Monday, May 6, 2013

Watch Primer #13: Building A Watch Collection

As with any hobby that primarily consists of acquiring manufactured goods (and obsessing over said goods), the sky really can be the limit where watch collecting is concerned.  Where money is no object, one can amass a collection spanning styles, manufacturers, eras, and complications, or price tags rivaling luxury cars and even single-family homes.  Few of us can afford to dedicate such resources to a pass time; but the question is, even if we could, would we want to?

For me (and the purposes of the Watch Primer series), the answer to this question stems from the intrinsic characteristics of the watch itself.  The most elemental is this:

You can only wear one watch at a time.

(I've seen videos of the CEO of Omega, Stephen Urquhart, running around Baselworld with a Planet Ocean strapped to each wrist, but given his position in the industry and the context, I think he provides a fitting exception to prove the rule.)

From this first principle comes a corollary that has direct bearing on the size and disposition of your ideal watch collection:

The amount of wrist time each watch enjoys is inversely proportional to the number of watches in your collection.

This might not matter for those watch enthusiasts who, at least in part, collect watches for the same reason that some people collect coins or stamps - that is, for the collection itself.  For those who make it a point to collect every subtle iteration of a particular model, or the rarest examples across a wide range of brands, actually wearing each and every one of the watches in their collection is merely a secondary perk (or, if they're more focused on maintaining the value and condition of the pieces, an anathema).  But it is my contention that the act and practice of collecting always remains a distant second to the actual use and enjoyment of the watches you own.

Back when my collection threatened to overwhelm my 10-slot watch box, I often found that at least half of my watches remained in the stable for months on end.  A couple saw alternating but occasionally infrequent use, while one watch - usually an automatic - enjoyed go-to watch status.  Among those watches perennially confined to the stable was the Speedy Pro - the eventual winner of my "only watch" category - and every time I reach into the box for another model, I would feel a slight pang of guilt at leaving it behind.  Even now, with my collection pared down to four, two of them - the quartz "backup" and "beater" contingent, comprised of a Grand Seiko and a Casio ProTrek - see very infrequent use.  If I weren't so attached to the notion of having a quartz "backup" dress watch and a "backup" chronograph, I could probably stand to pare down those two as well.

The most important thing is to acquire watches that you would be comfortable putting on day in, day out, for the indefinite future.  This determination is to a large degree dependent on context; if your work days see you often donning a suit, then a dress or dressy sports watch would be appropriate.  If your work is more active and less formal, a more casual and rugged watch may be better suited.  The other half depends on your own aesthetic sense - your propensity or disinclination for certain colors, features, or design elements.  Sometimes, the context and aesthetics force a compromise:  my current work-day watch, a Hamilton Intra-Matic 38mm, deviates from my minimalist aesthetic preference with a date window, which, for the purposes of the court documents I regularly deal with, has proven to be a necessity.

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