BEN BALLER

BEN BALLER

“Ever since I can remember, I always had to have a watch on my wrist.

I had a CASIO. I had a SEIKO. I had a SWATCH — the style to have if you were cool back in ‘80s. I bought my first ROLEX with a big check I got when I was working as a deejay for DR. DRE, but I had to sell it on Craigslist 16 years ago, in 2000, because I was broke as a joke.

When I finally acquired enough money, I began the process of buying watches I wanted or used to have. My most recent purchase is on my wrist: it’s a $100,000 Patek Philippe. I got it when I graduated from hood rich to grown man successful.

It’s one thing to walk into a room wearing a ROLEX, but a rose gold PATEK is on another level.
It immediately commands respect.”

“This is a $59 Casio G-Shock that my cousin — who opened a jewelry business with me — and I made into a $20,000 watch with 17 carats of diamonds.

We became famous because we were the ones who started icing these out. We made so many that by the time CASIO was preparing for the G-SHOCK’S 30th anniversary retrospective, they hit us up for one of our customized models to include.”

“The most expensive PATEK PHILIPPE watches have leather bands, like the style second from right in the bottom row. I first heard of the brand while watching BEVERLY HILLS COP II — EDDIE MURPHY’S character wears one in an early scene — but I waited for a long time before getting my own.

Rich people own Rolexes, but wealthy people own Pateks.”

“My stepdad gave this to me before he died. It’s his Rolex ‘President.’ In 1989, it was THE watch. Receiving it was particularly special because my sister, JEANNE [YANG], is usually the one who gets everything.”

“At one point I had around 60 watches. Today, I have 42, 20 of which are for sale — though I’m in no rush to part with them. I’d say 90 percent are Rolexes, because I like that they have liquid value.”

“When I got that first big paycheck working for DR. DRE, I remember he asked me what I was going to do with the money. He wanted to make sure I didn’t spend it on something stupid.

After I bought the Rolex, he didn’t speak to me for a week. He was so disgusted.”

“Leather bands aren’t really my thing — they’re definitely for when I’m on my 40-plus swagger and feeling more mature. You instantly grow up a little when you wear one.”

“Four years ago, I was the guy who always wore the iced out watch with the big chain. Then I realized I didn’t care so much about exciting the rappers anymore. Now, I almost never wear chains — it’s all about my watch and making sure I have big fucking diamonds in my ears.”

“Recently I’ve been making jewelry for John Mayer, who I’ve long been a fan of because he’s such a hardcore watch connoisseur. Now we go back and forth asking each other if we’ve seen certain pieces. It cracks me up. Our styles are very different, but I respect his fashion sense.”

“I’m not really a fan of vintage. It’s one thing John and I talk about a lot, because he’s a vintage collector to the bone.

I don’t have the knowledge to assess watches that date back to the ‘50s or ‘60s and, on top of that, know people who’ve lost millions of dollars on fakes. So I say fuck that, I’ll keep to the new shit.”

“I’ve heard so many different reasons for why people buy watches.

Some of my friends say that if they get divorced their wives will take the house or the cash, but not their watches. I always think that’s funny, because my wife is too smart. She knows, and she’d take all of this shit.”

“Basketball always has been a favorite sport of mine — I was the first Asian in the history of my university to play on the college team.

Ben Baller was a nickname my assistant coach gave me in ‘92, way before the term baller had anything to do with being rich. I dropped my last name, Yang, in favor of Baller about 15 years ago. It’s crazy how many people think it’s my given name.”

“Right now I’m on a heavy rose gold rotation.

That means, in addition to the PATEK [I’m wearing], I’ll either wear the $52,000 AUDEMARS PIGUET [in the bottom row, second from right] or the $40,000 ROLEX DAY/DATE II ‘PRESIDENT’ right above it. Even with my tattoos, rose gold looks more distinguished — it tones down the hooligan in me.”

CREDITS

Photography byBramble Trionfo

As told to Anthony Rotunno

Ben Baller (née Yang) is a Los Angeles-based jeweler and a co-founder of Superism, a menswear line launching in Spring 2016.

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