The world of watch collecting is one that is both vast and intriguing. One needn’t look further than the Baselworld exhibition, the marquee industry event for watch exhibitors and enthusiasts, which draws hundreds of vendors and thousands of attendees each year—all focused on the love of timepieces. But with so much to learn, so many opinions, and so many brands to choose from, where can someone new to watch collecting look to begin? Here are some common tips for novice watch collectors as they get started.
1. Start Small
Not everyone’s first, or fifth, or even 10th timepiece is going to be a solid-gold, diamond-crusted, vintage masterpiece worth thousands of dollars. Like any hobby, it starts with exploring, learning what you like as you go along, and maybe even making some (hopefully inexpensive) mistakes along the way.
Starting out with inexpensive watch models and brands can help you figure out what you like and answer questions like:
Do I want (or need) a chronograph?
Leather or stainless steel?
Analog or digital?
What’s the difference between an automatic, quartz, or manual wind movement, and which do I prefer?
Starting with microbrands is a great way to explore horology (the art of watchmaking) without breaking the bank, and often they produce watches with many of the same features as the big boys.
2. Fiscal Responsibility
Watch collecting can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
Even the task of acquiring a “holy grail,” or “bucket list” watch can be achieved without breaking the bank. This can be done through smart saving and putting aside small amounts before pulling the trigger on a large purchase. It can also be done by riding the watch market, acquiring more modest, less expensive pieces that are desirable to other collectors or deemed valuable by the market, and subsequently selling or trading up in value until you reach your desired goal watch.
Like other collectibles, inexpensive doesn’t always mean cheap. The key is making sure the watches you’re purchasing possess both value and quality. A common pitfall for the novice watch collector is to acquire many cheap pieces quickly, which can turn an otherwise fun hobby into a costly addiction.
3. Seek Trustworthy Watch Repair
Just like an auto mechanic, finding a good watch repairman or shop can go a long way in preserving your investment. Whether your timepiece is quartz, automatic, or mechanical wind, at the end of the day, watches are fine pieces of mechanical ingenuity that require proper care and maintenance to run smoothly, last longer, and keep good time.
A good watchmaker can help you out with tasks as simple as replacing the battery in your daily driver quartz watch, to lubricating and fixing the movement on the more expensive and vintage pieces in your collection. By keeping your timepiece in working order, you’ll be on time and save money in the long term—and you will be happier for it.
4. Embrace the Community
Like any hobby, there are several resources available to help you sharpen your watch collecting knowledge. Online forums and discussion groups on Reddit and Facebook can often help you find the information you need. Members of these groups are generally friendly and helpful.
Fellow watch collectors can give you purchasing advice that comes from first-hand experience with a specific brand or model of watch. Many watch collecting groups online will also allow for sale or trade of watches, which can help you grow your collection. If you’re wary of being scammed online, many of these groups will also provide aid in vetting their own members via a feedback system.
Other forms of social media can also assist you in your watch collecting journey. There are several YouTube channels dedicated to watch collecting and horology, or you can do further research by following different brands and fellow watch enthusiasts on Twitter. Finding other people who share your enthusiasm is a big part of what makes this a fun and long-lasting hobby.
Written by Marco Cummings for RootsRated in partnership with DuFrane Watches.