What am I collecting?

Observations on watch collecting

Part 1: What and How Many?

Ventus, Hamilton and Nivada — what a mix!

I need to get a post out! I need to stop looking for watches and write about the ones I know of. It just happens. You are searching the web for info on a certain watch and out of nowhere, you see a different watch you were not even looking for. “I wasn’t even searching for this! I hate Google!” Or you are in a vintage shop (used to be junk shop) or an estate sale and you see a weird watch people haven’t noticed. You pick it up and that’s it. Or, the search words you put in eBay deliver everything but what you entered! You are off on a tangent.

It never fails; while searching for X watch, you find Y and Z watch that you never heard of and you love them. I am pretty bad at internet searches. I don’t have a methodology down. I suspect I am ADHD too, so I can get distracted easily.

This is leading up to what I wanted to talk about, which is what I collect and how I do it. What and How Many. It doesn’t matter what one collects — watches, books, china, dolls, trading cards, lamps — these are some common challenges. I definitely have a collector personality. I tend to collect things I like, multiple examples of things I like. All the books in a fiction series following one character. All the home or away jerseys of one team. l do the same with watches, to an extent.

Sometimes I wonder just what it is I am collecting with watches? Is it a brand, a style, a color, a feature, a function? It is definitely a price segment — cheap. I think we all started a some place with one watch that appealed to us at that moment. Something about a trend, a finish, a color, a moment in your life, a family member, a function or feature you needed, a feeling made you pick a watch.

Timex MK1 Chronographs

There are as many types of collections as there are personalities. All collections have a start, a middle and an end. That first watch leads to a second, then a path. There will be lots of twists and turns and discoveries in the middle. Sub-categories are formed. At some point in time your collection will end. Your interests change. It will be dispersed, divided reorganized and be gone.

What constitutes a “collection”? How many units does it take to be a collection? I suppose you need to have more than one example of a certain watch to a collection? If you have 100 watches but all are different, I would say you collect watches, but not maybe a certain brand or type. Some people refuse to be called collectors. They are accumulators instead. Collecting might connotate too much effort, too much curation. Collecting might be nerdy. They don’t want to be tied down to any category or want to just be users.

Maybe you start with one kind of watch — Timex Scout or, grandfather’s Bulova, or a Rolex Daytona, and you start off on a journey. Over time, as one is exposed to new things our criteria for collecting changes and expands. Overall I think it is important to collect what you like rather than what you think you should collect. That said, I guess if one of your collecting criteria is investments, then you might acquire a watch with a green dial that is more valuable than another grey dial that you like better. I hope you get the grey one, too.

For most of my life I only had a had few watches at any one time. I had collected lots of things, but not watches. I was never a “watch guy” until about five years ago. My dad had a few automatics and quartz watches, but they were mainly utilitarian or verging on a “dress” watch. Watches are a luxury and he was not one for spending much more than what was necessary. He had several, but was not a collector.

I came of age in the quartz revolution and mall watches, so occasionally got inexpensive digital and quartz watches. Having interests in military history and clean functional design, I arrived at field watches. I was also attracted to the romance of scuba diving adventures as a kid, so I am attracted to any diver-ish watch. There is even a basic PADI certification in my past. Even with these interests, I do not collect real dive watches, vintage military watches, G-shocks or serious tool watches, though I may dabble on the fringes. Maybe a collection can be defined by what you don’t collect?

More MK1 Chrons

A collection can come about as a result of a complex mix of experiences and compromises or just a random discovery. For me, born into an Airforce family, 38 years in, out and in again in the Army, degrees in art and industrial design, diverse jobs, interests in history and design and spending limits, landed me at Timex Archive. As whole its a great mix of styles and retro-inspired lines I can afford to get many of. Any type of watch- auto, manual, quartz, modern, vintage, retro , military, dive, chronograph, perpetual, digital, sport, dress, tool, is available within the Timex world or its collaborations.

This may be sacrilege to some, but what is inside of most of my watches is not a main concern. I don’t collect by complication. I do require my watches to keep time. Most of my watches are quartz. I am starting to question the idea of a watch that has a quartz movement that cannot be repaired or replaced. What happens to a watch that cannot be fixed? This can be a problem with a quartz Timex. At least with an automatic, there is a better possibility of repair? I suppose any watch can be repaired if cost is no issue? If you think there is a shortage of watchmakers in general, it is even worse with watchmakers that will work on a Timex!

I don’t really even need a GMT or a chronograph. No precious jewels, exotic materials, magnificent complications in my collection. No FPs, VCs or APs here. I have no desire to own a Rolex. No IWCs, Bremonts, Sinns, Zeniths, Tudors, Oris. I can barely handle one Breitling! Even most Hamiltons, Seikos and Bulovas are a reach. But, I do read about them and appreciate them. I am open to any watch I stumble upon. You never know what might zing you.

One of the things I constantly consider is the size of my collection. How many watches can I manage? There are constant compromises. Maybe the size depends on type of collection? You set the boundaries. But, I think nobody really sets a limit ahead of time, unless you are really disciplined. Hopefully there is a limit to your chosen category! You just get a feeling when you reach a point. It may be space, a spouse, or spending! Then you say, “what have I done?” and make an adjustment.

Some people are good at keeping a collection relatively small by rotating old for new. I am not. I have trouble getting rid of stuff! The thrill of the hunt for every variety, or at least the ones you want, keeps you going. Once you have all there is and enjoy them for a while, that collection may come to an end and you sell them and start again. There is always something new that you are interested in, but you can’t afford to get one until you sell something. What is excess? When is the reality check?

Timex Q reissues and collaborations

Collections can morph into something different over time. Someone else might like a blue “everyday” Tissot they got, so much, that they decide to get that watch in all the 5 colors available. In two years they have all five. A collection of five. That way they can change watches to suit mood or fashion. After a while, they may decide the red one doesn’t get worn much, so they sell it. Five is now four. They they see a Seiko that is cool and better for going to the lake. There is a dressier version of that Seiko, so, boom, a Seiko collection is starting. The blue Tissot is not getting as much arm time. They give the yellow one to a friend. Five is now three. That GMT Seiko would really be cool… The collection is now three Tissot, three Seiko. Boundaries evolve.

Sometimes you see a watch and it just hooks you. The proportions, the finish, the hands the numbers, the bezel. “What is it that I like?” You might not have a category for it in your watch collection yet. Is it a dress watch? Is it a everyday watch? “I don’t know, but I like it.” Boom, you’ve added a new category to your collection. Now you start looking for more of that, whatever it is. The thrill of the hunt.

My problem is the dreaded “Set” or “Series”. I have an urge to get all of category that I like. I like to see multiple watches arrayed with each showing a slight difference. Like our Tissot friend above, seeing a series all lined up and contrasting each to the others; comparing them, rating them against each other, picking a favorite is irresistible. Manufacturers of some products know consumers are susceptible to getting-the-whole-set syndrome. I don’t think watch producers think many will buy every version of a release, especially if it is a higher price segment. They are just trying to offer a wider variety to gain a bigger group of buyers. Usually we are happy with one example from a set. Sometimes it is harder to choose just one.

1980s and 1990s dress watches

This reminds me of a story read on Hodikee about the Unimatic Series 8 family. It is a very cool, very stylistic set of four very similar modern looking watches, same colors and style, but each is a different type of watch: A 40mm, 300m WR diver with bezel, a 38mm with no bezel, (field), a 41.5mm chronograph with bezel, then another 40mm, 300m WR diver-like, but with no bezel (sport)! I wondered would somebody be motivated to get all four?! Would most people just pick one? Two? What would be their considerations?

Cost is always an issue, at any price point. Each collector has their own price point. For me, since I collect a lot of relatively inexpensive Timex series, mostly preowned or on sale, or grey-market, I tend to get more versions of a watch model than most would. Another price point collector might be buying all of the seasons of a Grand Seiko series. I could buy 250 of my Timexes for the price of one MSRPP Grand Seiko.

Timex autos

I may change watches two or three times a day depending on what I am doing. Working in the yard, one watch. Working in the office, another. Going out that night, a third. If I have five different Mk1s, I might wear a different one each day of the week. I rarely wear a watch more than one or two days a week.

I don’t know how people can seek to find one watch to do it all! A “sport” watch that can do it all. Or even three: a tool watch, a dress watch, and a work watch. Even add a weekend watch and you are only at four. They just wear that one watch, for that function, for years, then replace it with another similar watch. Very disciplined. The collection stays at four watches. Is this even a collection?

Again, I am looking at this from my purchasing power position. Some would want a few high quality premium or even luxury watches to meet their needs while others may want several lower priced options. I can be just as happy with a Timex as a Breitling. A Breitling may last 75 years and be serviced 20 times while a Timex may fall apart in 5 years and not be able to be repaired! Still, a pack of ten Timexes rotated may last a long time and be a lot of fun along the way, while telling time. Apples and oranges…

I am interested in so many different kinds of watches. A big part of it for me is the visual design, the feelings, as much as the function. I want to express myself in many different ways. Also, I like a lot of different types of watches: field watches, diver-styled watches, vintage, or reissues, chronographs, military theme, dress watches, pilot, all kinds of straps and bracelets. So, my collection is eclectic. This presents the problem of limiting quantities of each category! I may only need one or two chronographs by function, but by style and color, who knows! “The black is cool. So is the white. That green one is awesome….” I like the small details that each watch presents, so I can appreciate little differences and need them all. You never know what aspect of a watch will hit you.

I need to wrap this up! There is one more thing on my mind. The dark side of collecting. There is a point when enough is enough but you can’t stop yourself from getting one more example of whatever. Have you wondered if you have enough of something?

Have you ever been to an estate sale and seen the burial ground of someone’s collection? It could be vases, Star Wars figures, or even books. For one thing, it is still there. The collector has passed away but the collection is there. It seems like a dead collection rather than an active one. Was there any rotation? Did it reach an end? Was the collector happy?

If there is a set number of examples in whatever category you collect, is there a desire to own the all just to say you got them all? I think there is. There may be 15 different watches in a certain series. Moon Swatches, maybe? You are driven to get them all even though you do not really like them all. Some you love, some you like a lot, some you don’t really like, but the drive is to get them all because they are there. Is one enough? Is five enough, Is 12 enough? Will they all be used? Will they all be sold? What will you do to get them? When is the end of a collection? We all have our own boundaries.

We change over time. Things we used to like we now do not. Things we used to dislike we now like! Keep collecting. Keep rotating.

Waterbury Uniteds and Todd Snyder Maritime Sports



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