Hello! Welcome to the Getting into Watches Guide. This guide contains 5 main points that will assist you in efficiently building your watch collection as a beginner.
I like most watch enthusiasts- am not rolling in oodles of money. Like many of my peers, I have taken to robbing jewellery stores for watches. Just kidding! The past 3 years have been spent buying and reselling collections of watches to make additional money for my own personal watch endeavours. Those who are selling these collections as well as those who are buying the watches almost exclusively fall into the category of people who are first getting into the hobby. Why is this?
Based on my experience, there has been a recent trend where individuals will get into watches and immediately amass a large collection of various styles and types. After obtaining this collection of miscellaneous watches; they quickly realize that they either did not have the money to buy them all at once, or their tastes have been refined from the exposure and now hate everything they own.
The collection of watches most recently acquired is the inspiration for this guide and contains 30 watches. They are all virtually brand new with stickers on them, or like new. The collector who sold this batch to me compiled them all within the last year. This means they got into watches and for 1 year straight purchased 2.5 watches a month, equating to more than 1 new watch purchase every other week… And that isn’t the craziest part. This collection was only 30 watches out of the total 105 watches he had accumulated in this same time period. The collection when looked at as a whole appears to have been indiscriminately chosen, as it contains a very wide range of styles, types, categories, brands, etc. This is a clear sign of someone sampling the watch market in an attempt to figure out their personal style, which can prove to be an expensive path with very little future return on investment.
The goal of this guide is to help provide tips to avoid the need to indiscriminately congregate a large collection of watches you may regret owning later on in your watch collecting journey.
Define Your Watch’s Purpose and Place
(Halios Seaforth GMT. Purpose: Scuba Diving while in Different Timezones. My fiance diving off shore of Big Island Hawaii: by me @frendymgee)
Why are you buying it? What purpose does this watch fulfill. Asking yourself these questions will assist in determining the “necessity” of the watch. I put that in quotes because we all have phones, hell, you are probably reading this on one now. We do not need any watches.
When considering the search for a new watch the first thing I do is try to identify where this watch will fit into my collection. I do not mean, “There is an empty spot in your watch box make sure to put something there.” Try to identify the place in your life this watch fits. Where you are and what you will be doing with this watch on your wrist. There is a logical progression you can put yourself through to immediately narrow down your search. Below is a list of a few questions to ask yourself when defining the criteria. This is by no means an all inclusive list to all options for watches.
Are you putting the watch in harm’s way regularly?
- Maybe exercising, doing manual labour, hiking, outdoors activity.
- You may want to consider a quartz
What are the functions that you will be relying on this watch to perform?
Here are just a few common examples.
- Maybe you need a GMT
- Timing functions?
- Chronograph (Stopwatch)
- Dive Bezel (60 Minute Timer)
- Oh so you hate symmetry huh?
What setting are you wearing this watch in?
- Dress watch
- Sports watch
- Field watch
- In a pilots cockpit?
- Pilots aviation watch
- In a submarine 1000 ft deep for a month? No?
- Then don’t pay to own a watch with a helium escape valve. Sorry, that may have been a little too direct.
When first starting out try your best to identify a watch for each purpose in your collection. There are plenty of enthusiasts that have 10 black dive watches and that is absolutely okay. There is no wrong way to collect, this is just an attempt to provide guidance to get you efficiently from point a (entering watch enthusiasm) to point b (knowing where you are in the hobby and your likes and dislikes).
Get Off Private Facebook Groups
The Forums of the early 2000’s have migrated at least in terms of highest volume of activity to facebook. There are groups for buying/selling, raffling, auctions, specific brands, and the list goes on. The first thing you should do, TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS. You have no need to see every single post across a dozen groups. All this will lead to is impulse buying stuff you don’t need or care about. I am excluding from this section of the guide groups specific to one brand or another. This section is targeted at groups specializing in selling watches to people first starting out.
Regular buying and selling groups: Most are filled with other people that are going through the exact same thing. They are not who should be guiding your progression into watches. Bursting with sales posts of watches that are just changing hands and likely have been shipped more times than you can count, by people who are impulse buying.
Raffle (or Waffle IYKYK) groups: For those that are unaware of this section of the market, there are private facebook groups whose whole purpose is running raffles for goods. Members purchase a spot in a raffle and when the raffle is filled, one of the numbers is randomly selected and that person wins the watch. This can be extrapolated, there are groups for silver/gold coins, knives, cars, guns, etc. If this sounds insane, it is. A quick search for “waffle…” will yield many examples. Anyways….
Unless you have a horse shoe hiding somewhere up your arse, do not buy spots in watch raffles. The issue with raffles is multifold. To start, you are not choosing the watch that is being raffled. We are trying to move in the direction away from indiscriminately purchasing watches. You buy spots in a raffle because you have a chance for $5 or $10 to win “enter watch here”. There is zero consideration of whether that watch is actually something you have pegged as a necessity in your collection. Lastly, by the time you actually win a raffle you will have spent enough money to just purchase a watch you actually like. Thus, it is best to avoid entirely.
Pay Attention to the Details
When you read reviews, something that is brought up frequently is the finishing. This never really meant much to me. Over generalization incoming. Watches are mostly steel with painted or applied dials. I can’t see any issue with my eyes so what does it matter? To some extent this is still true. But, watches are about pouring over details that are meaningless to 99% of people. Looking into the details of a specific watch you can tell which were poured over and which were not. By doing this, you can further eliminate watches from your search. This is something that I did not fully comprehend until getting into photography, you do not need to get into photography to understand though. Below are some macro-photographs I took that will showcase an example of this point.
Both the watches shown are quartz movement chronographs at relatively the same price point. Pictured left is $350, right is $400. Both are from micro brands, in the same condition (like new in box) and age. The photos below are both of the hand on the sub-dial of the chronograph. You tell me which you would rather have.
(Photos by me @frendymgee)
If this seems like an extreme difference in quality, that is because it is. You should be actively excluding poor quality and including high quality in your criteria. Otherwise, you will end up with watches like this.
This spills over into many different areas. i.e do not purchase a watch with an exhibition case back displaying an ornamental Chinese movement over another watch with a typical NH35 that is not shown but was regulated in four positions by the brand. While you get to see the movement of one, it actually has far less attention paid to the details than the latter.
Buy Brands That You Care About, & Care About You
You will find very quickly that the brands that give a shit, typically produce quality in places that are not always visible. Amongst other things this materializes in great finishing of their watches, phenomenal customer service, and active social media presence within the community. A good way to identify one of these brands is to check them out on social media. Go look at their hashtags and see who is posting them. Is it people who are clearly watch enthusiasts? Or strange, obviously paid for advertisements?
Search the brand on something like “WatchRecon”. This is a platform that aggregates forum sales posts, places enthusiasts will post their watches for sale. If you find a lot of listings for a certain brand, chances are that brand is being bought and sold by actual watch enthusiast’s who also care about the aforementioned things.
Do not be afraid to reach out to a brand and ask questions. If you cannot for the life of you get in touch with someone from the company, that is probably a bad sign. Brands that care will be more than happy to speak with you about their watches.
The benefit of narrowing your search with this in mind is great service, finishing, and you will gain a community from the brand with like minded enthusiasts. Additionally, should you ever need to move on from the watch/collection the value will remain. Watches from companies that are respected for making high quality products and caring about their core customer base hold their value far better than their peers.
Forget the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
Institute a time constraint on the purchases. If you identify a watch that you believe is a good fit for your collection, give yourself time to think about it. This could be a week, month, or longer. Personally, I give myself 6 months. If the urge to own the watch is still there after that time has passed, go for it. You will quickly find that many of the watches you thought you wanted, something else came along during the time restriction that made you forget all about it.
The wait also provides you the opportunity to do your homework. What is the brand like? Have you watched all the YouTube reviews? Spoken personally to any owners of the watch? Care about your purchase the same way you want the maker of the watch to have cared when they designed it.
The FOMO speaks to the limited releases or special offers. Do not get caught up in this. There will ALWAYS be another opportunity to buy the watch. This could be aftermarket, or perhaps there is a re-release. The point is, do not jump into a purchase because of an artificial pressure to buy it that does not actually exist. Even with rare watches, there will be another opportunity if you care enough about the watch to look.
I truly hope that this provides some help with getting involved in what at times can be a very intimidating hobby. There is no way to entirely avoid all the growing pain because your tastes will refine. I guarantee 9/10 collectors will have regretful/embarrassing purchases accredited to their early days. This is almost a right of passage, but it does not need to be 100+ watches in a year bad.
Frank Affronti @frendymgee
Frank is a contributing writer who spends his days fighting gravity and architects as a structural engineer. He lives in Colorado and spends his free time climbing, diving, and with general mountaineering activities. He can be found on instagram @frendymgee for more watch photography.