Curating a collection: a beginner's perspective

Chances are, you already own a watch or two before you discover your passion for all things horological. So the challenge is not so much what the first watch you buy should be, but in the curation of a collection. As a beginner, this can seem like an overwhelming task – how are you supposed to put together a diverse, interesting collection of timepieces that reflect your personality, will age well and provide as much value and enjoyment years from now as they do today? While there’s no one size fits all approach, here are a few things that helped me when I started out with watches.

Important caveat, this is for those who are just starting out in watches and not for the experienced collectors whose challenges are different and will be addressed in next week’s post. 

  1. Learn: Read books (Watchmaking by George Daniels is a great place to start), browse fourms and websites, talk to experienced collectors and attend social groups (like our friends at RedBar) to learn about the world of watchmaking. Understanding the basics of the watch world is a good foundation to building a collection. We recommend the Watch Essentials app for those starting from ground zero.
  1. What’s your shtick?: What’s your approach to collecting? Do you want to collect pieces that appeal to you but don’t necessarily stick to a given theme? Or do you want to focus purely on dress watches (or divers, or chronographs as the case maybe)? Perhaps you want to limit yourself to a certain brand and model of watch alone. You can avoid a lot of expensive and disappointing acquisitions by figuring out what your approach is.
  1. Slow and steady: The temptation to buy watches in rapid succession is strong in the beginning. This gets expensive quick and start to suck the fun out of collecting. If a watch catches your eye, take some time to research it and ask yourself if it adds something new to your collection. If it’s an upgrade for an existing piece, sell the existing watch first. With online shopping and depending on where you live, you can’t always try out watches physically, but any good brand should be open to answering questions about how the watch wears on the wrist. Don’t forget to check social media and watch reviews for wristshots to give you better context. Buying without this context may lead to a disappointing experience.
  1. Let go: Tastes and needs evolve, and if you find yourself with a watch you can’t connect with anymore – let it go. It’s especially hard to admit you’re wrong if a watch feels wrong straight out of the box. A catch and release is more common than you might think. Selling these pieces off may be painful but helps you understand who you are as a collector and will help prevent similar mistakes in the future.
  1. Sense of identity: Don’t forget that your collection is yours and is most enjoyable when it is reflective of you as a person. Maybe your friend collects hand-wound, vintage chronographs with tropical dials only, but you shouldn’t do the same unless you uncannily happen to share the same tastes. My personal preference for example is all over the place and hard to narrow down. To most, it may look like a hot mess but it makes sense to me and that’s what matters.

These are of course, general rules of thumb that I found immensely useful when I started out collecting. Every collector’s situation is unique with different constraints so there can never be any hard and fast rules to the game. The final piece of advice, borrowed from our friend and fellow collector, Gary Getz is: “Don’t buy a watch you cannot afford to break”. To look at watches as an investment is the most painful mistake I made early in my collecting career and for the sakes of your wallets, I hope you guys don’t have to find out yourself.

Happy collecting!

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