Advice for the Watch Collector
This week I’m going to talk about some of the common mistakes people make when starting a watch collection and offer some advice for those embarking on this journey. Watch collecting can be as fun as it is addictive so I’m hoping that the following article will help you out and keep you on the right path in building your ultimate collection.
The following advice is all my own opinion and I’d always recommend getting more advice, guidance and knowledge before you start shopping. What I’m trying to say is, don’t do something stupid and blame the blog!
Also, while this article will assume you are wanting to start a “higher end” collection, the principles should apply to non-luxury pieces too. The purpose of this blog is to arm you with some knowledge and highlight some of the things I think are important when starting out so, in a few years, you’re less likely to be auctioning off pieces you don’t want or don’t like and instead are enjoying a carefully curated and thought out collection.
The first thing I would say when it comes to watch collecting is to know what YOU want. It’s easy to get caught up in all the hype and marketing of a watch and every brand out there will make you feel like their watch is perfect for you. But a watch is a truly individual thing. It can complement your style, personality and lifestyle so take some time to think about it. What do you do? Where do you work? What are your hobbies and interests? Are you an active person? Do you regularly dress up and wear smarter clothing or are you more casual? Are you outgoing and someone who likes to be outside a lot?
It sounds obvious but you should think about these things if you are making a purchase for the long term. That’s certainly not to say that every watch you buy has to be the same and you can’t have a G-Shock if you wear a suit, but in my experience, it’s always worth taking some time visualise (Yeh, we’re getting mindful) when you will wear a certain piece, what you’ll be doing when you wear it and how it’ll fit in with your lifestyle, not the other way around. Buying that cool, all-black, stealthy 24-hour Breitling Hurricane will not make you a covert, behind-enemy-lines special forces commando. Yes, it looks cool and those thoughts have crept in to my mind too. But take some time to think about it! You shouldn't change yourself to fit the watch.
Take your time and explore different styles, brands, designs and even era of watches. Collecting vintage watches might be your thing or you may just want to stick with one manufacturer, perhaps you'd like a pocket watch collection or even a specific variant of a brand, such as Rolex Daytonas or Omega Speedmasters. What’s important is you collect what’s right for you.
Once you know what watch will work for you things can get interesting. Most manufacturers have their own collection of divers, sport watches, GMT’s and vintage pieces so take some time to try out a few brands and different watches. Learn about them if you can. If you like divers then it’s easy to just assume the Rolex Submariner will be the one for you (getting one’s the problem) but don’t limit yourself if you are open to other manufacturers. See what other brands are offering, compare the movements, the feel of the watch on your wrist (Yes, it is 100% a thing) and of course prices. You’ll be surprised at some of the offerings out there and what you can get for the three times cheaper than a Sub.
If you know you want to start collecting or know you want more than one watch, the next thing I would say is make a list. Don’t make the mistake of having a list in your head that you can’t look at. A list makes things tangible, gives you a sense of accountability and makes things a bit ‘real’. Don’t be shy either, if you want a collection of 30 watches write them down. Same if you only want 5. How many you want doesn’t really matter, I say go for it. But be certain and know why you want those specific pieces. It’s your list and these are YOUR watches. But avoid adding pieces just because they are hard to get or just so you can say “I've got one of those”.
I almost made this mistake recently with an Omega Speedmaster Professional. I kept seeing them pop up on Instagram and yeh, it’s a fantastic watch with a decent history. It’s a great daily driver and looks good on a leather, NATO strap or steel bracelet. Yet I have never found myself truly wanting one - nowhere near as much as the Seamaster 300m anyway.
Nevertheless, scrolling through Instagram and it seems everyone has one (so it seems!). Also, I admittedly fell victim to the "Instagram Effect", where every photo of a speedy looked stunning. All those wrist shots, pointless reaches and flat-lays really messed with my mind. I started asking, “Should I have one in my collection? Everyone else has one! They do look amazing”. I think at one point I even justified the purchase by telling myself I could take part in #speedytuesday. Within in 15 minutes I had added 5 to my Chrono24 wishlist.
Thankfully, a day or two later and I saw sense and they came off the list. But it just shows how easy it is to get sucked in. Imagine I had used my Seamaster savings to get the Speedy. Trust me, make a list! At the very least it might stop you making impulse purchases or dipping into savings. Sure, your tastes may change over time and you can always edit your list just know what’s on there and why. In my opinion, it keeps you a little more focussed.
Disclaimer: I keep mentioning Chrono 24 throughout these blog posts but I am not associated with them in any way. I get no kickbacks (I wish) or have had any contact with anyone from Chrono 24 about saying Chrono 24 so many times. It is just the one I use!
This brings me to my next mistake to avoid. Rushing. Getting a watch is a fantastic feeling. It can mark a milestone or acknowledge an achievement. Even getting the first watch in your collection is an achievement in itself and it’s important you enjoy it, appreciate it and take it in. Try and avoid focussing so much on completing the collection that you stop appreciating the pieces you already have. The fun is in wearing the watches you have, enjoying them and appreciating them. If it becomes more about ticking brands off a list it can lose its appeal and romance. Hopefully this will be a life-long passion and you’ll be adding to your collection over the years so be patient and take your time.
Rushing can also lead to other things which I try and avoid, debt and finance. If you aren’t patient and your goal is to build a collection as fast as you can, it’s my belief that you’ll be more likely to borrow money or buy watches on credit. Now, everyone’s situation is different and if you can afford to do it and don’t mind monthly payments then fine, for some people it works and it might be the case that getting a watch on finance is a better option. That could a whole blog post on its own.
Personally, for me, I try and avoid it. I hate the idea of monthly payments and I would much rather own a watch out-right. In the event I would get finance, I'd always have the money available to pay it off. Additionally, I wouldn’t want my circumstances to change (such as what's just happened with the Coronavirus) and I'd be forced to sell a watch just to pay the finance off. If I sell a watch I’d want to be able to use the cash for something else. I know everyone is going to differ and it is massively dependant on so many other factors but for me, I like to have it paid off. In my opinion it only adds to the sense of achievement.
Another thing which links closely with debt and another mistake to avoid is trying to look rich. You see it everywhere on social media and personally, it pisses me off bit. Brands like Rolex, Patek and AP are synonymous with wealth and prestige. If you are fortunate enough to have these in your collection, try and avoid showing off. Sure, watch enthusiasts will be keen to discuss and appreciate your pieces but, if you can, try and keep it subtle.
Personally, I love these brands for their watch making, their innovation, their movements and the sense of achievement in owning them. I actually don't like that they draw so much attention but it's just part and parcel of owning a luxury watch. What I would say is don't start waving it peoples faces or flexing on social media. The London Watch Collector does a great job of this on his Youtube channel (check it out here). His collection is to one to behold, yet at no point do you feel like he's showing off, bragging or buying watches just impress other people.
Your watch collection should be for you. The moment you start buying pieces to impress others and to show how much money you have (or how much credit you can get) you've lost the point of watch collecting. Additionally, this can take you down a dangerous rabbit hole where, rather than collecting for passion, you're collecting because you think people want to see excessive wealth and luxury. You'll always be competing with your last social media post trying to get more and more likes. Better to just avoid that from the start! Finally, on a personal note; If you do have a Rolex Daytona, just accept that you have one of the best watches out there.... Wrapping it around a fat stack of $100's doesn't make it look better... It makes you look like a dick! (Personal rant over!)
The final thing I would add that I think you should avoid is snobbery. It doesn’t matter what you collect, how much you spend or how many pieces you have. A watch collection can be as unique as the person who collects it. If you open a Pelican case full of Daytonas and another guy opens one of Seiko 5’s, who’s got the best collection? Sure, yours will be worth more but his will be just as valuable to him as yours is to you. In passion, patience, time, energy and effort you will most certainly match and this should be appreciated. You have more in common than you think and the only thing you don’t share is the same collection, which is a good thing. So say no to watch snobbery, it only makes your circle smaller.
Hopefully this has given you something to think about when it comes to watch collecting. I would advise you to check out other guidance and advice from other websites and sources which may go into more detail when it comes to what specific watches to avoid, how much you should spend and which watches are more likely to hold their value. I’ll probably do something in this myself but personally I’d say collect what you love. I would much rather sit down and have a conversation with a passionate Hamilton Collector than someone who’s just stockpiling Hublot Big Bangs to highlight how much they can spend.
Thanks for your time and see you in the next one.
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