucky.”
Williams’ devotion to Richard Mille is what most defines his watch collection. A short list of PW’s RMs includes the RM 031 High Performance, the RM 70-01 Alain Prost, and the RM 52-05 Pharrell Williams.
His most recent Richard Mille acquisition is the 1.2 million dollars Richard Mille RM 88 Tourbillon Smiley in ceramic and rose gold.
This playfully colorful and poetic creation is limited to 50 watches, so while we’ll probably never be able to own such a delightful timepiece, just like his biggest hit, we’re “Happy” to know it’s out there in the world.
Williams has a deep affinity for intergalactic themes (he even named his (now-defunct record label Star Trak). The most out-of-this-world piece in his watch box has got to be his Jacob & Co. Five Time Zone Royal Collection.
While Williams has been a frequent client of Jacob & Co. for more than 30 years, the results of their interactions were (more often than not) jewelry, such pieces as his original N.E.R.D pendant and his signature diamond Astronaut necklace. However, Williams has also been photographed wearing a very rare Jacob & Co. Five Time Zone with a 49mm 18-karat white gold case and over 300 flawless clarity baguette- and rose-cut diamonds (approx. 28.86 carats) set into the bezel, case, and dial.
(Fun Fact: Speaking of the outer limits, Frank Ocean now owns Pharrell Williams’ one-of-a-kind Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Dynamograph CW1 Ref. 26081A1, a space-age watch featuring a titanium case and a carbon mainplate that was made to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the original Royal Oak’s debut.)
(Front image: Pharrel Williams wearing the Richard Mille RM 52-05 Pharrell Williams © Richard Mille)