December 6, 2022

I am always startled when people ask me when I started collecting watches. The thing is, I never started collecting watches. I just bought one watch that I liked…

It was 2009, and I was 26 years old when I bought my Tissot PRC 200. It was reliable and sturdy, and I wore it no matter what I did. Time passed by, and after a few years, I bought another watch that I liked, my first self-winding watch, a Junghans Meister Automatic.

My first vintage watch

After another couple of years, I mustered all the courage I had and bought my first vintage watch. It was an almost-NOS gold-plated Vulcain Cricket, which actually gave me my first painful lesson: there are customs fees when you order a watch from the US. And I learned the hard way that they can climb up to 30–40% of the value of the watch. It was probably the most expensive Vulcain Cricket at the time, but it didn’t spoil the pleasure I’ve had with it since.

T-shirts and watches

Here is my point: what I was doing was not collecting. Sometimes you go and buy a new T-shirt, right? It’s not like you need it because you wouldn’t have any shirt otherwise. And you don’t necessarily throw out three old T-shirts when you get three new shirts either. But when I buy a new T-shirt, I do not tell my friends that I added a new T-shirt to my collection. Sometimes it’s just the right time to buy a new T-shirt. Likewise, sometimes it’s just the right time to buy a new watch.

Prim-Sport-Gen-1- watch collecting

The original black Prim Sport 1 next to a Prim Sport custom-made by my watchmaker.

What’s not collecting

What many people call “watch collecting”, I consider learning in its most humble form. If you looked at the list of the first 20 watches that I bought, you would think that I was either drunk or crazy. The list makes no sense whatsoever. There is a €150 watch, a €7,000 watch, and even a pocket watch. There are 17 different brands — Swiss, Japanese, German, and Czechoslovakian. There are chronographs, divers, two watches with unusual complications, and simple time-only watches. The word “WATCH” is the only common denominator.

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It’s okay to not know what your next watch will be

I believe it’s important to highlight that I didn’t have money to throw around easily. There was no lottery win, inherited money, or sky-high bonus here. It was all hard-earned money and savings. I thought not twice but 20 times before I purchased any of the watches. When you say “collecting”, I would expect you would know what your next purchase will be. I honestly never knew what my next watch would be. And that’s okay.

watch collecting

An obscure activity watch with interchangeable bezels. It includes a giant flashlight module.

Different ways of collecting

I guess it’s all very individual. For one person, collecting may mean following a highly precise and specific list of watches from a particular watch brand, a specific watch model, or one type of complication. There could be any number of motivations for this, such as investment potential, prestige, curiosity, or pleasure. Knowing exactly what you want to collect, though? Now that, for me, is the highest level you can achieve. You already know everything. All you need to do is procure all the watches you’ve ever put on your list. I am not there, and I am not sure if I will ever get there. Actually, I am not sure if I want to get there.

Watch collecting for me

For me, “collecting” just means constant exploration. How many times have I thought about whether I have read or seen everything there is to see about a specific movement or watch reference? The thing is, no matter how painstaking or thorough your research, there is always something new to discover — a never-before-published letter, a forgotten catalog, an old book, or a fellow educated collector with his own rich (and offline-only) archives.

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Am I a collector now?

I am, I suppose… by most people’s definition. However, I am always amused and almost entertained when someone calls me a collector. Why? Because I am still the same. My taste has evolved, my knowledge has gotten stronger, and my experience has broadened. But no matter whether it’s watch #20 or #520, I am still not sure what my next purchase will be.

Sperina_Regulator_Main watch collecting

A watch with an external balance regulator

Honestly, I don’t care that much. Being a “collector” means nothing to me. I am still very curious, and I am sure that I will add pieces to my collection that I have never heard of before. Because that’s actually what I do and love doing. Rather than owning hundreds of thousands worth of Rolex or Patek watches, I would prefer to unearth another bunch of watches or watch movements that most “collectors” have never heard of before, including me.

Do you let curiosity guide you too, or do you plan and execute? Let me know in the comments below.