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Graal’s Zoë Abelson on Her Watch Collection

In Bezel's exclusive interview, we sit down with Zoë Abelson (aka @watchgirloffduty), watch dealer, collector, and online personality to explore her introduction to the world of mechanical watches, her collecting criteria, plus the most prized watch in her personal collection.


Team Bezel

November 22, 2023


8 min read

A true watch industry veteran – Zoë Abelson (aka @watchgirloffduty) has made a name for herself over a decade plus in watches as an authority on all things horological. As the founder and driving force behind Graal – Abelson's watch consultancy and dealing outfit – the vintage and modern watch curator places the best of the best on the wrists of a lucky few, specializing in rare and unique references from avant-garde and traditional watchmakers alike.

In Bezel's exclusive interview, we sit down with the watch dealer, collector, and online personality to explore her introduction to the world of mechanical watches, her collecting criteria, plus the most prized watch in her personal collection.

In Conversation with Zoë Abelson

Bezel: How did you get into watches? 

ZA: I was first introduced to the crazy world of watches when I started working for an auction house back in 2011 before I graduated college. I quickly became fascinated with not only the watches but the secondary market and the passionate collectors. At that time, I had no knowledge of the history or the technical side of watches, but I was mainly drawn to the designs of vintage pieces. I loved how watches were a clear extension of personal style, but had more meaningful connections to people than other accessories like shoes or handbags. Over the years, I've found my own personal collecting style, it's been a fun journey so far.

On the wrist: Zoë wears a rare Rolex Datejust "Stella Dial" Ref. 68278 in solid 18k yellow gold.

Bezel: How would you describe your own tastes? Have they evolved since you first started collecting? 

ZA: Definitely – I started by collecting simple and super wearable watches that I felt were iconic and timeless classics from different brands. Now I go for watches which feature something that really pops – something special like a stone dial, or a colorful dial.

In Upstate New York with a Patek Philippe Aquanaut on the wrist.

Bezel: What was your first watch, and what’s the story behind it? 

ZA: If we go way back, my first watch was a light blue G-Shock "Baby G." I wore it to summer camp and loved the light that illuminated the time in the dark. Unfortunately, that light blue turned a weird color from wearing it for years, and I no longer have it.

The first luxury watch that I purchased for myself was a LeCoultre chronograph from the 1950s with a Valjoux 72 movement. I've admired vintage chronographs from this era for a long time. In 2016, they were still quite undervalued compared to everything else on the market, and I just thought they were cool. I saw this example on my Instagram feed and bought it immediately. I didn't even negotiate the price, which is silly of me since I'm a dealer! I just loved it. Even though it's a bit under the radar, I always get compliments on it. And, of course, I still have it :)

Not your average Rolex Day-Date – Abelson holds a rare variant of the Presidential watch fitted with a factory diamond-set Lapis Lazuli dial.

Bezel: As a dealer, what’s the best collecting advice you can give? 

ZA: Buy what you love. Don’t be too influenced by what other people tell you to buy. You’re the one who will be wearing it.

Inspecting the Bulgari Serpenti Tubogas – in a Rolex mirror, no less.

Bezel: What’s your favorite watch in your collection and why?  

ZA: I have a special Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 2431 in yellow gold with these amazing "flame" lugs, and a lovely engraving on the caseback. It was gifted by my Great Grandmother to my Great Grandfather for their 25th wedding anniversary in 1948. It was then passed down to my Grandfather, and then my father. I'm very lucky to have it now, and that my Great Grandmother had such good taste.

Abelson's heirloom Patek Philippe, alongside the LeCoultre chronograph which began her collection.

Bezel: Are watches the ultimate heirloom? 

ZA: Absolutely! The most special watches in my collection have always been those handed down to me.

Zoe wears a white gold Rolex Daytona Ref. 116509, fitted with a rare Tahitian Mother of Pearl dial.

Bezel: Can you share 3 must-have watches listed on Bezel right now?

ZA:  For sure!

Rolex Daytona “Rainbow” Ref. 116595RBOW

F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Flyback Chronograph Ref. 5960/1A-001

The Graal founder's Oyster Perpetual 31 with a "Tiffany blue dial" atop a collection of publications.

Bezel: Why do you continue to enjoy collecting watches? 

ZA: As a dealer with access to almost everything, I get a little jaded when it comes to watches. To add something to my personal collection there needs to be an element of uniqueness or a special characteristic. So when I find something that ticks that box, I have to have it. I think that's why I continue to enjoy collecting watches, there's always the opportunity to discover something special and exciting.

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- Isaac Wingold


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