For me, this issue’s ‘Best of’ theme brings to mind musicians’ greatest hits compilations, like The Very Best of The Eagles. Sure, they’re desperately uncool, but you can’t help having a soft spot for Glenn Frey and Don Henley’s smooth Seventies rock combo. Come on, man. Hotel California is a karaoke go-to. And that flanged-out breakdown from 3:40 onward in Life in the Fast Lane? Epic. Fellow classic hits radio fave Eric Clapton named his 1982 ‘Best of’ album, Timepieces. So it should come as no surprise to learn that the legendary guitarist is one of the biggest watch collectors out there. Clapton’s passion for horology developed around the same point he was overcoming a prodigious substance abuse problem. In the late 1980s, trading one expensive addiction for another, he swapped cocaine and booze for chronograph tickers, building a vast collection with a focus on rarities from Rolex and Patek Philippe.
Putting his income on his wrist rather than up his nose proved a savvy move, and not merely from a health standpoint. Items from the watch cache Clapton accumulated over the years have frequently been auctioned for record sums, stretching into the millions. This has not only provided an excellent return on investment for Clapton himself; he often auctions timepieces to fund generous endowments to Crossroads, the addiction treatment centre he established in Antigua during the late Nineties.
Although Clapton was once rumoured to have been asked by an interviewer, “What does it feel like to be the world’s greatest guitarist?” and replied, “I don’t know. Ask Prince”, this has been denied. But he has expressed admiration, on the record, for John Mayer. “He’s extremely gifted. His facility is phenomenal. He is a master. I don’t think he knows how good he is,” Clapton has said. (Trust me on this, there’s video: look it up.)