Why You Can’t Afford To Buy Your Watch If You Can’t Afford To Break It (Archive)

by GaryG

 My first rule when it comes to collecting is to avoid setting too many exclusionary rules.

I am sure that there are many theme-centered watch collectors who put emphasis on things such as owning one of each Omega vintage chronograph from a certain year or Elgin railroad watches of a particular decade. These people might consider what I do far too haphazard to be labeled “collecting,” for instance.

If, however, I force myself to set criteria for what constitutes collecting to me, I keep coming back to two rules for myself: passion and enjoyment.

And this is perhaps best defined by asking yourself, “Are you emotionally engaged with the items you collect, be they watches, cars, or bottle caps, and do you take advantage of all of the enjoyable aspects of owning them?”

With watches, I believe, the former criterion — passion — is what separates collectors from investors and accumulators. Which brings me to the second criterion: deriving the full enjoyment from the things you own.

Among Ferrari enthusiasts, there’s a well-known saying: not driving your Ferrari so it will be more attractive to its next owner is like refusing to sleep with your lover so that he or she will be more appealing to the partner after you.

Nevertheless, there are lots of “garage queens” out there, just as there are a high number of “safe queens” and their owners in the watch world. Yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. “Triple Sealed In Its Own Original Geneva Air And Never Wound Let Alone Chimed Patek Minute Repeater.” I’m also speaking to all of the other owners of micro-mechanical marvels who don’t wear them, share them, or in some cases even let them out of the safe.

Why wear the watches that you own? There are lots of good reasons:

· It’s fun! You can’t get that thrill of seeing your pride and joy peeking out from beneath your cuff if you don’t have it on your wrist.

· It’s better for the watch in the same way that running a car keeps the hoses and gaskets from rotting; wearing your watch helps the lubricants do their jobs effectively.

· It shows respect for the maker. As a collector of independent pieces, I’m particularly big on this one. Do you really think that the person who spent hours tuning the operation of your chronograph wants you to keep it sealed in its package?

· It brings joy to your watch buddies, particularly if you swap from time to time and have the chance both to experience a piece you love but don’t own and see your pal loving the piece you had the obvious good taste to buy.

A. Lange & Söhne Double Split before refurbishment

GaryG’s secondary market A. Lange & Söhne Double Split before refurbishment

· Watches are surprisingly hard to break and — more importantly — can be fixed. A few years ago, I bought a piece at an auction online, only to find when it arrived that it looked (at least to my very particular eye) as if it had been put through a garbage disposal. Gouged lug, dinged bezel, anti-reflective coating polished off part of the crystal, you name it. But after a surprisingly affordable trip to the “spa” — in this case, A. Lange & Söhne’s laser metal deposition capability — I defy anyone to distinguish this timepiece from new one.

A. Lange & Söhne Double Split after refurbishment

GaryG’s A. Lange & Söhne Double Split after refurbishment

· The difference in resale price of a “mint” vs. “near-mint” piece isn’t actually that large. Were the extra thousand bucks you made back at the end of the day on a $20,000 watch really worth all of the fretting and missed enjoyment?

· If it becomes clear that collectors insist on wearing their watches, perhaps manufacturers will place a higher premium on wearability. I’m not suggesting a return to the days of ultra-high complications in 35 mm cases, but perhaps “packaging” (otherwise known as habillage or a decent-sized case) would take on higher priority in a world of vocal frequent wearers, particularly at the high end of the market.

· A watch is a functional item, and, ultimately, it’s wasteful to fail to take advantage of all that it has to offer.

Of course, at the end of the day if you really have spent a lot more on watches or a watch than you can afford, none of the above is likely to release you from the grip of fear. I’ll talk about some gambits for increasing the affordability of your collection in a future post, but in the meantime, wear and enjoy your watches as much as you can!

*This article was first published on Quill & Pad on February 24, 2014 at Why You Can’t Afford To Buy Your Watch If You Can’t Afford To Break It.

Originally published at Quill & Pad.