What to Watch For: A Collector’s Interview
When I reflect back on my years as a watch-enthusiast, the first memory that comes to mind is when I got my first timepiece. It was a digital Casio, back in 1982; I was maybe eight years old. I just remember being immediately hooked and almost obsessed with the notion of time – recording time, looking at time. It had a digital stopwatch, it had a digital countdown timer, it had an alarm, and it had a light on it – which, as an eight-year-old, felt really novel. I remember that I did not take that thing off – ever. I would sleep with the watch, I would shower with the watch, I would go swimming with the watch.
But I eventually grew out of that watch, both literally and figuratively. It was time to move on, to bigger and better timepieces. I spent time with different jewelers, eyeing all of my options, but eventually committed to a Tag Heuer Formula 1, which they discontinued but actually recently brought back. This one had a rubber strap, it had luminous hands, and it had a sharp, black dial. I wore it nonstop as well, until I lost it in the ocean in 2001. I still have the box and all the paperwork for that watch actually.
Fast forward to the present, I always get the same question from people who share this same passion: what is your dream watch? My answer has stayed pretty consistent, and that is that I don’t have a “dream watch.” But with all the hype around the 50thanniversary of the moon landing taking place this year, I have been doing a great deal of research and discovery about Omega Speedmasters – both vintage and new since the design is essentially unchanged. How many consumer products from 50+ years ago can you say are still the same? There is something comforting in that to me. I suppose I do have a dream watch after all.
As you can probably imagine based on my history with the Formula 1 and my love for the Speedmaster, I definitely gravitate towards more dress and classic styles. I think there’s absolutely a place for sport watches – nothing better than a good sport style on the weekend with a sweater and jeans – but I’ve shifted to watches that I can wear to work. If you’re investing in just one piece, I would urge you to look at pieces you will get the most wear out of, something that fits your lifestyle – not those that will sit in the box Monday through Friday.
Since my time with that Formula 1, things have certainly changed in the watch industry; consumers can now buy, sell, and trade watches online in a controlled, safe, and reputable environment online – many of these sites are very digestible for first time buyers, whether that’s Crown & Caliber, WatchBox, Watchfinder, & Co., or The Real Real. I had a great conversation a week ago with someone at Crown & Caliber – he wasn’t trying to sell me anything, he was just trying to educate me. I mean, hopefully you are going to transact at some point, but it’s not so in your face, it’s much more about sharing a passion and knowledge. The one other place I’ll look is the auction houses – whether you’re talking about Phillips or Christie’s or Sotheby’s – they aren’t only focusing on the 17 million-dollar Rolex Paul Newman but also on the more day to day. I think sometimes people forget about that.
There are so many resources out there – from the names that everyone knows, like Hodinkee and A Blog to Watch, but also the discussion boards. For example, on sites like TimeZone – there are discussions with both collectors and people who are just getting into it – those are also really helpful. There is just a lot of sharing of knowledge and passion – the ability to share that passion with a wider audience has definitely been a boom to the overall marketplace.
When I first started getting into watches, information was much less available. It was sort of like this secret network of people and resources and books you had to get from the library, or from a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy. So, it was a lot more of a secret world in terms of research and access to prices and information on the quality of products, but the internet has really changed the game. It’s had a lot of positive impacts – a lot more people can get into it, but at the same time, a lot more people getting into anything can lead to people getting taken advantage of.
I think the first thing is that it’s important to do your research – to be informed about everything is out there so you can decide what you like and what you don’t like so you can at least have a sense of where your taste lies before anything else. Then, the next question is, are you working with somebody reputable? Are you looking at purchasing from a knowledgeable authorized dealer? There are real benefits to buying from an authorized retailer – for too long the online watch industry was dominated by the grey players and the brands sat on the sidelines. This lead to a lot of customer horror stories, to me, taking that risk is not worth it to save a buck or two. Fortunately, the industry is changing and choices are becoming greater and more varied. There are some great sites out there, I particularly like the new kid on the block – Troverie – which has tons of new releases, real time inventory and a great user interface – all authorized and omnichannel since they partner with the best jewelers around the country.
There is a misconception that people have when it comes to buying a ‘nice watch.’ You do not need to spend a ton of money to get something good. And the truth of the matter is you can get a really nice piece under $5,000 or even $3,000 dollars with brands like Omega, Cartier, Breitling, Longines – brands that have tremendous histories and reliability. Nomos Glashütte is another one that is very popular under $3,000, especially with younger clients. You can always trade in and you can always trade up, but you’ve got to start somewhere. It’s like buying a nice car – you don’t need to buy a Ferrari, because the truth of the matter is you aren’t going to actually appreciate what makes it a Ferrari.