When the famous investor & media personality Kevin O’Leary was asked about his watch collecting, he replied, “Oh, it’s a disease”. Admitting his passion & desire for ownership was so intense it should be considered a medical condition.
Collecting can be compulsive, none more so than with our watches. For my part, it showed itself with ever-changing pieces, like horological musical chairs. No single watch lasted more than a year. I just kept buying (& selling) and was never satisfied.
I needed to break the spiral & that needed some introspection.
The first thing that came to mind was, at the age of 68, how much wrist-time do I have left? I concluded that sub-optimal watches are a waste of precious wrist-time.
Then, how many watches do you really need? For me, that was easy & I aimed for three.
Next, how should the collection be constructed? It's too easy to fall into the influencer’s trap here. Whenever you hear “every collection must have….” ignore it. There’s no reason to buy a genre watch. Remember, a collection is made up of individual watches worn one at a time.
Which brings me to versatility. My small collection would have to consist of versatile pieces. Nothing too specialised or strong flavoured. Sober colours & classic designs have a far greater chance of standing the test of time.
However, this can also lead to boredom…arguably the most distracting element obstructing watch fulfilment. Boredom should be recognised as a vice that needs to be resisted. It will pass. The only advice I can offer is each watch needs to be absolute perfection...that is, to you! Not in condition necessarily, but in design, construction & individual suitability. Any perceived weakness I felt with my watches did not wane with time; they became more & more pronounced. In short, if it isn’t true love, move on.
I was already primed to take back control of the situation about a year ago when I bought my first Rolex Explorer. For this watch collector, opening the Box was something akin to a religious experience. Here was watch perfection staring me in the face.
Not long after that, my mind was made up. It was time to liquidate the existing collection & go back to Rolex.
It now stands with a NOS 16234 ’93 Datejust, NOS 14270 ’91 Explorer + 6694 ’79 OysterDate as the “daily driver”…more like a 2 + 1 collection.
To my mind, you can’t beat vintage New Old Stock. And effectively being the first owner/wearer of a 30-year-old Rolex is a sublime experience.
All are classic watches, or should I say, timepiece icons from the 20th century? Three dependable, submersible, elegant companions. One Sports, one Traditional & one everyday “Beater”, that will collectively handle any situation with aplomb.
I have a soft spot for the 6694. I bought my first Rolex at Watches of Switzerland (Bond St.) in 1977. I fancied the 6694, but the salesman talked me into an Automatic, a silver dial Air King Date. I always regretted not sticking to my guns as the Air-King always felt a little thick. The 6694 with its gorgeous steel-silver dial, manual wind and signature slim case settles that score. And looking so similar, it’s a daily reminder of simpler days when the Air-King was my “one and done”.
What’s next, you may ask? Well, you have to stop somewhere…or get pulled back into the matrix. I’m always looking and still see beautiful, desirable watches. Then I ask myself, “When would I wear it? And think, "In what situation would I prefer wearing this new proposed watch over the ones I already have?" And so far, that does the trick. The three-watch collection seems to have all the bases covered, especially when the occasional donning of an Armani is as formal as it gets.
I could go more mid-tier, and have tried 5-digit Subs & GMT Master’s, but found them loud & un-rewarding. Also, living in the watch crime capital of the world (London, UK), I’d rather stay under the radar with modest, understated neo-vintage/ vintage models and remain a little different from the crowd.
Deciding on a watch collection is a very personal endeavour. It’s an evolution which may well be constant, despite best efforts. Yet if my three Rolex should stay, I would consider myself cured.
One thing I've learnt with collecting, you not only need to know your watches, you need to know yourself. They say watch collecting is a journey and that includes one of self-discovery.