Cooking in an LA restaurant can range from a hushed, unhurried pace to absolutely frenetic, depending on the style of service and cuisine. While most people rely on the phones to tell time these days, with hands often tied up preparing dishes, a quick glance at a timepiece is often much easier than grabbing for a phone, whether timing cooks or corralling staff.
Chefs value craftsmanship and quality, so it’s no surprise that many kitchen professionals have compelling wristwatch collections. Here’s a glimpse at some prominent LA chefs and their wristwatches, from the utilitarian looks of an Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot GMT aviation-style watch to the ready-for-action Casio G-Shock that keeps the kitchen of LA ticking from morning to evening.
Vartan Abgaryan: Rolex AirKing
Executive chef and partner of Yours Truly Vartan Abgaryan relies on the robust Rolex AirKing (reference number 116900) as his main watch. The aviation-style timepiece was a gift from Emil Eyvazoff, the owner of 71Above in Downtown Los Angeles, after the Venice establishment had reached one year of business under Abgaryan’s tenure. Though its history dates back to 1958, this more modern reference features the classic Rolex Oyster case in a 40-millimeter size.
Exuding the sensibility of a tool with its high-contrast dial and large Arabic indices, the green pop of the second hand matches the color of iconic crown logo, making it easier to read against the black dial.
Timothy Hollingsworth: Omega Seamaster Professional 300M
Netflix’s The Final Table winner, longtime French Laundry chef de cuisine, and current operator of Otium and C.J. Boyd’s Fried Chicken, Timothy Hollingsworth boasts an impressive collection of wristwatches. There’s a backstory to each of the three watches he shared with Eater, starting with black-dial Hamilton that Thomas Keller, executive chef and founder of the French Laundry, gave to Hollingsworth on his second anniversary as a sous chef. Ironically, the leather band prevents him from wearing it regularly in the kitchen.
Hollingsworth more robust pieces start with an Omega Seamaster Professional 300M (the same watch Pierce Brosnan wears as James Bond in Goldeneye), which he received on his 10th anniversary at the French Laundry. Because it has a stainless case and bracelet, it’s something Hollingsworth wears regularly while cooking, and the elegant construction means it’s versatile enough to wear into meetings as well.
Hollingsworth’s last watch is the more luxurious but equally iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, first designed by polo players in the 1930s to protect the front part of the watch case. The reversible watch was given to Hollingsworth in 2009 when he was competing for the prestigious Bocuse d’Or; he received it as part of the prize. He doesn’t wear it often, but Hollingsworth says it takes him back to all of the emotions he felt competing in the global competition, and that he hopes have it in the family for generations.
Candace Nelson: Cartier Tank Francaise
Pizzana and Sprinkles co-founder Candace Nelson wears a Cartier Tank in the Francaise style on a stainless steel case and bracelet that she’s had since 2002. Her husband, and Pizzana co-founder, Charles gave her the watch on their first anniversary. The pastry wizard says that while it’s “tough to wear rings or loose bracelets when working in the kitchen, this watch is one piece I never take off.” She goes on to say, “Whenever I put it on I’m reminded of the journey we’ve been on together these past two decades with first Sprinkles, and now Pizzana.”
First introduced in 1918, the squared design of the Cartier Tank was inspired by the look of the new Renault tanks used on the Western Front during World War I; the Francaise version debuted in 1996.
Holly Jivin: Casio G-Shock GA 100-1A1
The Bazaar chef Holly Jivin goes for an economical approach with her Casio G-Shock, model GA 100-1A1. Jivin had once treated herself to a fancier watch when she was promoted to chef de cuisine at the Bazaar, but says the watch began to mold. She looked for a sturdier option that “could live up to my daily activities in the kitchen” and was given this military-style Casio G-Shock by her family. This massive watch comes with a 55-millimeter case, large white hands for easy reading, and resistance to water, magnetism, and shocks, helping it stand up to the rigors of even the busiest kitchen.
Lincoln Carson: Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot GMT
Bon Temps chef Lincoln Carson has been in kitchens for decades, working in New York City and Las Vegas before settling in Los Angeles. Carson wears an aviation-inspired Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot GMT, which works great as a daily watch for the pastry chef-turned-restaurateur. Carson says he has “an affinity for automatic analog movement watches”; he has several, including a vintage Seiko that his dad handed on to him. Back to the Swiss-made Oris watch, he says, “This one does everything I need — it has two time zones, has a date window, good luminescence, and has proven to be very accurate. I like the simple and classic design, big numbers, the heavy fabric strap and the proprietary flat clasp.”
Carson once had aspirations of becoming a fighter pilot when he was younger, but now the chef relies on this Oris to help manage a busy staff, early-morning croissant bakes, and more. The knurled coin edge-style bezel gives it an industrial, functional look while a screw-down crown gives the watch 100 meters of water resistance — essential for anyone working in a kitchen.
Russell Victorioso: Nixon Diplomatic
Highland Park’s busy restaurant scene means relative newcomer Cafe Birdie has everything from a packed nightly dining room to bustling brunch service. Chef Russell Victorioso keeps everything in order with a hefty Nixon Diplomatic, a 46 millimeter rugged watch that he became a fan of after years of avid motorcycling and rock climbing. Victorioso says “the Diplomatic has proven tough enough to handle the day-to-day abuse in the kitchen.” The watch features a Swiss automatic ETA 2824 movement with 200 meters of water resistance and a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Hans Rockenwagner: Ulysse Nardin Marine Diver Chronometer 1846
One of LA’s most iconic chefs, who founded Rockenwagner bakery and opened his first LA restaurant back in the 1980s, Hans Rockenwagner is a longtime watch aficionado who has a vast collection, but prefers to use this bold Ulysse Nardin Marine Diver Chronometer as his daily wear. He says that it is “basically indestructible,” a useful characteristic for a chef. He also admires the visual interest of this watch, saying that it’s “beautiful, muscular, and feels like a speedboat with its subtle but bold face, red arms, and refined wavy dial.” Ulysse Nardin’s nautical-inspired designs come from supplying the U.S. Navy and other navies around the world since the early 1900s.
Rockenwagner, who now co-owns Dear John’s restaurant with Josiah Citrin, grew up in Germany, gaining an interest in watches from an early age and collecting over two dozen watches over the years. He started with a thin Jaeger-LeCoultre quartz watch and eventually built a collection including A.Lange & Sohne and Glashütte, two of the most prestigious German watch companies. Rockenwagner says he purchased this Ulysse Nardin dive watch at the Baselworld watch fair in Switzerland, which is located about 10 minutes from where he grew up in southern Germany.
Josiah Citrin: IWC Portugieser Automatic
Josiah Citrin, chef of Melisse, Citrin, Openaire, Dear John’s, and Costa, started collecting watches seriously in 2011, beginning with a vintage gold International Watch Company piece from the 1950s gifted to him by his grandfather.
Citrin tries his rotate through his collection, which includes everything from a Panerai Luminor to a Ulysse Nardin GMT Perpetual Calendar, as frequently as possible. But his love of IWC led him to the pocket-watch-inspired Portugieser 7 Day Reserve. Citrin loves how versatile this watch is, sturdy enough for a fine dining kitchen like the newly reopened Melisse, but perfect for wearing with a suit, too.
The chef also recently purchased IWC’s Top Gun black ceramic chronograph, whose scratch-resistant case and clear chronograph function makes it ideal for heavy-duty kitchen use.
This post has been edited for additional clarity and concision.