Experiencing Vintage Rolex With Eric Ku and Josh Bonifas (Interview And Photo Gallery)
On the occasion of Monterey Car week and their now iconic Vintage Rolex Forums get-together, Watchonista sat down with Eric Ku and Fourtané Jewelers owner Josh Bonifas.
Every year, petrol heads descend on Carmel, California to participate in Monterey Car Week. It’s a weeklong spectacle that brings out the rarest of the rare, and some pretty spectacular watches too! During Monterey Car week, there is one event on the horological calendar which will please even the most discerning collector. The Vintage Rolex Forum get-together (GTG) at Fourtané Jewelers in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
During the GTG, I had the opportunity to sit down with the man in charge of the popular website Vintage Rolex Forum, Mr. Eric Ku. Also joining us was the Owner of Fourtané Jewelers, Josh Bonifas. What followed was an extensive conversation on the state of the vintage Rolex Market and the always interesting intersection between vintage and modern.
Alexander Friedman: Where did the idea of bringing this association with the Vintage Rolex forum and why did you decide to do this get together in Carmel during the Monterey car show.
Josh Bonifas: It's all about the passion you know, for vintage watches and Rolex specifically. We originally started our company selling vintage Rolex only before we had the authorized dealership for new Rolex. So, it's purely from a standpoint of passion, and the love of the brand is how it originally started. We were fortunate enough to get the partnership with Rolex in early 2000. But we've always had, first and foremost, the connection and dedication to vintage Rolex and the collaboration with Vintage Rolex Forum is an ideal one. Bringing that wonderful collector community to the retail shop is why we’re here today.
AF: How do you define the clientele here?
JB: This week is an audience of very focused clientele of watches and cars. But the incredible connection with vintage cars is amazing this week. Plus Rolex sponsorship and recognition of vintage cars kind of goes hand-in-hand with our type of partnership with vintage Rolex. I think the consumer here and the clientele is part of the world of vintage cars, vintage watches. It's incredible.
AF: Eric (Ku), how many years have you been collaborating now?
Eric Ku: It’s been almost ten years, even in the beginning, Rolex was kind enough to loan out some things from the Museum.
JB: Yes, that was the first time it started around 2005 that Rolex loaned us the Deep Sea special and we had a big party celebrating that and Don Walshue as a Rolex Ambassador. The party kicked off the connection.
AF: Some people attend the GTG every year, are the people that are spending the day in the lawn and Concours coming back here to have this horological touch over their car/ their automobile weekend? How do you define the aficionados that come to you?
JB: I think that a lot of the car collectors are also by nature interested in watches. It's just kind of evident in town in the afternoon or days when the event concludes. There is always an influx of people that come in and start looking around or start looking at watches. There is definitely a correlation between the two.
AF: People tend to come in here to buy big pieces during the week?
JB: They do, but this week is really more about collectors, and planning to see new collectors. It's incredible that people will see something, maybe they don’t understand what a star dial is, or a Rolex Killy or moon phase and we teach them about it, and then obviously if they have the finances to buy it so be it. Once they become knowledgeable, they might come back throughout the year. It doesn't always happen the same night.
EK: I see the role of these kind of events is to educate people. Because a lot of times, people do not have the opportunity to handle and touch the pieces and only see and read about it on the internet. To be able to see them in person and play with them and compare different things is an excellent opportunity for people. A lot of the people that come to our party on Saturday and also throughout the week, as Josh says, they are more curious and looking to know more about vintage watches. And a lot of times, they end up becoming good customers.
AF: To walk around Carmel, you see so many fantastic cars, vintage, modern, there is a big community of collectors and lovers of mechanics. In one side, you sell, you have a beautiful collection of vintage Rolexes here. But is it also a good place to source?
JB: Not really. The supply of Vintage Rolex is tough to acquire. I can't remember the last time we bought anything this week. We see nice things though! Sometimes older gentlemen walk-in wearing a Daytona or Paul Newman or something. Everybody that comes in this week is pretty savvy to everything like they start pulling out: “Hey, Philipps sold this one.” I don't think it's an excellent sourcing week.