Eric Singer, Kiss Drummer And Watch Collector
Talking to Eric Singer about watches is like cramming four months’ worth of casual shop talk into one hour. He’s so enthusiastic that it’s pure pleasure to converse with him.
Since the advent of social media, it’s become apparent that Singer is really, really into watches – though, interestingly, he is able to keep his otherwise very private life out of the media. He has attained a degree of fame as the drummer for Kiss and dons the Catman makeup.
Singer was born in Cleveland, Ohio, his father a local big band leader. With music in his blood, he began playing drums at an early age, which probably helps to explain the large number of acts and bands he has been associated with. An excellent and passionate drummer, Singer is a popular musician in the hard rock scene.
“I’m blessed,” he says. “I play drums for a living, and that’s what I always wanted to do, and I’ve been doing it for a long time. I learned one most important value in life, which we’ve probably all been told: whatever you do, find something in life that you have passion for, so that way it’s not really work.”
Despite that, Singer does work hard, and his work is acknowledged globally by millions of impassioned fans.
Acts that Singer has drummed with include Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Lita Ford, Gary Moore, The Cult, Brian May, and his own ESP Eric Singer Project, but that list is by no means exhaustive. He first joined Kiss in 1991 following the death of Kiss’ second drummer, Eric Carr.
Between 1996 and 2003 the band alternated between Singer and original Kiss Catman Peter Criss. Since 2004, Singer has been a permanent member of the highly successful rock band, whose career spans 40 years and 30 gold albums (a record for any American band) with worldwide sales of more than 100 million records. In a nutshell, Kiss is one of the bestselling rock acts of all time.
His early loves
In addition to a love of music, Singer also inherited a love of timepieces from his father.
“My father gave me my first watch when I was like five, a German manually wound mechanical watch, which I still have, although the crown’s missing,” Singer explains in his typically enthusiastic manner, uncharacteristically revealing something rather personal.
“My dad had a couple nice watches,” he continues, describing a LeCoultre triple calendar moon phase from 1951 in a rectangular case that turns out to be one of the favorites in his extensive collection. “Really cool watch.” In fact, in addition to the one his father gifted to him, it is this timepiece that really kicked off his own enjoyment of watch collecting.
He also describes a small Gallet chronograph of his father’s that taught him about timing. “My dad, who was a musician, told me he used to use that chronograph to time band breaks. He’d say, ‘Okay, you’ve got fifteen minutes,’ and he would start the stopwatch function.”
Aside from reminding him of his father, he underscores that chronographs are just cool for their functionality. “It’s a timing device. I’ve used chronographs for years; if you’re at rehearsal and want to time the length of a song or the length of your set. Say, we need to play an hour and a half, okay, we’ll have somebody else do it, and nowadays they do it with an iPhone app or something. But we time how long so we can put together a set and make sure we have enough music.”
Singer owns hundreds of watches. But it’s hard to discern a golden thread through his collection – except for the chronographs. Basically he buys what he likes. “Look, I buy watches for the hell of it, ’cause it’s sunny outside,” he laughs.
I’ve found over the course of my time in the watch world that there are usually two types of collectors. For one, there are those who retain an approximately set amount of watches, and have no problem selling something from the existing collection to make room for something new.
Then there are watch collectors who keep all of their watches. Singer belongs to the latter group. “You know, I always joke and say watches are like kids. You wouldn’t sell or trade your kids. So, it’s hard for me to part with watches. But once in a while I’ve traded somebody or sold one to someone. There were some times when I sold some older watches and I thought later, ‘Why did I sell those’?”
Watches with a meaning
Then there are a great many collectors and even just casual consumers who purchase a watch to represent something. This could be a significant achievement or to mark a celebration or perhaps even be a reminder. Singer also acquires watches with this type of thing in mind.
“I bought this in Japan in 2001 when we were on tour,” he says pointing at his Breguet Mark XX Transatlantique.
“I usually try to buy watches to remind me of where I’ve gone or something I’ve done, ’cause it’s like music. You know, music’s the soundtrack to your life. Well, to me, watches are also part of that. They signify not just accomplishment; I can reminisce about the experience.”
Some of his favorite watches
Jaeger-LeCoultre figures largely into his collection, and he owns quite a number of pieces from the Le Sentier-based manufacture, beginning with his father’s moon phase calendar. He is even knowledgeable in the brand’s long history. “I find Jaeger-LeCoultre never gets mentioned in the same regard as some of those crème de la crème brands, though,” he comments wistfully as we chat about watches containing manufacture movements.
Singer also owns a great number of Heuer and TAG Heuer watches. “I just love sports watches, and I love the association with cars and racing,” he remarks.
“I love Panerai because I like the utilitarian simplicity of it,” he continues. “And they just look cool, although some people think it’s some kind of a nouveau-riche or hipster thing. Well, I’m 57 years old, so I don’t fit into the hipster category, and I’ve been into watches since I was literally a little boy.”
Other brands that figure prominently into his collection are Hublot, Blancpain, IWC, (classic) Anonimo, and Audemars Piguet. (To see him help celebrate the Hublot Big Bang’s tenth anniversary, please read Hublot Celebrates 10 Years Of Big Bang With Rock Concert Featuring Members Of Kiss, Skid Row, Night Ranger, And Guns N’ Roses.)
And then there is Rolex. Singer owns several, including representatives of the Daytona, Datejust, Explorer II, and Sea-Dweller lines.
“When I first met [Kiss band co-founder] Paul Stanley back in like 1989, he had a solid gold Rolex President. This was always the very typical watch for people to want to kind of signify you’ve made it or done okay.”
“Not so much anymore,” he continues. “People are going more into haute horlogerie. But Rolex makes a great watch. The fact that they make 800,000 or a million watches a year with in-house movements in such consistent quality . . . I mean, that’s what’s incredible about what they do. They do it on such a large scale compared to every other brand. So, that’s why they are the king, and they wear the crown: it’s figurative and literal, basically, in my opinion.”
The depth and breadth of his collection is astounding. In addition to the vintage watches he started out with (“I used to go to all these flea markets”), he now also owns unique specialties such as Giuliano Mazzuoli’s Manometro Chronograph, an Arnold & Son True North Perpetual, and a Corum Admiral’s Cup Challenge Split-Seconds.
“I think, if you really learn to understand watches, then you start to understand some of those special brands. I love Glashütte Original. Nomos makes some cool watches. A. Lange & Söhne makes great dress watches, beautiful, classy, understated.”
Watches on stage
Most watch fanatics cannot stand to be without watches at a given time. “I always travel with four watches or more,” he explains his tour ritual. “I wear a different watch almost every day. It’s hard for me to wear one watch two days in a row, but I will.”
Singer’s big exception to this preference is when he is playing the drums, which he does with extreme vim and vigor. In addition to the fact that the G forces created would probably quickly knock the watch’s regulating organ out of whack, Singer says wearing a watch on stage is “not very rock and roll.”
This actually changed one day in 2009 when Jeffrey Hess, owner of Old Northeast Jewelers and U.S. distributor for Ball Watch, showed up backstage at a Kiss concert. (In his twenties, Hess promoted concerts for a living; he ended up backstage on this particular day to please one of his foreign exchange students.) As you can see in this video, Singer very quickly became involved in watch talk with Hess.
Not long thereafter, Rob Caplan of Topper Fine Jewelers had Singer wear his watch on stage to test out how it might do under the extremity of drumming conditions. “I wore it for just one song and it totally messed up the amplitude, it was way off, it whacked it right out,” Singer reports.
“I have worn my own watches when we do the acoustic meet and greet thing before our concerts, but I usually take my watch off because, even though I’m playing lightly, I just don’t want any kind of shock throwing off one of these watches.”
Not long thereafter, Ball Watch developed the SpringLock shock protection system, which Singer ended up testing out within the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Airborne model on stage. “They even made some special models inscribed with ‘ES Test Models’ that has my name on the back and gave them to everybody in the band,” Singer said, not without some pride.
Discover more about the Ball Watch SpringLock by clicking Ball Watch SpringLock Shock Protection Tested By Kiss Drummer Eric Singer.
The world of watches
Singer is actually quite approachable, especially when it comes to watch talk. He has attended Baselworld for the past four years, and places a great deal of pride on the fact that he now knows a number of watch people. “You really see some amazing things [at Baselworld],” he said. “Not only is it educational, but it’s just really cool, like watching a great program on Discovery Channel or something.”
He enjoys Baselworld for the watches, but also for meeting people. What astonished me was the down-to-earth quasi-fan boy attitude toward meeting watch industry executives. “Being such a watch geek, just hanging out with them makes me feel cool. I guess it’s how [other] people might feel about sports and band figures when they meet them.”