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Some thoughts on watch collecting by JAMES DOWLING
On August 17, 2012
I was talking to a friend and fellow collector the other day, and as is often the way, we fell to chatting about how collections are formed. After an hour or so and more than a few glasses of wine we failed to come to any kind of agreement. Nevertheless, it perked my interest enough for me to set down my thoughts here.
Please remember, they are MY thoughts and, as such, worth no more than anyone else’s.
1. For your first collectable watch, buy something you will wear on a regular basis.
2. Every collection should have a focus; because, without a focus, it is just a bunch of watches you like (although there is nothing wrong with that)
3. If you can afford it, everyone should own a pre 1970s Patek Philippe at some time.
4. Despite item 1, do not buy watches only because you like the style.
5. Do not ignore quartz and/or Japanese watches
6. Never buy a watch just because you think you can make money on it.
7. Just because no one else collects something should not stop you, everybody has different tastes and yours is just as valuable as anyone else’s.
Choosing a collector’s watch
There are three things to contemplate when choosing a collectable timepiece: budget, source & make. I make no apologies for putting budget first, it is always the major limiting factor and as collector’s watches are available at prices from $50 to $50,000 it is always a good idea to know in what area to start looking, so as to avoid undue disappointment. I shall choose to divide the market into four distinct areas; the first $50 to $500; the second $500 to $1,000; the third $1,000 to $2,500 and the final one all watches above $2,500.
The first group will be older models of watches you will probably never have heard; however there is nothing wrong in this. However when buying any watch it is important to make sure that it has been recently serviced. Any dealer offering a guarantee on their watch will have had to have the watch serviced; but you must realise the cost of servicing a $50 watch is, more or less, the same as servicing a $5,000 watch. So there will be very little value left in the watch; it is for this reason that we do not recommend buying in this area.
The second group will include many names you have heard of in steel, silver and sometimes in gold; most watches (particularly in the higher end of this price bracket) will be perfectly usable daily watches with just that bit more style than a new watch at the same price. Therefore this is where any collector should begin; putting it simply you can afford to make mistakes in this area (not that many, I will admit). So my suggestion is that you should try and buy your first watch in the lower levels of this band.
Buy your first watch in the third group only if you are very specific about the way your collecting is going. If, for example you admire a friend’s Patek or Rolex collection and have decided this is the way you wish to go. Frankly I do not recommend it because collecting is about your vision, not copying someone else’s.
Anyone who chooses to begin their collection in the fourth (and highest price) group has, quite literally, more money than sense. Any collector will make mistakes when starting and making mistakes at this level is going to cause considerable fiscal pain. Also the other point worth considering is that starting at this point leaves you very little room for upward expansion.
I will cover the question of sources & makes in a later posting (if anyone cares!!)