Chronicles of a watch addict: finding that dream vintage
This post was written on the move. Thank god for auto-complete.
Trick question. There is no such thing as a dream vintage. To me anyway. The wonderful thing about chasing after old watches is that there is no end.
Chasing... hmmm. Perhaps I can address that.
I hear fellow collectors and IG watch influencers talk vividly about the thrill of the chase - setting your sights on that list of elusive vintage watches and going about your jolly way to catch em all.
And like the explorers of yore, you put yourself through a journey of hardship, excitement, elation, loss and gain. Some end up with the spoils, most end up with scars.
Now I am nary a romantic when it comes to “the chase”. Playing the game requires a heavy investment in time, emotion and money - all of which I have little to go round.
Instead I have hope - a sense of kismet that what’s yours will be yours, as long as you don’t go around looking for it. I substitute a blindingly ferocious frantic struggle with an easy elegance in procurement, guided by my sense of value and my constraint of personal style.
All good things come to those who wait, but nobody ever said it’ll be exactly what you wanted. In fact, most of my best watches have come when I was not looking.
I offer the following advice.
Have a threshold, review it often
Two days ago I was chatting with a group of collectors, who started sharing stories about watches and how much they got them for. I hear exclamations of “that’s very cheap” and “if I were offered that I’d jump at it!”
Which set me thinking - would they really? Would I? I’d shudder to think anyone would part with a few grand of hard earned cash just to own something that’s 60 years old.
That afternoon’s event reminded myself to always have a limit. While watches can come across as a steal when compared to the current climate, going beyond one’s means not only means you’re closed off from buying future treasures (trust me, there’s always a next one), but might also be to the detriment of your personal relationships.
Know what you can afford. Know when to step away. Vintage is a not rich man’s game per sae, but it does take a considerable investment.
Don’t have a list. Unless you’re filthy rich.
It’s not a rich man’s game, but it’s not every man’s either. One small spend can roll that dung ball into one heck of a shit storm; take it from me, the man with so many watches he refuses to count them.
There are many ways this can go wrong. Having a list means you can also add to it. Adding to it means you have more things to buy and own. Owning more things means you will want to add more to the list to “complete the collection”.
Having a list of expectations and desires could also result in you probably overpaying for that “oh my god finally” moment - when that elusive watch eventually appears in front of you and you’re left with that “pay or nay” situation.
Alternatively, I prefer to drop bait and see what comes along.
Because in the world of vintage, everything is rare
That’s right - it doesn’t matter what you catch, because all vintage watches are, in their own way, one of a kind.
Vintage collectors are met with a world of gems, but only if they leave the room filled with checklists and squeeze through the vestibule of their desire, outwards and onwards to an endless vast sea of vintage watches.
And at this point in your realisation as a collector, you best be armed with two things - a clear direction of what sort of vintage you're after (are you in the patina or NOS camp, for example). and how your watches will suit your personal style (dress, sports, large, small, thin, decorated, simple, to name a few).
When you're past that door, trudged through the wilderness, and out in the big city having done everything, you'll want to know that you have no regrets when your collection matures and it's time to move on.
Know that all good things come to an end.
The best time of my life as a collector is when I get to move pieces along and open my options to new watches in my life. Part of that had me starting this site, and putting up what I have for other collectors.
The other part involves making friends and chatting with other collectors about vintages and the kinds of watches you all like. Somehow this opens up the door to more pieces - like-minded people who are also at the edge of their collecting journey and looking for new pieces to own. Your watches become their interests and theirs become yours.
So the exchange begins again, and almost all of those transactions are ad-hoc, unforced, welcoming dealings of cash, goodwill, understanding and (of course) fantastic watches.
We’re all going to let go of our watches one day. But only you can decide whether it's over coffee, food and wine, or as part of your will to your children.
And last but not least, enjoy the journey!
Since I've started collecting a few years back, I've gotten to know a bunch of awesome people through my IG, website and even in person as we all indulge in an otherwise needless pursuit of vintage watches.
Why would anyone spend good money on something that might just die in the near future? Because it's bloody well worth it.
It's been, is, my privilege. Happy collecting folks.