If you've ever caught the bug to collect watches, or if you're a watch lover in general, the question of what would be the ultimate watch collection always comes up. And this is true even if you never actually end up owning that collection ($$$$).
And many blogs and publications have written about this subject. The truth is, it's fun!
For the most part, owning such a collection is just a dream. There aren't too many people (or their wives) who can justify more than a couple "great" watches let alone anything close to an 'ultimate watch collection'.
But again, it's fun to even discuss it.
And when considering the ultimate collection, how to determine the logic behind the collection, or the theme, can be just as difficult. I'd say there is never a shortage of collection themes.
For example, some people like to collect 'tool watches'. Others prefer just 'dive watches'. Some follow a designer such as Gerald Genta and end up with Royal Oaks, Nautilus', Ingenieurs, etc.
Some only collect Japanese watches, or follow a list of top brands wanting to own one from each.
Some stick to a single brand, i.e. Patek Philippe collectors, or just Chronographs, etc.
So today, I will attempt to simply layout the logic and theme behind my ultimate watch collection.
As a preface, my life tends to revolve around the philosophy that 'form follows function'. When applied to watches, this means the movement of the watches I collect mean a lot more than what they look like. So, I won't buy a watch just because 'it looks cool', or because I 'really love the colors for 'a summer day'.
Both *can be* valid motivations, just not part of the 'form follows function' philosophy, and therefore, not part of mine either.
I also value pedigree. The watches I choose must have some kind of meaning. This ultimately excludes watches from companies younger than myself (who knows where they'll be in even 10 years?).
I also won't be collecting watches just because they're (the wrong kind of) rare. For example, a vintage Rolex Daytona Cosmograph is very cool and about $25k-$40k. But if that Daytona happens to be an "underline" Daytona, it'll be worth a whole lot more.
I'm not that stupid. And I truly mean stupid. Because the difference between the two watches is about 3mm of ink. Thats it.
Supporters of the 'underline' collect-ability will argue that the underline is important because it indicates which Cosmographs were the first Cosmographs (or other irrelevant garbage Rolex keeps their mouth shut about). And earlier examples of any collectable watch should always be worth more (think 1957 Speedmaster vs 1967 or 1977 Speedmasters, etc.). It's owning a watch before it became famous, before it earned it's reputation and that foresight is rewarded in value.
I agree with that whole-heartedly. Earliest examples of a legend watch, before it became a legend should be worth more.
But in the case of the 'underline' Cosmograph, it's really just about the underline itself. You'll see these "collectors", looking at these dials and fixated on that stupid underline. The age of the watch has become secondary and they don't even realize it.
But because even among the earliest of Cosmographs, the underline was eventually dropped, it created a whole separate category thats supposedly worth more. In other words, it didn't bring the value of Cosmographs made right after the underlines worth less, it just made the very first ones that look exactly the same otherwise, worth more. And people pay for it.
At least when doing the same comparison with a Speedmaster, the 1957 Speedy is a lot different than the 1962 version. And the 1962 is also significantly different than a 1969 version, etc.
When the Daytona started looking different from the underline versions, with or without the underline, the underline had long since been dropped.
This is classic Rolex Marketing Genius.
So, those types of false-collectablity criteria is out.
On the other hand, a MilSub is in, and justifiably worth more than a regular Submariner from the same era.
Because a MilSub was only made for military personnel and probably/most likely saw things you and I (let alone any other Submariner) will never see (if we're lucky).
But who gives two shits if there's that extra bit of ink forming a slight underline on a dial?
Tools do. That's who... no offense.
I'm not too keen on spending more for 'exotic' or 'special edition' dials either. But at least with a completely different and unique dial, one can say 'I like that dial more', and if everyone else 'likes' that dial more, well then it'll be worth more.
But, again that's subjective and has nothing to do with the guts of a watch.
The best example I can give is the so called 'Paul Newman" Daytona vs. the regular Daytona's of the same era. I honestly couldn't tell you which one I like best. Ideally, you'd have one of each. But is the Paul Newman dial worth up to $80k more than the regular Daytona, when the regular Daytona looks absolutely beautiful?
This is where the purist in me says no and prefers to stick to the original, non-exotic dial. But, again, the Paul Newman dial is extremely attractive so I can forgive that a *little bit*.
I also won't include any 'art watches'. These are spectacular watches from an engineering perspective, in any perspective even. But they've stretched the limits so much that it's impossible to wear some of these watches. These watches really do belong in a museum, not on a wrist.
In other words, they're not very practical.
A million dollar Patek belongs in a museum too, but if I want to wear it on my wrist, I can. And unless someone knew better, it would (more or less) blend in. If I wear an MB&F on my wrist, I'll look like a douche.
Based on all that, here are the categories I will use to build my 'Ultimate Watch Collection' (in no particular order):
Dress Watch - A dress watch can actually serve as a casual watch as well. As a society, we are no longer (thankfully) as formal. So wearing a leather strapped, time only watch with jeans is absolutely cool. Of course watches in other categories can also cross over, but if there was one category of watch I would buy, it's a great dress watch.
Chronograph - A Chronograph is a complication, but I've made it a separate category, because for a lot of us, it's the coolest of all complications. Some people will even just collect Chronographs. Also, Chronographs have been cased in dressy and sporty cases. In other words, it's another cross over type watch that is extremely practical and really does deserve it's own category.
Luxury Sport Watch - This could be an extremely broad category. For this collection, however, it will be a luxury sport watch. This harks back to when luxury meant only precious metals, and suddenly stainless steel became luxury.
Tool/Dive Watch - In many ways, this is an obsolete category because while there was a time when organizations like NASA, The Army, etc., would ask companies like Omega, Rolex, or Longines to supply them with watches, today that'll never happen. Because no matter how rugged you think your Speedmaster or Submariner is, it's plain wimpy when compared to a G-shock. So, in some ways, this category has become the category that for most people could be synonymous with 'vintage'. For example, I will never buy a brand new IWC Aquatimer, but boy would I love one from the 60's. I'd never buy a new Submariner, but an awesome 5513 is on my list for sure, etc. And none of those watches would ever see a drop of water.
Complication Watch - On the high end, a complication watch would be a 'Grand Complication' watch. This means besides telling the time, it offers at least 3 other complications. So, a watch that tells the time, but is also a chronograph, has an alarm, and a second time zone (not GMT though, thats the poor mans way of offering a second time zone), is a grand complication watch. They are obviously extremely expensive, and even though I might choose one of those grand complications for my 'ultimate collection', I would say any watch with a complication other than a Chronograph (because I have chronographs as a separate category), would qualify.
Beater Watch - This is probably the easiest to pick, but not so fast! A beater can mean the obvious: a watch that is so rugged you can literally have it run over and it'd still be intact. But for some, a beater just means a watch that is far less expensive than their Lange, but still looks "dressy", or has a solid "chronograph", etc.
And as always, my choices will follow the guidelines set here. Meaning it needs to follow the high-end criteria.
I will also offer up to 3 choices for each category. I do this because we all have different tastes and budgets, and I think it's very practical to consider alternatives. And of course, we do have options out there, so why not?
So tune in next week where I will begin with my ultimate Dress watch(es).