For Fratello Collector’s Week 2.0, some of our editors are sharing their collecting philosophies. Today it is my turn. As I described in a recent article, I do not consider myself a watch collector. But then again, I guess that is a collecting philosophy in its own right. So maybe I just have to bite the bullet and get into it.

As it turns out, I quite enjoyed reflecting on my collecting habits for this article. It can be good to have a close look in the mirror from time to time. So if you are interested, here is my approach to watch collecting. I found that my watch box is a mirror of sorts. Let me explain…

collecting philosophy

To collect or not to collect

As I explained before, I do not regard myself as a collector. When I envision a collector, I think of someone who is an amateur museum curator of sorts, hunting down artifacts that follow an overarching theme. I would say our own RJ is a bit of a Speedmaster collector. I would not put myself within that same category.

But let’s be honest; it is a matter of semantics. Since I buy watches on a regular basis, something you might call a collection naturally emerges. Maybe I am just in denial, then. As it turns out — upon some reflection— I do have some rules I subconsciously apply. There is some method to the madness.

collecting philosophy

Starting over — Finding my collecting philosophy

There was a time when my liking of watches turned into more of a passion. It was around this time that I aspired to be a collector. I did not know at the time what that entailed precisely. I was young and foolish. Correction: I was younger and more foolish. My view, then, was to try and build a collection of watches based on practical purposes.

So I got a sports watch, a “beater”, and a dress watch. Later, I added another sports watch and an even dressier watch. Before I knew it, I had a box of watches that would cover any scenario in which I might find myself. Sensible, right? Well, no. I ended up not loving any of them. I sold the lot (except an SKX) and decided I would be a two-watch guy. Naturally, that approach did not fare much better. The lust for watches reared its ugly head after only a few weeks. I would succumb.

I think this is actually a fun part of the watch-collecting journey. You get to know yourself as an aficionado. You realign yourself as you discover what matters to you. If you recognize that sense of unease with what you have collected, I can only encourage you to be bold and start over. Several times if you must.

Moving upmarket

Here is another common pitfall that I blindly walked into — “graduating” to higher segments. As I got more comfortable buying watches, prices got less intimidating. Whereas once I could not imagine spending more than €500 on a watch, ten or twenty times as much now seemed reasonable. Every new acquisition would have to be a little “better” than the last.

In reality, though, “better” is a rather ambiguous term. What was I chasing? Something more impressive to outsiders? Better specs? More elaborate finishing and exotic materials?

It took a while to realize that my enjoyment of watches did not go hand in hand with prices. In fact, if any trend was there, it was more likely the opposite. The watches I that got the most joy out of were often the more modest ones.

So what is my current collecting philosophy?

As you can see, I took a winding road to where I am now. And I am happy to report that I get only joy out of my collecting habits nowadays. One simple shift in mindset made that happen. I realized that I was collecting just for me and nobody else. My watches represent different sides of me, and if that results in an eclectic mishmash, then that is probably what I am.

When I open my watch box, I want to see an indirect reflection of who I am — a mildly less narcissistic version of Narcissus, pretty much. Since I now buy watches that trigger a response in me on an emotional level, that naturally happens. When I started out, I was optimizing. I looked for “the best diver” within my budget. I did not realize that the best watch is always the one that makes you feel best. You can get a box of amazingly capable watches, but if they do not resonate with you on a gut-feeling level, it is pointless.

I happily own watches that I cannot really “justify” from a value perspective. I also own watches that purists might frown upon. But I don’t care. I don’t like sitting next to purists at parties anyway, so why let them influence my decisions?

collecting philosophy

My two Seamasters from the late 1950s

Specs and value matter only in the virtual world

I have noticed that many watch aficionados are highly focused on specs and value, and so was I at first. “For X money, I demand a sapphire crystal,” or, “Watch X is 100m more water resistant than watch Y”. This seems to be of great importance in many people’s collecting philosophies.

Do not get me wrong; there is some merit to that. Some specifications do have real-life benefits. And yes, you do want to feel that you are paying a price that is warranted to some extent. But I wholeheartedly believe we collectively put too much emphasis on it. If you want the last word in value, accuracy, and reliability, get a G-Shock and be done with it. These things matter only in the virtual world of product pages and online forums.

The vast majority of modern watches are capable of handling whatever most of us encounter on a daily basis. Technicalities we describe as great flaws usually present only minor inconveniences in real life. Once you spend more than €100 on a watch, you are buying an experience. You are looking for something more than a time-telling device. I believe it is that intangible “more” that deserves our attention, not the spec sheet. Ever since I let that notion sink in, my collecting journey has been a whole lot more enjoyable.

collecting philosophy

Rules when buying watches

Okay, the above may sound all too anarchist to some of you. Rest assured that I do have some rules in place when it comes to buying watches. First of all, I restrict myself financially. I operate with a separate little watch fund and never allow myself to bypass it for any watch. Just a little safety measure to ensure I make healthy decisions. I prefer to not rely on discipline if I can put a reliable rule in place instead.

Second, I always try to be critical of when I will actually wear the prospected watch. I do not mind my collection getting bigger, but I do mind safe queens. If a watch sits unused, it starts to stare at me angrily. They really do that; have you noticed? So I try to limit myself to watches that will see actual wrist time. Of course, you cannot always know up front, but one can try.

Most importantly, I thoroughly question my motivations. Am I really getting this watch because it feels like it belongs with me? Or am I following some external motivation or hype? It is, for instance, one of several reasons why I decided I really did not need a MoonSwatch. I would have been buying into a hype that was not my own. Once I saw that, the desire was gone.

collecting philosophy

A personal collecting philosophy

There will never be a watch exhibition in my name. No coffee-table books will be produced about my collection. My collecting is rather more humble, personal, and under the radar. Like time capsules for memories, my watches represent something inside of me. They are a form of expression, much like my wardrobe.

I really enjoy spending time in the morning considering which watch to wear. And I like how absolutely nobody notices the darn thing all day. It reminds me that it really does not matter to anyone but me. So I guess that’s my collecting philosophy, if that makes sense.

How about you? How do you approach your collecting activities? Do you have any overarching themes, goals, or methods to the madness? Let me know in the comments section.