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How to build a watch collection

Most people buy just one watch, perhaps in their life, perhaps once in decades. However, there’s also a group of people who, after enjoying their first mechanical watch, are longing for another one. If that is you, be careful, you are in danger of becoming a collector! In this article, we will give you some…

Most people buy just one watch, perhaps in their life, perhaps once in decades. However, there’s also a group of people who, after enjoying their first mechanical watch, are longing for another one. If that is you, be careful, you are in danger of becoming a collector!
In this article, we will give you some guidelines on how to build a proper watch collection. There are no rules of course, and to each his (or her) own, but sometimes it helps to get some ideas or inspiration. We will take a look at different watch collectors, some who are either focused on a certain type of watch (i.e. military watches) or only collect watches from a specific brand or model. There are also people who only collect chronographs, or more specifically, chronographs from the 1960s, with a black dial. There are infinite possibilities when it comes to watch collecting.  Let’s take a look at a few of the different styles of collecting watches.

 

Mono Brand Collectors

A lot of people start out this way, as a mono brand collector. They buy one Rolex for example, quickly buying another then another. And so on. The question is whether this is really a mono brand collector or someone who builds up a watch collection that consists of one brand. Some mono brand collectors focus on a specific area, or time, or model within the brand. An example is someone who only collects Rolex Submariners that were made before 1980. Or they can be more specific and collect only Cartier watches from their high-end Fine Watchmaking department. Or perhaps someone who collects only military issued Omega watches. Within the Longines brand, you’ll find collectors who solely focus on their legendary (and long discontinued) 13ZN chronograph movements. Being a mono brand collector doesn’t have to be dull, but it would help to find your ‘red line’ within the brand to narrow it down a bit.

 

Military Watch Collectors

Other collections may be based on style or, perhaps for want of a better word, purpose.

While you can collect divers’ watches, realize that there are many of them out there. In that case, it would really help to narrow it down to a certain era, brand or type of divers’ watch (only watches with super compressor cases for example). An interesting style to collect are military watches. In the pre-internet era, this was a very popular topic and since the explosion of the internet has made the markets much more transparent, this style has become even more sought after. Some brands issue military watches, like the R.A.F. in the 1940’s and these watches are marked as such. Small and long forgotten brands such as Vertex and Timor manufactured these watches. You will also find some from Omega, with their fabulous 30T2 calibre movement. If this kind of specific style of collecting interests you, you will find enough material online or books dedicated to military watches, to help you get started.

 

 

Icon Collectors

To build a watch collection based on icons might be the wisest thing to do in terms of value and wearability but also possibly one of the easiest when you don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to really delve into the subject. Buying an iconic watch can be very easy, but you can also put yourself to the test to collect specific references within the iconic design.

 

For example, you can go out and buy a Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’ at your nearest Omega retailer, but you can also try to source a nice pre-Moon or ‘1969’ model or even one in gold that was only done in very limited numbers. You have some room to be creative and inventive when collecting icons. Iconic watches that should be in a collection are: Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Cartier Santos or Tank, Breitling Navitimer, Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, Panerai Luminor etc.  It is up to you to decide which exact reference numbers you would like to collect, modern or vintage.

 

 

 

Complication Collectors

 

Another interesting way to build a collection is to focus on the mechanical complications you fancy (and can afford). There are a couple of collectors that are solely focused on collecting minute repeater watches, no matter which brand. The sound of the gongs differs per brand, per model even. There are minute repeaters that use quarters to strike the time, some used 10 minutes (decimal repeaters). However, this type of complication is for the fortunate collectors out there. A common complication to collect for example, are chronographs. From a certain brand, model or specific movement. At the moment, collecting watches with a valjoux 72 chronograph movement is very popular. You can find them on watch auctions, trade shows or other market places.  Watches with this valjoux 72 chronograph start at around 1200 GBP. The best-known watch to use a valjoux 72 chronograph movement is probably the Daytona. Early references (6239 for example) use the valjoux 72 as base movement.

 

Chronographs

 

 

What type of collector are you?

 

As you can read above, there are many topics to cover or types of collectors around. To determine which of these best fits you (or perhaps none of them do) is to go out there and see which are your favourite type of watches. Perhaps you will find out that your love is with the Zenith El Primero chronograph, but only specific models or types before a certain year. That also doesn’t rule out that you can collect Patek Philippe Calatrava dress watches as well. Just make sure that – at some point – you have a plan and know which way you want your collection to go.