Watch collecting is as old as the art of watchmaking itself. But it has recently become a popular hobby, especially in this modern age of technology, and a sense of losing some measure of history.
People collect things they’re passionate about and get enjoyment from, and watches tick a lot of boxes in terms of collectibles.
Watches are beautiful and fascinating items and there are 8 reasons that make them worth collecting.
8 reasons watches are worth collecting
People collect watches for the same reason they collect other things they find interesting. Curiosity and possessions are part of what makes us human.
Collectors have their reasons why they collect watches;
It may be the thrill of the hunt that went ahead of possessing the watch, for the heritage and history attached to it, or for their craftsmanship, rarity, and a bunch of other reasons.
Whatever the reason, most collectors start by buying one watch as a hobby, and then they become more interested in it over time and buy more watches.
· Collecting watches as an investment
Watches are collector’s items that are also great for investment.
Some people prefer to invest money in watches rather than for the money to sit in a bank. Such people are watch collectors for the sake of investment. They are more interested in the returns that the watch will bring over an extended period.
Watches are flexible assets that can be converted back into cash quickly and safely. Take Rolex as an example; Rolex watches are assets whose value appreciates over time.
Over the last few years, Rolexes have become scarce, their supply can not match their increasing demand. This allows resellers to cash in on the demand-supply gap by charging exorbitant profits.
Auctioning is also another way to make money from collecting watches as an investment. Auctioning watches, most especially rare models in a collection, can fetch up to a million dollars on a watch. This is another motive for collecting watches.
Watches that are easily collected for Investment reasons mostly include the luxury brands such as Rolex, Omega, IWC, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Vacheron Constantin.
These watches increase steadily in value. They were all founded over a century ago, and generally the stronger the brand’s history, the more likely it will retain its value. But even so, not every model made by these companies goes up in value.
Watch collectors are very knowledgeable about watches, so if you are looking to collect watches for an investment, you will need to go deep and know the models that are good for investment and those that are not.
· For the heritage and history
Watch collecting isn’t always about the watch itself. It may also be because of the knowledge hidden behind the watches, or what the watch represents.
Having a good understanding of the history of watches will further help you appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into making them.
One may decide to collect watches based on the stories behind them, the countries they represent, the events that took place during a certain period, etc. Take, for example, Swan and Edgars watches that were produced with the intent of preserving British Heritage, or Rolex that has been around since 1905.
· For their craftsmanship and quality
Watches are magnificent pieces and collectors appreciate the artistry that goes into designing and crafting a high-quality watch and find satisfaction in owning these beautiful timepieces. Many collectors usually collect watches that are Swiss-made, but there are also quality timepieces that are Japanese made such as Omega, or french made such as Breguet.
Many collectors see timepieces as miniature works of art. The craftsmanship and expertise required to build them make them masterpieces to be cherished and admired.
They are intricate and elaborate mechanisms, with hundreds of tiny parts working in harmony, that require incredible skill to build. No wonder collectors are fascinated by the mechanical movements, the complexity, and the advancements of wristwatches.
It is this micro-engineering that’s incredibly fascinating, and it continues to develop year after year with amazing new pieces.
The harmony between technological advances and the tradition of watchmaking, with the hands-on skills of the craftsmen, is held in high esteem by watch collectors all over the world.
· For their rarity
It is well established that rare items are great collectibles. The rarity of an item, and especially a watch make them highly collectible.
Owning a rare watch is a symbol, almost a social status since the collector managed to hold a one-of-a-kind item that has been made with some of the best designs, materials, and craftsmanship.
There are a few collections that comprise only rare watches. Such watches include Limited-edition watches and watches that have almost gone extinct and the collector is holding a part of history.
An example of such a rare watch is Auro Montanari’s white Daytona.
These watches are usually very expensive to get but will make your collection more fascinating.
· For their status and prestige
Watches have been status symbols since their invention. It once took a king’s purse to afford even a modest timekeeper. Watches speak a lot about the person who owns them.
Just like owning a big house in Monaco, or owning a Ferrari, when a person wears an expensive watch, it symbolizes their social status, their income, and their lifestyle.
Besides the fact that watches can be highly-priced, collectible watches are mostly hand-made by a professional who’s been making watches for decades. Wearing on your wrist an item that has thousands of men working hours, and that is sometimes part of a limited edition makes them prestigious.
· Emotional meaning
Dr. Moulding, a doctor of Psychology, once said, “Objects become part of our identity, and in that sense, they can also provide a sense of history and a physical link to the past.”
Watches can last for dozens of years, and they are often passed from one family member to another. Watches belonging to late family and friends are often sentimental and become part of the family’s history.
In many cases, watches are used to be gifted as a lifetime event markup. A watch was given for graduation, a wedding, or a first child can be a major part of a watch collector.
Collecting watches owned by loved ones has high emotional value.
· The thrill of the hunt
The scarcity of certain watches and limited-edition releases will only sharpen their desirability. This can add a “thrill of the chase” element to watch collecting.
Pursuing a birth-year Submariner or rare vintage piece can sometimes escalate into a genuine quest and nothing brings a person zeal and energy than a sense of purpose.
· Watch collectors are a community
Communities spring up around collecting and are inclusive of like-minded folks, where watch collectors can share discoveries, compare valuations and have discussions.
As people accumulate knowledge, it makes sense that they then want to share it with like-minded folk. Such transfer of information is easier. These communities meet physically in exhibitions and hang-outs.
Meeting fellow collectors is the perfect way to share your hobby and learn new stuff from interesting people. Sharing a common passion is great for meeting like-minded people and eventually making new friends.
Are watches an asset? Are they a good investment?
A good watch from a credible brand has a fair chance of maintaining its financial worth. Though it is profitable, investment is in many cases the primary thought when starting a watch collection.
A luxury watch is a fantastic investment opportunity for individuals who like to have fast access to their assets. The nature of the market makes it possible to sell a watch fast. They are flexible assets that can be converted back into cash quickly and safely.
Will a watch collection go up in value?
Yes, watch collections can go up in value. Especially if it comprises rare and highly sought-after watches.
Experts agree that watches traditionally hold their value better than most other investments even in an economic slump, and it is estimated that the right watch purchased today can appreciate as much as 10-30% in the ensuing years. But it takes a couple of years for a watch to increase in value.
What type of watches do people collect?
Every watch collection obviously includes a watch. And a collection entails a variety of watches. There are different types of watches; Chronographs, dress watches, diving watches, pilot watches, field watches, and many more.
It is important to learn about the different types of watches and the materials they’re made from. This will help you understand the differences between watches and make informed decisions when purchasing them for your collection.
Each watch is designed and engineered uniquely and for different purposes.
Chronograph watches double as a display watch and a stopwatch.
A chronograph watch has multiple systems within the timepiece to track different times. Usually, there are at least two, if not more. Its movement is more complicated than a standard display watch.
Chronograph watches use three train wheels to measure seconds, minutes, and hours (the three standard chronograph measurements).
Some great chronograph watches for a collection include:
1. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona,
2. Seiko Presage SRQ023,
3. Tissot Heritage 1963,
4. IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire,
5. Tudor Heritage Chrono,
· Dive watches
In the 1970s and 1980s, divers wore dive watches because it was the standard way to track bottom time while scuba diving.
Today, with dive computers being the norm, divers mostly wear these watches as symbols that identify them as scuba divers. Dive watches are easily identified by their orange dials or a touch of color on the dial.
A few specific characteristics of dive watches include water resistance, Legibility beneath the water, Rotating Bezel, a durable strap, and in a few exquisite models, a Helium escape valve.
The most sought after dive watches by collectors are:
1. Rolex Submariner
2. Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-axial
3. Tudor Black Bay Heritage
4. Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea
5. Certina DS Action Diver Powermatic 80
· Dress watches
Dress watches traditionally have a simple design. This style of watch rarely includes unnecessary complications and usually features only a plain dial with only hour and minute hands.
Whilst dress watches are designed to be worn on formal occasions with formal attire, a dress watch can work for everyday wear.
Dress watches are added to a collection to make it well-rounded. Here are a few models for your collection.
1. Patek Philippe Calatrava
2. Rolex Cellini costs
3. Omega De Ville Trésor
4. Frederique Constant
5. Omega De Ville Prestige
· Pilot watches
A pilot watch is any watch suitable to be worn during a flight.
Pilot watches have a large and very legible open dial with prominent, high-contrast hands, Arabic numerals, and indexes, flight computer bezel markings to assist with fuel burn, wind correction angle, and other calculations.
Pilot watches help during emergencies and are good for recording times of flights or crashes. They are mostly worn for fashion these days, but Vintage Pilot Watches are a great catch for a watch collection.
Some of these collected watches are:
1. IWC Big Pilot’s Heritage automatic.
2. Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Titanio.
3. Rolex Pepsi GMT-Master.
4. Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special.
5. Bremont ALT1-Classic/CR Automatic Chronograph.
· Field Watches
Field watches are military watches, originating from the time of WW1, which replaced the use of pocket watches while fighting. They were fairly minimalist, with the simple purpose of telling the time.
While today’s field watches have developed to include other features, their defining quality is their reliability and robustness. They were originally named ‘trench watches’, as this is where they were first used.
1. Timex MK1 Mechanical
2. Praesidus Tom Rice A-11
4. MkII Cruxible Hellion Date
5. Vaer A12 Dirty Dozen
Other categories of watches also include; Automatic watches, mechanical watches, pocket watches, Tourbillon, Sports watch, analog watches, GMT watches, digital watches, and racing watches.
5 Rare watches that collectors look out for
Here are a few of the world’s rarest watches, which collectors look out for;
1. Rolex 4113: There were just 12 pieces of this watch manufactured, and only 8 of these chronograph watches have resurfaced. The 4113 is the only split-second chronograph watch to be built by Rolex.
2. Vacheron Constantin’s Chrometre Royal series: this specific watch is important because it’s the first and only one with a white-gold case.
3. Patek Phillipe 3974: This was the most complicated watch in 1990. It has a leap year indicator on the dial. It is also the only known Patek Phillipe that has the Calatrava cross symbol installed at the dial’s 12 o’clock.
4. Patek Philippe ‘Tasti Tondi’: This was one of the few waterproof chronograph watches that were made before 1990.
5. Bao Dai Rolex: This watch was pre-owned by Bao Dai, the last reigning emperor of Vietnam. It features an iconic Oyster case, an in-house movement that drives a triple date calendar and moon phase, and a black dial with diamond indexes.
Popularly Known Watch Collectors
Some of the most known watch collectors that find these items as worth collecting are;
· Auro Montanari
Auro Montanari gained global fame in 2018 when his vintage Rolex — the only white gold Daytona known to exist — sold for $6 million. Each time he travels, Montanari spends time at watch shops and flea markets and keeps in touch with auction houses.
His golden rules of collecting include keeping it simple and fun, and “buying the seller, not the watch”.
· JP Morgan
JP Morgan was one of the biggest watch collectors of his time, and he had several hand-colored timepieces that were made between the year 1600 to 1800. He published his ‘Catalogue of the Collection of Watches’ as a gift to his close friends and fellow watch aficionados.
His grandest timepiece was a double-dial, astronomical pocket watch made by J. Player & Son. It was the most complicated English watch ever made, and perhaps the most complicated watch in the world at the time of its completion.
· Claude Sfeir
He is a gemologist/ collector/ jeweler. He has two unique Patek Philippe watches in titanium, the Celestial 5102T, the Sky Moon Tourbillon 5001T, and the 1942 Rolex Antimagnetique Reference 4113 split-seconds chronograph.
· John Mayer
Out of the 21 watches in his collection, 10 are Rolexes.
One of Mayer’s rarer pieces is his white gold Daytona with rainbow gem bezel. Everyone knows the rose gold variation that Rolex currently makes, but Rolex used to produce another version in white gold. This piece, Ref. 116599 RBOW, is currently available on the secondary market for around $245,000.
What watches should be in a collection?
Your collection should be well rounded and should involve every category of watches.
A common misconception is that a “proper” watch collection consists only of Rolexes, Omegas, Patek Philippes, etc. that well exceed 10,000 USD.
Well, that simply is not true! Here are 9 evidences:
- The Patek Philippe 5170g Chronograph: This is a beautifully simple watch that collectors love, and that makes it a substantial investment.
- The Rolex Daytona: Daytona watches are difficult to find. This is because Rolex produces them in limited quantities.
- Panerai’s Luminor Marina: Many Panerai watches are made in particularly small numbers, putting them in very high demand and adding value to any collection.
- Tag Heuer Monaco: It is an ultra-rare limited edition, and that makes it collectible. The TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition CAW211V is the first of five watches to celebrate half a century of this watch.
- Patek Philippe Calatrava: The Calatrava is recognized as the very essence of the round wristwatch and one of the finest symbols of the Patek Philippe style. Supremely elegant, it charms each new generation of watch lovers with its timeless, understated perfection.
- Breguet Type XX: These watches are traditional in style. With a self-winding movement, they are inspired by historical aviator’s watches made for the military and civilian markets, respectively.
- MB&F Horological Machine: MB&F watches are perhaps best described as futuristic, playful, and groundbreaking. Inspired by all things sci-fi, this Swiss luxury watch manufacturer only creates limited-edition masterpieces coveted by many collectors.
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso; launched in 1931, Reverso has become a classic of 20th-century design. The Reverso was created to withstand the rigors of polo matches.
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.: The Royal Oak has the best backstory in the world of Swiss watches. The Royal Oak is also an intricate and minutely detailed piece of horological design.
Building a watch collection is something very personal and tells a lot about the collector as a person. There is no set formula for becoming a watch collector.
It happens gradually over time as you develop an appreciation for the value of watches.
Building a watch collection takes a lot of time, patience, and money. Sometimes even adding a single watch can take a few years. But make sure to always settle with the best, because this will ensure that the value of your collection is high.