The 29-Year-Old Designer With a Tier-One Watch Collection

Fashion
With a taste honed by early-aughts music videos and friends like Jay-Z, Rhude creative director Rhuigi Villaseñor is a new kind of horological connoisseur.

Designer Ruhigi wearing a white suit and leaning against a banister in his home

The way Rhuigi Villaseñor sees it, he might love watches a little too much. “If I could go back in time, I would unlike watches,” the Rhude designer jokes. “It’s dangerous to love them all.” Lacking a time machine, Villaseñor lives dangerously: collecting holy grail Patek Philippes and experimental Audemars Piguet watches his idols (and now customers) wear too. Here, he walks GQ through what’s been in his rotation lately.

Villaseñor’s Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980/1R.

Courtesy of Rhuigi Villaseñor

GQ: How did you get into collecting?
Villaseñor: When I started Rhude I made a pretty good amount of money with a bandana T-shirt and hoodie. Watches were one of the things that I spent my money on. My first purchase was a 36-millimeter Rolex Datejust, an all-gold Day-Date, and another Datejust, all at once. I’m the type of person, if I do it, I’m going to try to just start the collection as soon as possible. Which is actually stupid, but whatever.

From there, you’ve added several legendary watches, like the rose-gold Patek Philippe Nautilus, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept, and a Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar.
To me, these are grails in watch collecting. I remember I wore this Perpetual Calendar; a buddy of mine was like, “How? Where? When?” Pharrell was wearing it in the “Frontin’ ” video, and I remember I was like, “That watch, I need that.”

How much did hip-hop and music videos inform your taste in watches?
It was inevitable—there was no Hodinkee, and GQ wasn’t writing about watches yet. The watch world was so archaic and closed off. But if you look back, Jay-Z was rapping about Richard Mille so early.

His Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon.

Courtesy of Rhuigi Villaseñor

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked

Courtesy of Rhuigi Villaseñor

A.P. created the Royal Oak Concept line in 2002 as a place to test out its most cutting-edge and futuristic ideas. What drew you to this piece?
I’m not at the level to buy a concept whip yet, but this is a concept watch. It’s a rubber watch—the closest thing to a grown-up G-Shock. I remember, again, seeing Pharrell wear it, and I was like, “Damn, what is that?” [More recently] I was in the office with [Jay-Z] and he was wearing one. I was quiet about it, and then weeks later I went and bought one.

How do watches inspire you as a designer?
These watches are made with the finest materials by craftspeople who are so meticulous and careful. It’s like being a brain surgeon. Those are the only two people I think that need to have steady hands: surgeons and watchmakers. When we go back and build our tailoring, I want to apply that same romanticism to it, that respect to the material, the respect to the final garment. They’re all pretty parallel to each other.

And what’s the story behind the Nautilus 5980 on your wrist?
This is my present to myself for my birthday this year. What really attracted me to the precious metal Nautilus is it’s such a big flex. Because it’s a sports watch it’s supposed to be stainless steel. You shouldn’t use rose gold. In the beginning, I thought it was a little too obnoxious, but it’s beautiful.

Why this one for your birthday?
I was granted the opportunity to buy it. That’s kind of the law with collecting. Bro, I had been waiting. It was like God’s plan.

A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2021 issue with the title “The 29-Year-Old Designer With a Tier-One Watch Collection.”

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