I think I have hit a wall in my watch-collecting journey… I think I have hit a wall in my watch-collecting journey…

I think I have hit a wall in my watch-collecting journey…

Zach Blass

Not to force a pun here, but I really am at a crossroads in my collecting journey. I don’t wanna sound too braggadocious, but ultimately my collection is in a really good place. A lot of the watches I’ve set my sights on I now have in my collection. I was able to trade trade my way towards an A. Lange & Söhne that had long been on my hit-list. I recently entered the world of vintage in a serious way, parting with my Submariner ref. 114060 to bring in a Rolex Explorer ref. 1016 that has always been a dream of mine to own. And there are also plenty of other references within my collection, that I don’t want to rattle on and on about, but they are strong watches that I feel privileged to own. I am fully aware that proportional to my station in life, and point in my career, then I am definitely punching up and that my watch collection far exceeds what I probably should I own at this point in my life. It’s not borderline irresponsible, it definitely is irresponsible. But this is the sickness and addiction we all share as watch enthusiasts.

My Rolex Explorer ref. 1016

I constantly jest that, sometime in the near future, there may need to be a “Ragnarok of the collection” in order to create expendable cash for more of the adult things I likely have on the horizon. But, for now I’m not going to worry about such things – even if they are more important. There are certainly collectors within the space that are far more seasoned than I, but for nearly a decade I’ve been fully immersed in my watch-collecting journey. And along the way I’ve definitely learned from my experience. But it takes some time before you realise that the collecting journey is a period of constant evolution and growth. You have moments of hindsight when you begin to realise that you are not necessarily as disciplined as you thought. To assume at any given point you do not have more to learn, or more room for growth, is a very naive assumption to make. So, in this moment of pause within my collecting (by no means finished, just taking a breath), here are some key reflections I have had.

Variation creates spice, but it has to be in the right amount and in the right way

My A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Up/Down ref. 221.021

Now, every collector is different. And depending on your tastes and preferences, what I’m about to say may not really relate to you in any way. I knew that I was not a reference point collector. What I mean by that is I am not the kind of person who wants to own three variations of the Rolex Submariner or three variations of the Seamaster. But recently I have recognised that not only do I not want to be a reference point collector and own three variations of the same watch, but I also do not want to own multiple watches that tick off the same category or purpose. At least for me, it is a dangerous thing. We play favourites with our watches, even if we are not willing to admit it, and owning a bunch of timepieces that directly compete with each other in utility and aesthetic can be wasteful. I believe I have mistakenly made this pitfall due to buying watches simply because I was able to buy them.

My Kurono Tokyo Mori, Seiji, Toki, and Grand Akane (left to right) Photo: Atom Moore

For example, I currently have five Kurono Tokyo watches in my collection. They are great, gorgeous watches. Initially, I felt owning multiple watches in the same comfortable 37mm size, but with very distinct and handsome dials, would be a good idea. Depending on the vibe, mood, or my wardrobe, I could sport my celadon-lacquer Seiji, rich-green sunburst Mori, salmon-adjacent sunburst Toki, sunset reddish-brown urushi lacquer Grand Akane, and rustic-gold urushi lacquer Grand Hagane. My A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Up/Down ref. 221.021 has been a go-to watch for dressier moments when I want to wear a watch with a strap, with the five Kuronos once serving as playful alternatives.

The Cartier Santos Dumont Limited Edition ref. WGSA0054

But once I purchased my beige-lacquered Cartier Santos Dumont Limited Edition back in November, it has clearly become Lange or Cartier – leaving the Kurono watches in my watch box. This is, of course, no bueno. So I have determined these five Kurono watches are on the chopping block, something I never thought I would say when I purchased them, and I am currently investigating which watch to bring into my roster of strap-watches that can genuinely compete for wrist-time with the Lange and Cartier. I want a strong trinity of options I know I will actually rotate between, rather than a strong duo and a quintet accumulating dust.

With this in mind, I have determined I will surely want new watches but I do not want more watches. Things will need to leave my collection before something can be added moving forward – at least if I am being as disciplined as I aspire to be. Just because I can buy a neat MoonSwatch or Furlan Marri does not mean I should. The MoonSwatch I anticipate would collect dust in a box, and the “Havana Salmon” mecha-quartz Furlan Marri I purchased out of FOMO has maybe been worn a handful of times at most.

Once you recognise your bias in wear-time, you will realise less is more

My Rolex Datejust 36 ref. 126234 (Bright Blue Dial)

At this point in time I would say that I have approximately 20 watches in my collection, covering off a wide range of price points, diameters, level of finish, etc. One of my long-standing rules was this idea that I never wear the same watch two days in a row, and that by doing this I would spread the love and provide enough wrist-time to all the watches in my collection to justify owning them. I used to be better about this, but now, well, with certain pieces that have recently entered the collection, it is fair to say that I have not been following this rule as much as I would like. There are some recent adds of mine where the honeymoon period really hasn’t ended, and I am constantly gravitating towards these references (many of which are pictured in this article). And, this means it is not just the Kurono watches that are being neglected. If I am being honest, probably around 80% of the watches I own have not been worn in months.

My latest pickup: The Grand Seiko SBGH283 ‘Shizukuishi Limited’

This is probably the primary reason I have hit a brick wall in my watch collecting. Arguably the most fun part about watch collecting is the hunt for the next watch, going through all the various options, picking apart how a watch can fit into your life, how you would wear it, when you would wear it, what you’d wear it with, and what potential joy it could bring you. And, in a less honourable but necessary point of view, how much of a bargain you can get it for. But, when you get to a point where you definitely have five strong watches that you constantly gravitate towards, watches you really can not see yourself parting with, and the remainder being 15 or so neglected pieces you now feel are a bit more disposable or could be leveraged in a trade, it becomes very clear that you weren’t necessarily as disciplined as as you thought.

Hate to admit it, but I rarely ever wear this Ming 17.03 GMT

Here lies the conundrum. The watches I do not think I am capable of parting with are the pieces within my collection with the greatest leverage to be sold/traded for the pieces I lust after. And, the greater portion of watches I own, which are not getting as much love, are pieces that do not hold their value well and are not necessarily the easiest to offload for a satisfactory amount. This creates a stalemate that, if you are being responsible, needs to be addressed before you can resume the hunt.

Knowing when a “grail” should stay a grail

I would love to own an AP Royal Oak – in theory…

Being satiated with what I have at present is not a bad thing. It just makes hunting for new watches harder. Because what I find myself setting my sights on only climbs higher and higher. But this has led me to another important realisation: there are certainly watches I would love to own, but cannot feasibly own. I recently pondered the thought experiment of owning a Royal Oak. To be able to do so, I would would likely have to part with two of my most beloved watches (i.e my Rolex Datejust and A. Lange & Söhne). Only then would I have the funds to bring a Royal Oak within reach. So it is already a trade I could not see myself making. I would also feel like I would have to part with the Datejust because having two steel watches on a bracelet with blue dials is unnecessary based on my watch-wear behaviour.

My Zenith Defy Classic Skeleton “Night Surfer” Time+Tide Edition

Take the Ming 17.03 pictured earlier above. With my Datejust, a blue dial watch, and my Zenith “Night Surfer” Time+Tide Edition, any time I want to wear a daily-capable watch with a blue dial it is a decision between the two – thus leaving the Ming less worn.

But back to the Royal Oak. Assuming I went with the more iconic blue dial, how would I decide when to wear the Royal Oak over the Datejust or Zenith “Night Surfer”? The only thing I could think of is that, between the Datejust and “Night Surfer”, whichever remained in my collection after making a trade towards the AP, would split wear time in instances where I did not feel comfortable wearing the Royal Oak. And, then, this line of thinking made me question: would I ever really feel comfortable wearing a Royal Oak in public? At least in enough instances where it would be worthwhile. The answer I have come to is no, not really. Unless I had the sleeve of a shirt or jacket covering it, I cannot picture myself walking around NYC with a Royal Oak on my wrist. Maybe I am being a scaredy-cat, but even on home turf it is a tough call in my mind. In either scenario, one blue dial daily would get much more wear time than the other – rendering its competitor redundant.

I’ll be honest, this is far less an article and more of a public diary entry. So, forgive me if this reads as a rant and ramble. But, I really am curious to hear your thoughts. So, do me a favour. Send an email over to [email protected] with the subject “Zach’s Collector’s Crossroads” and let me know what you think about what I have shared.