Watch Advice for New Collectors
So, you have done it. You have decided to bite the bullet and buy your first luxury watch. For some this will be a one-off experience to celebrate a milestone in life. For others this will be the beginning of a long and exciting journey where you will learn the meaning of in-house movement, column wheel, vertical clutch, tourbillon, grand feu enamel, and co-axial escapement. You might dip your toe in the kiddie pool and emerge with a very respectable Hamilton or go all in and end up with an art piece on your wrist such as a Roger Smith, whose cost rivals some mortgages. Most of us will land somewhere in the middle, building a reasonable collection of timepieces each having some special meaning as to why we purchased them. To help introduce you into this new world, here is some helpful advice.
Buy what you love, not the hype
There are some watches that are plastered all over our social media feeds. The cool or trendy watches that everyone wants. A good example that is usually at the top of the list is Rolex. The brand’s world-wide recognition makes their watches hard to resist. It’s easy to think that if everyone likes something, it must be good. That might be the case, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that other brands aren’t as good or better just because they aren’t as recognizable. A watch should be a reflection of the person wearing it, a personal choice about what you find important aesthetically and mechanically. You should take your time and make sure the watch you select is what you want because it fits in with what you love about a watch, no matter how popular it is or isn’t online. Often the piece you end up loving more than any other in your collection is the one that does not get any hype at all, the one that most of the world skipped over but you found something in that spoke to you.
Buy a watch that fits your lifestyle
So now that you’ve decided not to give in to hype, it is time to narrow things down. First, ask yourself what kind of lifestyle you lead. Buying a Patek Philippe Calatrava makes sense for someone who puts on a suit everyday to go to work but not for the person who works from home and enjoys a good hike on the weekend. If outdoors is your thing, you’re better off with a good dive watch or field watch. Both are designed to take on the elements and keep ticking away. They tend to have simple and legible dials and few complications. If you are someone who dresses up to go to the office, or attends a lot of functions and events, a classic dress watch will probably be more suitable. A dress watch is often made of precious metal, is slim enough to fit under any cuff, and can vary from a clean, simple dial to a grand complication. It is meant to peak out from under a shirt and let another watch aficionado know you care about classic style. There is of course a world of watches in between, but no matter which one you go for, make sure that the watch you pick matches your lifestyle.
Understand what it is that you like in a watch
Figuring out what you’re looking for in a watch may take some time as there are many factors to consider. The look of the dial may be your focus, or how the case fits your wrist. Whereas for the mechanically inclined the decoration and engineering of the movement may be the most important part. Most of us care about each of these things but give different weight to each one. Do you prefer a simple dial, or a chronograph with a moon phase? Do you prefer a large case that covers the wrist, or a case with more classic proportions? Is an in-house movement a must, or will an outsourced movement suffice? These are all questions that you should ask yourself when buying your first watch. Eventually you will learn what your preferences are. It is important to keep in mind however that the degree to which they matter may change depending on your budget.
Buy what you can afford
Speaking of budget, how much should you spend on a watch? The simple answer is don’t spend a cent more than you can afford. A watch is luxury item. Although you may desperately want one, you do not need one. With that in mind, you should never find yourself in debt or worry about falling behind on your bills because you purchased a luxury item. Save up. You will appreciate getting that watch you’ve been longing for so much more. On the other hand, if you happen to be fortunate enough to have a large disposable income go ahead and seize the opportunity to get that extravagant watch you’ve had your eye on.
Do your homework
When first getting into watch collecting the amount of information out there can be daunting. Take your time and see what you can find out about a specific watch you are considering. See if HODINKEE has any articles on the watch, search for videos online, or if you know anyone who owns the watch talk to them about how they like it. If the watch has been around awhile you might be able to find reviews that tell you how well the watch holds up over time. Learning about one watch at a time is a great way to expand your knowledge without becoming overwhelmed. It’s the most fun you can have before actually having the watch in hand, so enjoy the process.
You get what you pay for
Some watches are expensive for reasons that are evident. When you move upmarket, the cost usually comes with better finishing, higher quality movements, dials that require more hand crafting, or that are made with precious metals. The list goes on. Some watches are priced according to the brand name just as in other markets, but those names like Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet to name a few, have earned their reputations. There are some watches that do punch above their price category, but this is more the exception than the rule. Watch out for a deal that seems too good to be true. It probably is. Watch dealers know the market well and when something is significantly discounted it’s usually because there’s something wrong with the watch that may not be obvious to a new collector. It could be that the watch is not all original, that it needs to be serviced which can add hundreds to thousands of dollars to the cost, or it might even be a high-quality fake. A reputable watch dealer will be upfront with you about any issues a watch may have and charge fair market value. A warranty from either the manufacturer if purchased new, or the retailer if purchased used, is a must. Trusted dealers like Crown and Caliber or HODINKEE are your best bet.
It’s okay not to own all the watches you like
It takes time to absorb this rule. It is difficult not to be consumed by social media and obsess over all the wonderful watches that are out there for you to choose from. Inevitably you will end up with a list of watches that you want to own one day, including some sort of Holy Grail timepiece. It is perfectly okay to want all the watches but understand that you will never own them all. Sometimes it’s best to just appreciate them in a picture or admire them at a store window knowing you don’t need that fourth Rolex or third Omega in your collection. Some watches may also forever be out of your reach due to rarity or price point. Enjoy the watches you have and appreciate that in time you can build a collection that you’re happy with, even if it does not include everything you like.
Your tastes will change
Most likely the watch you first fell in love with will not be the watch you end up with. Tastes change over time. What you once thought was the perfect watch for your lifestyle may not fit your lifestyle any longer. This is the great thing about today’s watch world, letting go of a watch for someone else to love is easy. A watch can be sold to companies such as Crown and Caliber or HODINKEE with little to no effort. This gives you the room in your watch box and wallet to hunt down that next timepiece of your dreams, while the one you parted with finds a new home with a new owner who will fall in love with it just as you once did.
Protect your watch
Now that you have put my advice to good use and purchased your first luxury watch, time has come to protect your investment. A nice watch box for when you take the watch off at night is a must, a basic but necessary acquisition that also provides a home for your future watch collection. When traveling with more than just the watch on your wrist a travel roll or case will come in handy. This will prevent your watch from rubbing up against another watch or other objects that can scratch the case or bracelet. As with any large purchase, it’s a good idea to insure your watch. Having insurance will help ease the worry of an unexpected loss. HODINKEE Insurance is one of the easiest to set up and has a great reputation. The more your collection grows the more insurance should be a priority.
Watches are often a memento of a child’s birth, a new promotion, or hand me down from a loved one. They reflect on our style and what we find value in. Take your time with each of your watch purchases and enjoy the journey.