The Collectors Journey

Learning about watches is a kin to climbing the Matterhorn. image from rolexmagazine.com

Over the years in learning about watches I’ve heard people mention the arc, or journey of a watch enthusiast and how our taste change over time. That got me reflecting on my own journey as a watch enthusiast and I was surprised at how much my taste in watches has evolved over the years. Many watches I once disliked strongly I now like a lot. Some of these watches have even gone from one extreme of hating them to the other landing at the top of my hypothetical wish list. Rainbow Daytona anyone. Something about watches grows on you over time. Not only do individual watches grow on you but the hobby itself expands as you dive deeper into it. Watches have so many parts of their personality that it takes getting to know them to understand if you like them or not. First, you have aesthetics. This may seem simple, you either like the look or you don’t but as is the case with everything else watch related it’s not that easy. Watches are something you need to experience in-person to know for sure, a photograph rarely captures the essence of the piece. You might think you like a watch, but in person or on the wrist it just doesn’t hold up. It’s too big, the color doesn’t look right, the dial isn’t easily legible. Or vice versa a watch that seems off in a photo can shine, literally, in person. Wearing it, feeling how comfortable it is, seeing it perfectly perched on your wrist and watching light dance off the contrastingly finished surfaces can make you instantly fall in love. 

Not a watch that many people instantly love. The Rainbow Daytona. Image from Rolex

The next part to consider is horological merit with regards to mechanics & technology. You’re drawn to the watch because of the complexity of the movement, accuracy, or the toughness of the watch. Something about a minute repeater just resonates with some people, pun intended. Others have a strong appreciation for an ultra-thin tourbillon and love knowing that their watch is a representation of extreme complexity and innovation. Craftsmanship is another facet that brings someone to love a watch. Are you someone who loves the idea of one or only a handful of artisans painstakingly building your watch by hand, imparting their years of experience into its soul. If you are it might be hard to see a watch from say, Rolex as romantic as a watch from A. Lange & Sohne. But a modern watch made partially by machines can still be warm and charming due to its story. The story of a watch whether new or vintage is very important. A statement that I think captures this well is from Hodinkee’s  James Stacey while reviewing the Tudor Black Bay GMT “I like the way GMT watches make me feel, the philosophy behind their design. It’s part function but also part pure inspiration.” Watches tell a story based on what they’re built for. They’re a sort of call to live up to the watch, a call to be the type of person who would wear this watch. Wearing a GMT can inspire you to travel, a dive watch to be more adventurous, or a simple dress watch to be more elegant. All that to say, there are so many reasons to love a watch.

Modern yet romantic the Tudor Black Bay GMT is an easy watch to love. image from Hodinkee
The first watch I can remember owning.

But initially, I don’t think any of us know this. We don’t know how many ways you can love a watch because our love for watches usually starts with just one. For me, I can trace back my obsession with watches to a chain of events. When I was about 5 I got a free watch with a kids’ meal, a promotional item for the movie Congo. I liked the responsibility of being able to know the time and track it on my own. Then I washed my hands with it on. It promptly fogged up and broke. This led to a conversation with my mom who explained to me that the watch wasn’t water-resistant and that only certain watches were. She later bought me a simple Casio that had the oh so desired feature of water-resistance. I became obsessed with the concept of water resistance and how durable a watch could be. I would ask random strangers how water resistant their watch was and quickly fell in love with G-Shocks because of their durability and great water resistance. Fast forward to a Christmas a few years later and my Dad was given a Rolex Submariner from my Uncle. I’m sure you can see where this is going. While unboxing it my Uncle explained the many benefits the watch had, one of them being that it was waterproof up to 1000ft. This blew my mind and opened my eyes to the world of high-quality Swiss watchmaking. But because of this, I was preconditioned to like a certain aesthetic, functionality, brand, and story. When I first started going deep into watches I only liked Rolex tool watches in stainless steel, a novice’s mistake. But I’m sure every watch enthusiast can think about how they got into watches and see how that informed their early watch tastes directly, a seed that’s meant to grow. 

Over time the more you learn about watches the more you start to like things you originally didn’t. The first time I saw a Royal Oak I thought it was hideous. I disliked all two-tone watches, anything on leather, and anything from Richard Mille. I really like all of those watches now, but it took years of education and history around watches to help inform that. I learned all the ways to love a watch and started to like watches for different reasons. With all the reflection a new year and decade can bring I’ve thought about this and decided that I’m going to start approaching every watch with an open mind and decide to start with liking it. I think taking this view will help in understanding my fellow watch collector and enthusiasts and broaden this hobby even more. Instead of critiquing first I’ll praise first, learn about it, then allow that to continue to inform my opinion of it. I’ve seen too many watches that I immediately disliked only to later like or love. Now I figure I’ll just save myself the time.