The best thing about timepieces is that they double as statement jewellery pieces while remaining highly functional. But most importantly, timepieces – especially those in the luxury category – can be ageless, moving effortlessly through time and adding value with age.
In the past, luxury timepieces were mostly associated with men – think of famous ads or movies where a particular model of Rolex was made popular, and the image that would most likely pop up is that of a man. These days, however, more and more women are investing in this accessory, sometimes choosing vintage models for men.
As most owners have come to realise, once you start, you can’t stop. Collecting luxury timepieces is an exciting hobby, especially when you think of the numerous opportunities tied to them. If you’re looking to get into this rather profitable venture, you may find these tips from GQ very helpful
Find your passion
AKA “why should I buy this particular timepiece?”
While there are no wrong answers to this question (and the others that will follow naturally), experts suggest trying to set some constraints for yourself. One way to do this is to choose a theme, like diving, or an era, like the 70s.
Focusing your collection around a general theme makes it easier to collect across brands while still gathering deep knowledge. It will also help to give your collection a bit of structure and help you build your passion.
Or not. If you’re not interested in themes or times, just go with whatever catches your eye.
Choose an icon
This is almost like centering your collection around a theme, but not quite.
Choosing to start your collection with an ageless luxury timepiece that has a bit of history will lay a solid foundation for other pieces you’ll be adding in future. Watches like the Rolex Submariner, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Cartier Tank, the Patek Philippe Calatrava and, the Omega Speedmaster are good places to begin. They’ve been around for many decades and are in no danger of going out of style anytime soon.
Which is a good thing because while you are guaranteed of stepping out in a piece will not make you look like you just arrived from the middle ages, you are also confident that if the need to let go of your watch ever arises, you can easily trade it for another, and at a possibly higher price than you got it.
One more tip if you’re a green collector: consider starting with modern watches. While vintage is the current buzzword among many timepiece enthusiasts, starting there is incredibly complicated. Apart from the possibility of ending up with high-quality fakes, you run the risk of finding ‘Frankenwatches,’ “which are 95% real but have aftermarket hands.”
Meaning: a vintage watch can be mostly legit, but at some point over its lifespan, someone knowing or unknowingly replaced a piece with one that would have never gone on the original watch. Imagine spending all this time to find the perfect watch only to have someone point out the watch you love is actually a haphazardly stitched-together monster.
Trade in (and up)
Just because mechanical watches are durable enough to last a lifetime on your wrist doesn’t mean you have to keep it there that long. Luxury timepieces retain their value so well that it’s possible to think of yourself as just a custodian for a piece during its own long life. This takes a lot of pressure off your first purchase – there’s no need to think of it as a massive commitment.
When swapping pieces, try going higher up the difficulty meter. Many of those starter pieces only tell the time – so you may want to own something with a bit more complications, like a Patek Philippe with a perpetual calendar or a Rolex GMT-Master with multiple hour hands. Or, consider a different material. If you are getting tired of wearing stainless steel, maybe see how you feel while rocking gold.
If you do plan on eventually trading in a watch, make sure you’re taking good care of it while it’s in your possession. Experts suggest servicing them properly every three to five years. Also, keep the box and papers if [those] came with the watch as they would help with resell. Similarly, if you took a link out when you were adjusting the watch, put it in a safe place because you might be selling it to somebody with a larger wrist.
Lastly, engravings are fine. Just keep it light as the future owners might not be interested in your poetic quotes.
Go deeper, not wider
This, again, is in line with tip no 1. As a fresh collector, you may want to have a cohesive collection that is more significant than a combination of brands. Finding an area of interest to pursue is vital to forming a coherent watch collection as this will inform the type of pieces you chase.
Once you’ve fallen in love with a certain genre, the timepieces on your wishlist will grow exponentially. If you love divers, you may find yourself longing for Zodiac’s unique and brightly coloured Sea Wolf or entranced by Panerai’s partnership with the Royal Italian Navy. Maybe you are treating Submariners like Pokemon – trying to catch ‘em all – and there is nothing more important to you than seeing the watch’s name written out in red text. Someone who started with a Breitling Navitimer might want to pursue other pilot pieces from brands like Bremont or IWC.
Then get weird
Eventually, even the most advanced collectors may run dry, or just start turning over rocks in hopes of reinvigorating their initial passion. The good news is that while names like Patek, Rolex, and Omega dominate much of the conversation around watches, there are plenty of independent makers out there that will satisfy your itch.
Going independent will also lead to zany creations, like Maximilian Büsser & Friends’ spaceship-looking timepiece. Less-renowned brands like Universal Geneve and Longines have interesting histories of their own. And even while venturing into the obscure, it’s possible to keep chasing your passion: this timepiece from Ressence that utilizes a case filled with oil to create its dial is technically the brand’s take on a diving watch.
In the end, make sure that the timepieces you chose to add to your collection are an authentic reflection of who you are and what you believe in, even if it means stepping out of these tips from time to time.