Watch collecting has been a very rewarding hobby (or addiction, depending on who you ask) over the past decade. I’ve learned a lot. My preferences have changed on some things, and I’ve developed my tastes. I think I’m ready to put a halt on my collecting, and transition more into an enthusiast. Basically evolve into someone who can enjoy watches without feeling the need to own them all.
I’d also like to spend more time learning more about watchmaking history, as well as history behind individual brands, instead of obsessing over technical details. More history, less researching the merits of movements and cases sizes. In this post, I’d like to share some things that have definitely changed since I first started collecting.
Watch Collecting Paradigm Shift Number 1: Better, More Expensive Watches Aren’t Always More Enjoyable
When I was first starting out, my grail was always an Omega Speedmaster. Once I obtained said grail, what was next? Haute horology names seemed to be the answer. Patek, Vacheron, AP – maybe even a JLC or something from Glashutte Original.
Something funny happened along the way though. After “testing the waters” with some more complicated pieces, I realized that what I really enjoy is more simple tool watches. Divers, field watches – maybe a chronograph or two. That’s my wheel house. There’s plenty of nice options in the upper-mid range from brands like Omega, IWC, Breitling, and Tudor – just to name a few.
Patek Phillipe charges $130 just for a battery change! It’ll run you about $900 to service a simple 3 hander, and over $2,000 for a more complicated piece.
Do I still aspire to own a Patek one day? Honestly, yes. But “better” isn’t always better, and I sense that I enjoy classic, easy to maintain tool watches much more than I’d enjoy super high-end watches that I used to dream about. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Watch Collecting Paradigm Shift Number 2: “Upgrades” Aren’t Always Better
Everyone nowadays wants an exclusive, in-house movement. Here’s the thing though. Servicing is not only expensive, it can be anxiety-inducing. From my experience, watches don’t always come back the same after service. That’s also assuming you can still get parts. In-house movements are generally seen as an “upgrade”, but are they really?
What I’m saying is irrelevant if you’re a flipper of watches, or sell them right before they need a service. I’m usually a “buy and holder” with my watches, though, so longevity and overall cost of ownership are big drivers in my decision making process.
After owning a watch for about a year, I’ve usually accumulated enough memories wearing it that I’ll never want to sell it (because of sentimental reasons). A watch with a tried-and-tested ETA2824 or Valjoux7750 might be a little boring, but I’ll be able to have these watches serviced by pretty much any competent watchmaker locally.
Parts should also be widely available for a long time. Probably for the rest of my life. Can I have that same level of confidence in some esoteric in-house movement that may not exist in a decade? Probably not.
I can send my Speedmaster or my Tudor Black Bay 41 to pretty much any watchmaker that’s worth a salt for service, at a reasonable price, and get the watch back on wrist within a few weeks, or maybe a month at most. This makes these watches more enjoyable for me personally than a handmade, highly-complicated haute horology masterpiece that requires a very specific skillset (and much more money) to service.
Watch Collecting Paradigm Shift Number 3: Closed Casebacks Can Be Better Than Exhibition Casebacks
This is a more recent epiphany of mine. I was looking at all my watches, and realized almost every single one has a closed caseback. I didn’t even do this on purpose, it just happened to be that the watches I’ve favored shun exhibition casebacks.
This is a sharp transition to when I was first starting out. I insisted on see-through casebacks, because why wouldn’t I want to see the mechanical movement ticking away inside? It didn’t matter if it was an entry-level Seiko 5 with a 7S26 or a nicely decorated handwound movement. I felt if I wasn’t getting the exhibition caseback, I was getting cheated.
Now, I actually prefer closed casebacks, especially on tool watches. Obviously I’d make an exception for say, a manual wound Patek Phillipe dress watch, but that would be an exception to the rule.
Here’s my logic. Once you’ve seen an automatic movement, they all kind of look the same, and usually the rotor is blocking the good stuff anyways. You look at the dial 99% of the time anyways, since that’s what you see on wrist. Even if the movement is nicely decorated, it just adds another level of anxiety to the whole servicing experience, because there’s the added risk the watchmaker accidentally leaves a mark on the movement (a good watchmaker shouldn’t do this, but mistakes happen).
I’ve learned to appreciate a nicely done caseback, and actually prefer them over exhibition casebacks at this point. I also favor tool watches, so I’m sure that if I owned more manual-wound dress watches I’d have a different opinion.
Since I first started collecting in 2012, I’ve definitely shifted my perspective on many things over the years. This list included my personal paradigm shifts, and maybe you don’t agree with some of the things I’ve said. That’s okay. Watch collecting is such a personal thing, and I think everyone will express themselves differently through their preferences and choices. This usually ends up being reflected in their watch collection, which I think is one of the cooler things about this hobby.
Just a guy that likes watches and watchmaking history.