So a friend of yours shows you his new cool watch. He tells you all about the details of the movement, the manufacturer, the history (if it’s vintage) and likely, the price paid. You try it on. It fits nicely and you like the look of it on your wrist. You are smitten. You now have an uncanny desire to buy your first cool watch. Welcome to the world of watch collecting. It’s the horological rabbit hole and there’s lots to learn and enjoy along the way.
When I first started out, my collection was equivalent to chambering a side-by-side shotgun with buck-shot and trying to hit a 12 inch target at 100 yards. So many watches I’d come across were cool. “That one could fit into my collection”, and somehow I would figure out a way to justify it. But isn’t that what collecting is all about?
One of the first rules of collecting (if there really is one), is to collect what you like. If you spend too much for it but you still love it and it gets a lot of wrist time, then so be it. If you are collecting, it is not about turning a profit as much as it is acquiring for the sake of building a collection. If you are trying to flip watches, that’s a game with an entirely different set of rules.
Within the spectrum of collecting what you like, also consider the budget. There are way too many blog threads about “how are you going to (or will you) break the news to your partner about the holy grail watch you just picked up for a ridiculous price?” I’ve had customers who have asked me to ship their purchase to their friend’s house. I’ve had potential sales go south after great negotiation because the buyer saved spousal disclosure until the last minute. The hammer came down! I’m not about to give marital guidance here although I did make one addition to my personal collection this last year that was significant enough for me to broach with my wife. And, as supportive as she is, the watch has a new owner…. Me!
I believe that with a regular self “check and balance”, a collection can be built relatively easily and offer the individual great enthusiasm and understanding. To put it another way, years ago I was captivated by American and Swiss wristwatches, those from the early 1900’s. These were essentially ladies pendant watches that manufacturers repurposed, via a slight case redesign, into the first men’s wristwatch. I managed to assemble a group of 10-15 of these and I still have them. Some are humble, some wonderful works of art. The problem now is that they don’t get any exercise. Their diminutive size prevents me from strapping one to my wrist. Styles change. Needless to say, they continue to hold their place in my collection. There, I did it. I justified why I still own them.
And so, there are other parameters that one might consider when assembling a collection. Firstly, don’t do what I did. Secondly, hone that collection into something that is cohesive and meaningful. Pre-civil war American pocket watches, steel Omega’s from the 1960’s, elaborate gold watches, watches with great provenance or independent watch brands. I have one customer who only collects one American watch manufacturer and mostly ones that are privately labeled for a jeweler. He clearly has the largest collection in the world of this manufacturer and yet still, the majority of his collection is privately labeled watches made by this company.
Some other points to consider:
Have a reputable place to verify and service your watches. Just yesterday, a local pawn shop owner brought in a Tag Heuer watch and it was completely fake.
A reputable dealer of watches is also important, even if you purchased the watch elsewhere.
Have some form of record keeping. Tragedy can strike and without some form of guidance, heirs will have nowhere to turn. As someone told me recently when speaking to his wife regarding his shotgun collection: “Honey, if I were to pass suddenly, please don’t sell my guns for what I told you I paid for them”.