By Roberta Naas
If you’ve been thinking about starting a watch collection, there is no time like the present. Watches can be worn on the wrist every day and are highly noticeable. Additionally, some watches not only hold their value, but also increase in value over the years. Whether you are considering building a watch wardrobe purely for the pleasure of it, or for investment purposes, we bring you a few important questions you should be asking yourself, and offer some helpful hints on getting started.
I want to preface this article, though, with what may well be the most important ethos of watch collecting: Buy what you truly like; trust your own personal style and taste. To me, collecting is not about investing in the future, but rather it is about enjoying the watches of today. Of course, when you see watches with provenance such as the Rolex watches owned by Paul Newman or Marlon Brando selling at auction with numbers well into the millions, it is difficult not to think about that investment angle. But those cases are few and far between, and if you can’t afford to buy one of those legendary watches at auction, you should stick to buying what you love and building a highly wearable – and enviable – wardrobe.
Before you go out and start buying watches, you need to consider a few things. What are your likes and dislikes when it comes to lifestyle and general style? If you are a car lover, you may want to look at watches that have an alignment with the auto-racing world. There are many watch brands that partner with races, racecar drivers and car brands. You could create a very highly focused watch wardrobe of timepieces that relate to the automobile world – giving you a new story to tell with every watch.
Maybe your love is aviation, or diving. There are a host of brands that specialize in these areas, as well, and you can build an entire series of collectible watches around that passion. Seiko’s dive watches are one of the first options that people in this activity usually consider. As reported by watch collector James Hampton-Smith, their watches are well-known for being available in a wide range of prices to suit everyone’s preferences – not just the luxurious expensive ones. Again, with each watch you wear, you have a story about its relationship to the deep blue sea or the bright blue skies.
Some people have a passion for a special genre. Maybe you love military-inspired watches, or timepieces inspired by a certain era. Some people build entire wardrobes around themes such as this. Others go deep into buying a specific brand – often purchasing half a dozen different watches made by a particular brand. Yet others are fixated on a color. I know one watch collector who buys only watches with blue dials. He has amassed an incredible collection.
It is important to buy quality while still paying attention to your budget. There are great watches that can be found for a few thousand dollars to under $10,000. Having a few quality watches is better than having a bigger number of mediocre watches. There is no set number of watches that constitute a collection. Most experts say that having at least five is a good starting number. This should include at least one or more daily drivers, a sporty timepiece or two, and a special piece. Consider having a versatile metal bracelet watch in the line up, or even an interchangeable bracelet/strap watch for sport or daily wear.
If your budget allows, you may want to add a sophisticated icon to your collection – legendary names that have been around for centuries. Here, though, we are entering significantly higher price ranges, so only go there when your budget allows. Don’t overlook the independent brands, either. There are so many great independent watchmakers creating limited editions and specialty pieces that sell like hot cakes and that may one day be that “investment” piece.
Don’t buy all “time only” watches. Make sure to include a complication or two. Complications are any function other than time keeping added to the watch. Chronographs are particularly attractive thanks to their
look with two, three, or even four subdials as counters. Additionally, a multi-timer or GMT can be useful. It all depends on what your personal needs are.
Take your time building your collection and enjoy doing it. Lastly, be careful when buying. Only buy from a reputable source (especially when buying vintage and certified pre-owned) and from an authorized retailer or brand boutique.