There are nearly as many ways to approach watch collecting as there are watches to collect. Just kidding…there are way more watches out there than there are paths to a collection you can be proud of. But there are some approaches that lend focus and help avoid a bloated collection that’s all over the map. Of course determining your budget is probably first and foremost, with everything falling into place around that.
Early on, it’s a good idea to consider the “why” of your collection, since this will steer things from the get-go. Do you simply like timepieces and their mechanics, are you looking for a good investment or inflation hedge, are you seeking likeminded people with whom to share a hobby? Do you want to impress your friends? Also, remember that part of the fun is the possibility of revamping your collection over time, as budget, interest and watch knowledge change. So don’t play it too safe, but do seek out good advice and keep things liquid if you’re easily bored.
Anyway, here are my top four approaches to whip a collection into shape. And I have no doubt that you can come up with a few ideas of your own.
- Consider vintage. Vintage watches have a rich history, and if you have even a touch of a collector mindset, you’ll enjoy cataloging models from a certain era or country, a certain production series, or models with a specific type of movement, complication, etc. Vintage timepieces are not necessarily less expensive than newer models, and some, as we’ve seen, have skyrocketed in price over the years. Here’s where brand, condition, limitation, materials, and the watch’s provenance come into play.
- Collect one brand only. Many people are crazy about certain brands and build their entire assortment around one company—like Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe or IWC, as examples. Most companies offer enough variety to keep a collector interested for years, and some collectors choose to collect only certain models from certain brands, like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso or the Breitling Navitimer.
- Choose a specific category of watch—like sports, pilots’, dress, titanium, chiming or commemorative watches, as well as limited or special editions, complicated watches, etc. There will be a lot of brand crossover in this approach, allowing you to discover how designs are inextricable from the spirit of the company whose name is on it.
- Collect what you like. If you’ve always hated slim, leather-banded, three-hand dress watches, now is not the time to convince yourself otherwise. As a general rule, keep your collection within the realm of what you’d enjoy wearing. Are there exceptions? Of course, but my vote is to keep the exceptions to a minimum.
So where do you find all these great watches? There are lots of reputable sources—online auctions being one of them—but that’s a discussion for another time.