Four kinds of vintage watch collectors
This came out from a pretty neat discussion I had this evening with a collector buddy of mine. We were talking about a recent sale on an IG page for a rare watch and he happened to ask me for my opinion.
"Do you think it's worth the price?"
"The guy's not rich, but willing to spend," was my answer.
Expanding on that thought, we came up categorizing collectors into four main types, and I expended my imagination to see how their collections might turn out. I'm going to state now that there will contain some parody elements, and I am in no way an expert in the field of watch economy.
Read this for entertainment, read this for some insight, or read it to have a good look at your mentality to collecting and maybe see where you want to go from here.
Average Joe, average dough... before I buy, all must I know.
A lot of us actually start off in this persona, and I can't blame most of us - the world of vintage is really scary, now more than ever, with dozens of options and a myriad of prices that tempt and scare us at the same time.
And so we read. We bookmark all the well-known documentarians of horological know-how; scour the web for photos and news about the vintage landscape; visit, save, and bookmark the many websites that sell watches; memorize popular serial and model numbers, movement numbers and dial codes and variation... the list is endless.
Because of our limited purchasing power, every deal is filled with insecurity.
"Is there something about the watch I don't like?"
"How come there are other watches like this that are cheaper?"
"Should I hold out for a better piece?"
Contradictions fill our minds, and each decision made is going to haunt us for a long time. To the AJAD, there is always a better alternative out there, and we might not have had the best deal.
We want the best watch at the best price, and often we are left with something that we had to live with because of our budget. And so the hunt goes on...
Value Meter: High
Acquisition Quality: Low to Medium
Likely Collection: A hodgepodge of several pieces from a very wide range of brands and types, all have been bought because it's historically significant or came at a deal. Established brands are far and in-between because there is just too much to consider.
Well Made Man, money in hand... doesn't mean I must spend it, can?
Can, because choice. Just because one is able to afford most things doesn't mean he lets it cloud his decision making. A deal is a deal, and it means the same whether you're rich or not.
This guy wants to know what he's buying, and he wants to know how much lower he can get it at. He exists between fervor and caution, fleeting in and out of each mindset as he battles his urge to let down his hard earned money for a vintage watch. He knows he can get the best, but shouldn't he also pay the best price for it?
Nothing wrong with that, but his need to claim to win it all might turn off the people selling him watches, what with the nitpicking and comparing. And even when that's done, he's off shaving the price off.
Oh, he skates on thin ice. But in the long run he might also be the one who earns most from his purchases, his scrutiny and shrewd acumen playing to his advantage as he lands up with a much sought-after collection that he robbed an emotional bank for.
Value Meter: High
Acquisition Quality: Medium to High
Likely Collection: Mostly established brands because best value also considers the bragging rights with his peers. A few popular main brands might exist because he would have read about it in his research, and came upon one that he didn't mind taking at a discount "because it's not branded."
Average Joe, not much dough... but if I don't, off it goes.
Good vintage is like the skin on a piece of KFC - gone in a flash. This evolved form of the Average Joe knows that in order to rise above his peers (and most collectors fall in the category of 'peers') he will need to make quicker decisions.
Good thing for him that previous decision making and learning from regretful purchases have taught him a thing or two about spotting the right watch in the quickest amount of time (or simply living with his decision despite making a less than optimal decision).
And because of his new-found sense of adventure and appreciation that good vintage is often more costly, this Average Joe knows a good watch when he sees one, and isn't afraid to pay the right price for it.
But he also knows that he can't afford everything, and steers clear of the choice pieces, opting to appreciate them from far instead of pining after something that he cannot attain. Because of this, he doesn't snap at watches that often, but when he does it hits him hard when he doesn't end up being the owner (that's right eBay, I'm looking at you).
Occasionally he will also be tempted back to his old self, buying knick-knacks for the novelty and price value they present. After all, a collector needs to do his fair share of collecting, and if he can't own the best, he might as well own some of the rest.
Value Meter: High for average pieces, medium to low for choice pieces.
Acquisition Quality: Medium to High
Likely Collection: Some established brands in his collection as he opens his wallet and accepts that spending is sometimes the way to get choice pieces. What is common here is also the fact that you will see variations of his choice pieces from when he was more calculative.
Well Made Man, money in hand... own what I like, that's his plan.
Here's a guy who doesn't do his own shopping. He's been around the block, and knows that his time is more precious than to be spent hunting for the right vintage watch. He has asked his people and he knows what will make other collectors drool.
And he wants it. Now.
Or, he can be the casual collector who chances upon a good piece in excellent condition, and doesn't want to waste his time looking for something else. He's going to get that piece now because he knows he'll like it, and he'll pay the appropriate price for the watch.
Dealers love him, other collectors are green with envy for his spending power (and willingness to use it). These are the people who cause the bubble, and are also the people to make new demand for otherwise dark horse watches.
Admit it, without demand, there will be no supply. While we may not like the prices going up, we are enjoying the fact that there has never been so many vintage watches out in the wild for our picking.
Value Meter: Low
Acquisition Quality: Close to perfection
Likely Collection: These guys will own some of the best examples of some of the most well-known watches in the vintage watch world. Very IG-worthy, very high brow, very WIS-piss-your-pants level of cool.