Top Tips for Collecting Watches

Top Tips for Collecting Watches

Richard Brown



I recently interviewed the CEO and co-founder of The Watch Collectors Club, and after a fascinating hour of chat, it made me think about my watch collections. How they have grown, what pitfalls I stumbled into during creation, and where I would like my collections to go.

What resonated most during the chat with Hamish was when he stressed that watch collecting is not the purview of the wealthy; if you have two watches, you have a collection. It is not just about bringing a suitcase to a Red Bar event and showing a stunned audience that you have gathered all twelve Dirty Dozen (granted, that would be pretty special). It is equally about displaying three Casio G-Shocks you are particularly proud of or a varied collection of dive watches ranging from the humble but fabulous Casio Marlin Duro to something more unusual like a Seiko Monster.

The great thing about watch collecting is that there are no hard and fast rules; no one is out to judge. The best collective photograph I saw recently was posted online by a gentleman who had acquired almost all Casio F-91W digitals in different colours and materials. Considering that the cheapest model in this set can be bought for £7, it illustrates that cost need not be a barrier to creating an exceptional collection.

With the benefit of experience (and lots of collecting highs and lows), what pitfalls and joys can I share?

Pricing – it's a potential rabbit hole

Richard Brown's Watch CollectionRichard Brown's Watch Collection - Credit Author

Pricing can be a huge part of collecting watches. It may sound like I'm stating the obvious, but you must collect within your budget; there's no point in having a stunning Rolex collection if you can't afford to live. Trust me, I've been there.

Fundamental to understanding pricing is not to look back at old prices, as this will only depress you. I have a friend who is doing this by his own admission. If your heart is set on a new Rolex Air King, there's no point torturing yourself by looking at what it cost in 2013. It's a death watch beetle in your soul. Either buy it today if you can afford to, or move on.

This next element may be divisive. When you are new to collecting, please don't buy with a view to a watch being an investment. You will turn too quickly into the type of watch collector no one likes. Yes of course, seek out a bargain or fair-priced watch but initially, don't get bogged down in investment talk. Just buy to enjoy.

Homework – it's essential

Do your research and homework whether you spend £10 on a watch or £10,000. Doing homework is an intrinsic part of collecting and should be fun. No matter how obscure the variant, you will never be the first person to buy this watch, so research what other collectors have said about it. During an interesting conversation with Andrew Morgan, he openly told me that 1950s and 1960s Rolexes are poorly built and you're far better off buying a Tudor from that era. This is essential information because nobody wants a brand they've always aspired to only to find out that quality is "iffy," and they would have been far better off saving for a later model.

Richard Brown's Watch CollectionRichard Brown's Watch Collection - Credit Author

Collect slowly - Don't splurge in the first week

Don't go crazy in the first few months buying everything that looks like a watch. You will end up with a drawer full of watches that are seldom worn. One of the most common rookie errors is selecting a particular spec or brand, going hell for leather, and buying everything that says 200m or Citizen on the dial. Again, I speak from experience. It is far better to think carefully about each watch you buy, for example, how it differs from what you already own and what technical characteristics it brings. If we look back at the F-91W above collection, they are all quite individual, showing the experienced gentleman has not just bought anything with the words F-91W and Casio.

Specifications - not the be-all and end-all

You do need to like a watch. Don't buy just because of the impressive specs. It doesn't matter if the watch can dive to 11000m if you think it's ugly. If you love the look of a watch, you'll wear it no matter what the specs. Some of the best watches I own do not have exhibition case backs; therefore, it doesn't matter whether they are fitted with an NH35 or a Manufacture Calibre MT5602. I wear them because they look good.

Richard Brown's Watch CollectionRichard Brown's Watch Collection - Credit Author

Don't copy your friends - follow your path

It is very tempting, especially if you have persuasive watch geeks as friends, to be sucked into what interests them and doesn't necessarily interest you. I freely admit to being one of these monsters, and I have on occasion tried to persuade dear friends to buy a specific model because I am so passionate about it. Thankfully, most of my friends are equally strong-willed individuals and have put me back in my box, but if you're new to the world of watch collecting it is very easy to be persuaded by someone that a particular watch would be perfect in "your" collection. Only you can make this judgement.

"Who is the more foolish, the fool of the fool who follows him?" It's a famous line from a favourite film. But there is a lot of truth in it, and whilst I am not for one second being disparaging to new watch enthusiasts, the message is well-meant. You must follow your path yet carefully consider advice from those more experienced who have owned specific models and want to impart knowledge.

Richard Brown's Watch CollectionRichard Brown's Watch Collection - Credit Author

Parting with the model - eventually, something has to go

A big part of collecting watches is selling watches because there are only so many slots in a watch box. I am right at my threshold, having bought a couple this year. My watch drawer has no more space, so it's spilling over into other drawers. I do have models that I'm not wearing, and there are other things on the market I would love to own. This weekend, I was discussing with my wife whether to sell my Breitling Blackbird and titanium Omega Seamaster, as neither gets a lot of wear. Having parted some time ago with a Gen 1 IWC Aquatimer Galapagos and regretted it, my wife occasionally reminds me to think carefully before I sell and drives the message home by advising frustration if I spent £4000 on a pre-owned Galapagos just to right my wrong.

Selling watches is a lot of fun, especially if you pass one on to a friend. WatchGecko made a short video where two of the WatchGecko authors, George and Anthony, were respectively the seller and new owner of a mint Bulova Apollo 15 watch. If you have no private buyers, there are lots of good places to sell your watch with genuine dealers who will give you a fair part- exchange. In truth, parting with a watch is not the problem; regretting it the next day is, so please think carefully before you dispose of one of the treasured pieces in your collection.

In conclusion

Join a local society where like-minded people gather to learn more about collecting watches. To get a flavour of these events, tune in to the podcast we recorded with Hamish Robertson from The Watch Collectors Club, where we debunk everything you ever thought about the world of collecting watches. It is a fascinating chat, and I am sure you'll thoroughly enjoy it and learn a lot.

As a parting comment, there are few things more fun in life than starting a watch collection, be that a handful of 1980s TAG Heuers or Seiko Dive watches or completing your Dirty Dozen. It's a hugely rewarding pastime that doesn't have to break the bank, and if you buy smartly, you will have a range of watches you will treasure for the rest of your life.

Latest Articles

Richard Brown

About the Author: Richard Brown

About the Author: Richard Brown

I truly believe one of the best partners in exploration and adventure is a fine watch. Over 30 years of collecting, my fascination with the technical capabilities of both vintage and modern timepieces has never abated and it is a privilege to be able to share this passion through writing.

More Articles by Richard Brown