Suzanne Kalandjian’s attraction to large watches that stand out is about “power”. “I may not show it but I do have a strong personality,” says the jeweller, who founded her brand, Suzanne Kalan, in Los Angeles in 1988.

She has always admired beautiful men’s watches and says she would judge someone’s character based on their timepiece. “I could automatically tell the big, bulky, showy watch was a stronger personality,” she explains.

Kalandjian received her first significant watch, a “sleek, clean, modern” Movado, from her parents for her 18th birthday, in the 1970s. However, she only started collecting in her 40s, once her business was established and her children were grown. “I could think about myself [then],” she says.

Pasha de Cartier (c. 2006)

Pasha de Cartier (c. 2006)
© Claudia Lucia

Kalandjian’s 42mm stainless steel Cartier was a gift from her husband and business partner, Boghos, known as Paul, the English equivalent of his Armenian name. The former diamond setter is her brand’s head of production. “I had been looking at it for a long time and my husband knew — I always let everyone know what I love,” she says.

A few months later, he took the watch back to the shop he had bought it from and had round diamonds added to the bezel. Diamond-lover Kalandjian is dubbed the “queen of baguettes” in jewellery circles due to her use of slim, elongated, rectangular-shaped stones in her designs.

She likes the watch because it “makes a statement”. “At the end of the day, nothing material is important . . . but these things add a little extra icing on the cake,” she says.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (c. 2013)

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (c. 2013)
© Claudia Lucia

She could not resist buying her first Rolex when she spotted this rose gold 40mm Daytona while doing a trunk show with one of her brand’s retail partners in Houston, Texas. It took her a while to use the watch for fear of scratching it but, once she got it out of the box, she “wore it to death”.

Last year, Kalandjian, who buys watches for their beauty rather than as an investment, turned down an offer for the piece that was considerably more than she had paid. “I usually don’t get attached to material things but I’m not interested in selling that watch,” she says.

Kalandjian was born to Armenian parents in Lebanon, living in Kuwait and Canada before moving to LA. Her late dad, who had a jewellery store in LA and taught her how to run a business, wore a Rolex. “Anytime I see a Rolex, I remember my father,” she says.

Concord Mariner (c. 1980s)

Concord Mariner  (c. 1980s)
© Claudia Lucia

She inherited her mother’s stainless steel and gold Concord, which had been a gift from Kalandjian’s father, after her mum died in 2017. “She had the watch on any time she stepped out of the house,” remembers Kalandjian. “She was always perfectly groomed and dressed.”

The jeweller sees watches as heirlooms to be passed down to the next generation so may, in turn, give the slim, “sleek and refined” piece — different in style to her usual taste — to her granddaughter.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date (c. 2017)

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date  (c. 2017)
© Claudia Lucia

It is the look of a piece and the brand — one “that will live forever” — that inform Kalan’s purchasing choices. Her 40mm Day-Date is no exception. “Green is not one of my favourite colours but that colour combination [of the green face] with the rose gold, and the size of it, the shape, everything, it got my attention,” she says.

That said, she has yet to wear the piece. She compares this situation to her love of handbags. “I get lazy about going into my closet and changing [to] carrying another purse,” she says. “I’ll buy [a new one] because I love it . . . and then not change what I’m using. Eventually, maybe months or a year later, I get attached to the next one and will use that. I do the same thing with watches.”

Audemars Piguet Millenary (c. 2018)

© Claudia Lucia

Kalandjian’s Millenary, in an “unusual” rose gold, from a collection Audemars Piguet discontinued at the end of 2020, replaced her Daytona as her everyday watch. Her husband bought it for her as a Christmas gift after they saw the piece at an event in New York. The watch, which has a diamond-set bezel and a “bulky” face that reveals part of the escapement, attracts “a tonne of compliments”.

Soon after she received the piece, the store it came from posted an image on social media of a white gold version, which Kalandjian bought to use for special occasions. She wore that watch to her son’s wedding last summer.

As a jeweller, she appreciates the work that goes into crafting her watches, which she considers pieces of jewellery. “A lot of people have suggested that I should start a watch brand but I think I will leave that to the specialists,” she says.

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