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A Man and His Collection: Celebrity Chef François Payard's Watches

The award-winning French pastry chef on how to buy and care for every kind of timepiece, from brand-new Rolexes to vintage and secondhand finds.


François Payard—the award-winning pastry chef who honed his chops at Le Bernardin and Daniel, among other restaurants—has always appreciated luxurious ingredients, so it comes as no surprise that he's obsessed with high-end watches. The man owns more than 80 and treats them like his children, attempting to divide his time equally among them all. Is there a link between his two passions? Sure: "Both watches and being a pastry chef are all about precision," he says. "It's all about timing."

As a Frenchman (he's a third-generation native of Nice), Payard has an eye for beauty and cares more about his gut reaction to a product than the price or the brand. He frequently acquires watches on impulse, often secondhand, but keeps the spending to under $15,000. Still, his collection includes four Breitlings, a few Omegas, a Cartier, a Bulgari, a Vacheron Constantin, and many more collector pieces. When he tires of a particular watch or doesn't wear it for two years, he gives it away. Here, he shares his philosophy and advice on collecting and wearing watches.

Chef Payard lives in New York City, where his flagship FP Patisserie is located. His fourth cookbook, Payard Desserts, will be released this fall.

The Most Beautiful Watch in His Collection

"The most beautiful watch I have is the Panerai (pictured). It's not showing off. It's very elegant. I see a lot more men wearing Panerai [recently], but I think mine is special. I'm not the kind of person who puts it in the closet. It's like the people who have 100 cars they never drive—they drive me crazy. You have to love it."

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