Collection Conundrum: Is Consolidation For Me?
How many watches are too many? Very rarely are we wearing more than one at a time, and I normally find myself wearing one per day. The bigger question is: do we gravitate towards certain pieces in our collections? Is there a requirement for collectors to wear every watch they own? I ask myself these questions regularly as I stand over the watch box(es) each morning. This is a self-reflection but, hopefully, one that you will find worthwhile.
I didn’t set out to be a watch collector. For those of us who grew up before cell phones (not even smartphones) were ubiquitous, watches were an essential part of the wardrobe. How else would someone be able to know what time it was? Our parents may have even said that wearing a watch tells people that you value your time and theirs. From the humble Timex up through Rolex, watches served a purpose. The development of the smartphone put time back in our pockets where it hadn’t been since the early 20th century (the smartphone, while multifunctional, is essentially a 21st-century pocket watch). Many took this opportunity to free their wrists from the shackles of time. With the development of the smartwatch, history has now repeated itself in a way (think early wristwatches vs. pocket watches).
Venturing down the rabbit hole
Despite the technological march forward, many of us have decided that we like watches enough to own more than one. We have criteria for what we like and might even have multiple watches that are similar to each other. I outlined how my collection began in this article, but regardless of how we get here, once we go down the rabbit hole and start acquiring, we potentially find ourselves with more watches than we had anticipated. It begs the question: what comes next?
I am not implying that starting a watch collection is a recent development — far from it. People have likely been collecting watches since before they became wristwatches (very little research was done here, but I stand by this comment). While smartphones and smartwatches seem to be everywhere, we are in an age in which watch collecting has become more mainstream. Yes, some negative things go along with this development, but I think of it as largely positive. It does give us as collectors the opportunity to think: “What do I want my collection to be? What are my tastes? How many watches should I have?”
I have long been a proponent of buying what you like. My collection is an amalgam of various types and styles of watches. Some are steel, some are bronze, many are Swiss, and several are Japanese. Other people have various strategies, such as collecting each significant historic Seiko dive watch. Each collection should fit the desires of the collector. This is true for any type of collection, and, therefore, there is no wrong way to collect watches!
It is within this line of thinking that I have come to question the state of my collection. I enjoy each piece, but I often go more than a month without wearing some of them. I find myself wanting to wear certain pieces more frequently. This is not necessarily a value-per-wear argument. However, if a watch is not spending time on my wrist, should it remain in my collection?
How many watches are too many within a collection?
I won’t get into how many watches reside in my collection or how many is the “right” number. Let’s just say that if I wore a different watch each day, it would be more than a fortnight but less than a month before I wore the same watch twice. My collection boils down to three main categories. I have watches that I wear frequently and even feel that I could wear more often. Then, there are some that I don’t tend to pick up often, and when I do, the date doesn’t need to be set as it has been a month since its last wear. Finally, there are several untouchables in the collection, such as watches to pass down to children or from brands that I have gotten to know in my time in the space.
New watch releases can be a source of dopamine for collectors. I have lamented in the past that new releases do not bring me the excitement they used to. There is usually one watch per year that hits me in a way that I decide it needs to be added to my collection. The Oris ProPilot X in the 39mm size was a recent example. For me, the easiest way to justify adding a new watch to the collection is to cull the herd. One of the earliest watches I purchased when I got into collecting was the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield, a ceramic chronograph. My taste evolved, and this watch was receiving very little wrist time. It made sense to make this shift in my collection, allowing a watch I wear frequently to join the stable.
This exchange of watches has caused me to think about my collection differently in the last 18 months or so. There will always be a new, exciting watch to lust after. Should I try to move existing watches on to new owners to make room? After all, watches are meant to be worn, and having a watch just sit in the box is something that I try to avoid.
Stay on target!
I am working to consolidate a portion of the collection. As much as I am a fan of Seiko watches, they can also be like candy in a way. They are fun to add to the collection, come in great designs, and are made by one of the most respected brands in the game. There are also a few in my collection that I love but do not wear often. So far, my consolidation efforts are not going well, and I know the likely culprit — me.
While the idea of consolidation is attractive, there is no real motivation for doing so. Well, there wasn’t until recently. Moving watches on is more attractive when there is something new you have set your sights on. For me, that was the new Seiko SPB411 Navigator Timer reissue. Mike covered it upon its release, and it was something that I had been hoping for this year. When it finally came out, there was additional motivation. I released a Seiko 5 GMT to a fellow local collector as these two would occupy the same slot in the collection, with the SPB411 taking most of the wrist time away from the Seiko 5. Two other Seikos are also up for sale, making this a true consolidation effort.
You might think of this as small potatoes, but I view this as a dip of the toe into the pool. Seiko is a brand that runs the gamut of price points. The idea here is to take several less expensive models and consolidate them into a higher-end piece by the same brand that will likely become a permanent fixture in the collection. This method could also be applied up the food chain in my collection but without staying within the same brand family.
After dipping a toe into the water and assessing the temperature, the hope is now to jump right in and make a big splash! I have done this once before (sort of) and was happy with the result. A few years ago, I was the proud owner of the Rolex Submariner “Hulk.” Then, its discontinuation made me very self-conscious about wearing it in public. I also became disillusioned with the idea of the watch being a “flex piece.” Now, selling the Rolex and taking in two watches and cash considerations is sort of a reverse consolidation trade, but at least one of the pieces I have added is part of the permanent collection, my 38mm Zenith El Primero. Even my wife has forbidden me from selling this watch.
As fate should have it, the apple of my eye at a higher price point is another Zenith. A friend of mine was looking to sell his Zenith Chronomaster Sport. Having not seen one of these in person yet (there are no Zenith dealers in the greater Cincinnati area), I asked him to bring it with him on a recent visit. I fell hard for the watch, and I think it would fit nicely next to my existing 38mm El Primero… At least I did until recently.
In early October, Zenith released the latest Chronomaster Sport, featuring a steel bezel and a blue dial. In thinking about how I could justify getting one, the logical place to start is to evaluate my current collection and see where two might become one. I haven’t settled in on making this happen, but the thought has yet to leave my mind.
Final thoughts on my collection
While I consider myself a collector, I use that term cautiously. I am more of an enthusiast who has amassed a collection of watches. Evolving tastes, new releases, and overall contentment with what I own have largely set in. While those with unlimited means may consider the “more is more” path, I am leaning towards “enough is enough.” Looking at my collection through this lens largely means that while I truly enjoy every watch I have owned, I can only wear so many. I want to wear what I truly enjoy.
I hope this has triggered a sense of self-reflection. As this hobby has gone more mainstream, at times, there is a bit of a “flex” mentality. Whether or not we care to admit it, we are all likely guilty of at least having some of those thoughts. It is a natural occurrence. I have debated with myself on this topic for the last year or so. Hopefully, when the time is right, something will come of this idea. Will I ever be a one-watch guy? No, but I may aspire to be a one-watch-box guy.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Do you have a true limit on quantity? Is more more? Is less more? Everyone has a unique approach, and we might all be able to learn from each other.