What is an Exit Watch, and do I need a plan for one? What is an Exit Watch, and do I need a plan for one?

What is an Exit Watch, and do I need a plan for one?

Time+Tide

The idea of a grail watch – the would-be jewel in the crown of our collection for which we all strive – is well established. Not only does it make for some really interesting discussions over coffee, but it also helps shape your collection’s direction and deepens your understanding of the watch industry and what you want to get out of it.

The term “grail watch” has been used for so long and by so many people that its meaning is already starting to change. Or, should I say, its parameters are starting to relax somewhat. Whereas originally a grail watch was assumed to be the pinnacle of your collection – the one piece that you would choose above all others were money, era or limitation no object – you often hear people using the word in the plural form. Having several “grails” might once have been seen as greedy (or even crass). But nowadays, with the practice of watch collecting an evolved art, it seems acceptable to have a grail for all seasons.

exit watch
The Patek Philippe ref. 1518 in stainless steel is a worthy grail watch for any serious collector. Image: bexsonn.com

Maybe a golden grail, or a quartz grail, or a diving grail … Whatever helps signpost your way towards a fine and well-rounded collection. But, with this new, more fluid use of the term grail watch, what is there that can take its place in the pantheon of desire?

Enter the “Exit Watch”. This is a relatively under-the-radar term that seems to be gaining a bit more popularity of late. An Exit Watch is the acquisition to end all acquisitions. It is the final piece of the puzzle. It is the final agony through which your MasterCard will have to suffer. It is, in short, the grail of grails.

While every watch collector and their dog has been happily lusting over grails for decades, no one ever suggested that attaining your grail would automatically put an end to your collecting days. The idea that there was a purchase out there that could end your obsession with watches seemed far from comforting (in many ways it is downright terrifying). But here we are. An Exit Watch is like slaying Robotnik or Bowser. You’ve done it. You’ve completed the game. It’s over.

exit watch
An exit watch is very personal, and is highly dependent on your lifestyle. Could a Rolex GMT-Master II be your exit watch?

This means the bar must be set, for most watch lovers, stupendously high. And the emotion you experience when you imagine attaining your Exit Watch must be one of tranquility, rather than panic. It should feel like a weight has been lifted, that no other watch is needed because no other watch can match the one on your wrist (or in your pocket for those aiming for a Henry Graves kind of level).

So, for many people, an Exit Watch is an impossibility. It just doesn’t exist. There isn’t one watch that can end the game, because the game is always changing. The joy is in the playing, of the hunting, and the obsessing, and the getting, and the flipping, and all the glorious mess that goes along with it. But even if you think you’re one of those people for whom settling upon an Exit Watch seems a pipe dream, beware.

I almost exited myself by accident.

exit watch

There are several watches I have regarded as personal grails for years and years. Chief among them are the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher and the Hublot Big Bang MECA-10 Full Magic Gold. One nice thing about both of these watches is that I am almost positive I will never be able to obtain them. Rather than frustrate me, this has the effect of calming me in the knowledge my hobby will remain engaging as I pursue the uncatchable.

And then I came into possession of the CHF 1399 WH&T LCF888 Chronograph, which caught my eye for its AP-style case and Hublot-esque dial (the skeletonised date wheel smacked of a Unico movement to me). Here I was, with a watch currently retailing for less than 3000 Australian dollars (a very generous re-order price) that simultaneously satisfied my desire for that hulking, futuristic, flawlessly executed housing, and gave me cause for concern: Was it all over?

exit watch
Image: watchprozine.com

Although it was not an AP, nor a Hublot, it was most definitely something that scratched if not exactly the same itch as those high-concept creations would, at least a very similar itch I wasn’t aware I had but was glad to be rid of nonetheless. It did strange things to me. It sent my stomach flipping over and over as I countenanced the prospect of having my greatest interest unceremoniously cancelled. After a couple of weeks, I recovered (I saw an original Rolex Explorer II dial and was in love again). The passion returned and I was glad to be back in the game. But I will never forget how close I came to exiting the pursuit I enjoy above all else. I realised, in that moment, that I was nowhere near ready to settle on an Exit Watch. In fact, I was barely able to ponder the prospect without welling up …

At its core, the Exit Watch concept is all well and good, and for those collecting for reasons other than the sake of collecting, it may have some relevance. But don’t feel pressured to anoint the watch that completes your collection, and don’t feel like limiting yourself to just one grail is a necessity. Watch collecting is supposed to a rich, rewarding, and increasingly satisfying pastime. Why would anyone want to leave that behind?