Collecting watches is a lot of fun. At least, it should be. If it ever stops being fun, I’d assume that’s because you got into it for the wrong reasons (to make a quick buck, most likely). If you’re about to take the plunge into this massively rewarding hobby, but you’re doing so because you think it will make you rich, don’t.
If you started (or are about to start) collecting watches because you love them, welcome to the club. Everyone’s watch journey is different. They can depend on means and opportunities, or tastes and trends, or any number of factors that make your story your own.
One thing is highly likely, though. You will make mistakes, missteps, and about-turns as you tread this path. Sometimes these errors in judgement are far from that at the time. It’s very possible that certain watches will instantly become an itch you just have to scratch, and scratch it you should (even if you feel like a fool for it a couple of years down the line). I’m afraid we can’t help you avoid that, but we do have a little bit of advice regarding some common questions we’ve been hearing recently:
How to build a watch collection on a modest budget
When you start out, it’s probable you either won’t have a lot of money or that you just don’t feel comfortable enough spending a huge amount right away. So how do you go about building a collection on a low budget? It’s very possible if you are happy to define the nature of your collection by the practicalities of your situation. If, for example, you decide you are comfortable spending a few hundred on a watch, and you plan on buying one every couple of months, you should look for a well-designed Asian brand that gets the thumbs up from more seasoned aficionados. The two that I’ve seen give most pleasure to people in this bracket are Casio G-Shock and Seiko.
Not only do these brands offer a wide array of options around your specified retail price, the resale market of both (especially Seiko) is strong, and a great way to pick up a pre-loved diver that still has years of good service left in the tank.
You may wish to define your collection even more acutely. For example, you could collect only red watches, and look for brightly coloured examples from industry stalwarts like Swatch. Or maybe you would prefer to collect watches from a particular country or era. A lot of fun can be had trawling the vintage market online in desperate search of a crazy Poljot made in the USSR that looks like it’s been designed by the inmates of Arkham Asylum.
How to turn your core watches into a collection
This question is one that, about a year ago, would have been lost on me, but I’ve recently gone through a consolidation phase, during which I’ve shed many of my earlier watches to ‘make space’ for new, more ‘serious’ pieces.
Previously, I never looked at my collection and saw a divide between watches that were and watches that will be loved. I kind of took it for granted that once a watch entered the collection, it could not leave. Some of the pieces I said goodbye to were ones I’d had for years and years; others were regrettable whims that I tired of in less than a year.
At first, I tried drawing a line through the collection based on price, but that was pure nonsense. Even though I regularly spend $3-6000 AUD on watches these days, there was no way I was getting rid of my two Corto Maltese Swatches, even if they did cost under $100. I also have a couple (yes, literally two) Nezumi Voiture Meca-Quartz Chronographs (in different colours if you’re wondering) and they survived the chop, despite retailing for about $600.
So I had to take a more fluid, emotional route to the cull. I asked myself what each piece offered the collection as a whole. Does each piece further the collection in a direction I enjoy? And (and this was a weird question to hear myself say ‘no’) would I ever wear it?
It is amazing when we go through our collections periodically, how massively our tastes can shift without anything seismic happening to us as people. Some watches that seemed like a great idea now embarrass me. Anything that makes you feel that way needs to be dropped. And fast.
And don’t be too strict with yourself. Who says your core has to be small, after all?
How to go from someone who has a lot of watches to a legit watch collector
This is the next step for any amateur collector. To appreciate that a collection is not about size, but rather about quality, discernment and conscious curation. And having a lot of watches may not really constitute a collection even if there’s nothing wrong with any watch in the pile of tickers you’ve blindly accrued. I was in this very situation myself a few years ago.
Working in retail in my younger years meant I’d picked up the odd Fossil, and Police watch, before a stint selling Swatches landed me with about 10 or so plastic originals. At the same time I’d been taking advantage of the Swatch Group Staff Sale and buying Hamiltons like they were going out of fashion (in fact the ones I bought were never fashionable).
When I started buying proper watches, I looked at this horological heap I’d put together and realised that it was so disparate, so temporally unrelated, and so confusing that it didn’t say anything at all about me as a collector. But most crucially, I was not able to glean any satisfaction or better understanding of the craft by observing that mess.
And so I went through the phase described in the answer to the second question, trimming the fat, so to speak, until there was a definite merit to a lean and decisive collection. It did not become sterile or boring; it became deliberate and almost academic in its composition. Each watch could stand up to scrutiny on either technical, contextual, or emotional levels.
Simply put, I became proud of my collection because I started to take pride in its composition. I think once you experience that feeling you’ll just know you’re a true collector without needing confirmation from anyone else.