A watch collection lined up on a bookshelf with books behind it
Hamish Robertson, Apr 29 2022

What makes a Watch Collector?

What makes a Watch Collector?

Many people love watches but don't think they are a watch collector. They think there are rules, standards, or levels that must be reached to become one. They think that it requires some knowledge they don't have, certain watches they can't get, or some other requirements set by a mysterious "they". None of this is true. The world is full of watch collectors quietly going about their business and enjoying their passion for watches without a single thought about whether they "qualify". This Blog Post will explore what we think makes a collector, and tell you about some of the Collectors we've met as we've been building The Watch Collectors' Club.

Watches from a few people's collections brought along to one of our Watch Meetups.

Watches from a few people's collections brought along to one of our Watch Meetups.

Who is a Watch Collector? What makes a Watch Collector?

We at The Watch Collectors' Club say that anyone with more than one watch is a collector. Many immediately disagree, so let's explain. Collecting is about choosing, it's about assembling a deliberate set of items using your own choice. It doesn't matter how many items that is. If you have one watch for the office, one for the gym, and one for special occasions, that's a collection. You've carefully assembled it for different uses. It suits you, it could have more for other occasions, and maybe you get a new one for one of those purposes every now and again, e.g. a new fitness watch, but broadly, it's a set of watches that is very practical.

This reasoning does not take anything away from it being a collection. It is the most natural type of collection in the watch world, and anyone who takes an increased interest in watches finds it very easy to add to. Celebrating something special? Get another watch for the occasion. See something you like that will work on an everyday basis? Add to your day-to-day watch and hey, you now have two to choose from each morning. Like something fun, robust and unbreakable? You can now wear something different to the gym or when doing some DIY or Home improvement.

It also does not take anything away from anyone else with a larger or more specialised collection. One person's collecting habit is entirely exclusive to another's. There are no rules. Everyone has different tastes, and everyone can be a collector.

The author's Seiko Alpinist Ginza Edition, a classic every day watch that can be worn on any occasion.

The author's Seiko Alpinist Ginza Edition, a classic every day watch that can be worn on any occasion.

Classic Seiko G-Shock. Safe to wear while at the gym, or doing DIY, like our member Stuart here.

Classic Seiko G-Shock. Safe to wear while at the gym, or doing DIY, like our member Stuart here.

Reasons to Collect Watches

Once you get past the most natural form of collecting, for use, there are a few more common reasons people collect. The first is because they like the brand. Some of you will feel this is superficial, or for status, or because people like showing off. In fact, it is much more complicated than that. Some people do collect a certain brand because of the status they attribute to them, especially Swiss luxury brands like Rolex or Patek Philippe, and that's OK. If that's important to them, great! It doesn't take anything away from people who collect for other reasons.

Many people collect brands simply because they love what the brand does. Consistent design language and high-quality finishing? People love that. Long history of dive watches and incremental improvements to the characteristic Bezel? People love that. Expertise in case materials and colour? People love that. Low price points and endless variations? People love that. These are aspects of the brands Rolex, Omega, Rado and Swatch, four Swiss brands that have many dedicated collectors around the world.

Rolex Daytona Chronograph in Steel and Gold - currently one of the most popular watches in the world.

Rolex Daytona Chronograph in Steel and Gold - currently one of the most popular watches in the world.

Omega Seamaster Grey Side of the Moon with Meteorite Dial. The Omega Speedmaster is also one of the most popular watches in the world right now.

Omega Seamaster Grey Side of the Moon with Meteorite Dial. The Omega Speedmaster is also one of the most popular watches in the world right now.

Rado Captain Cook in Bronze. Rado specialise in ceramics, as shown on the Bezel of this watch.

Rado Captain Cook in Bronze. Rado specialise in ceramics, as shown on the Bezel of this watch.

Swatch x Damien Hirst x Disney watch made in collaboration to celebrate the Swatch company's relationship with Disney.

Swatch x Damien Hirst x Disney watch made in collaboration to celebrate the Swatch company's relationship with Disney.

Some people love to collect a certain type of watch. We've covered Dive Watches, Pilots Watches, Motor Racing related watches, Dress Watches and many more here on our Blog, and there is no denying that some people just fall head over heels for one of these categories. While each category is clearly quite different, there are a huge range of companies making watches across these types. There are both old, established companies like Omega, the large conglomerates and of course Microbrands making fantastic watches in all these categories. Including vintage, the choices for a collector can be as wide or as broad as they like. There are also many many niches to fall down that are even more specific, such as Military Watches, Field Watches, or watches with interesting and rare complications, like these two:

A Seagull Worldtime Tourbillon, which includes a Tourbillon mechanism designed to improve the watch's accuracy.

A Seagull Worldtime Tourbillon, which includes a Tourbillon mechanism designed to improve the watch's accuracy.

This is a Complicated multi-calendar watch from Orient, which allows you to calculate which day of the week a future date will be.

This is a Complicated multi-calendar watch from Orient, which allows you to calculate which day of the week a future date will be.

My favourite reason to collect watches is the reason I collect them. I buy the watches I love. I have a broad collection and it has a few themes, but I'm not that focused on it. It's led to a wonderful adventure building The Watch Collectors' Club, but I don't spend much time on the collection itself.

If you like watches and start buying them, you'll often find yourself buying more. This is a collection that develops purely from passion. As you explore, you learn a bit more, see watches you didn't know existed, and add to your collection. Again, this is a very simple way of collecting, and it's a great one. It doesn't matter that this is very simple, just that you like them.

The Author's Collection. Which has since grown further.

The Author's Collection. Which has since grown further.

Watch Collectors who Focus

The question of how focussed a collector or collection may be is always hard to answer. Is it focused to collect one brand? One type? One style of watch? We've met people who do all of this, and we've met some people who take it even further. In only the last six months, I've met someone with a collection of Royal Navy Diving Watches that were issued to service members in the UK. And no other watches! A very very focused selection of watches, even within the Military Watch area, and the passion and enthusiasm that Collector displayed were astonishing. Another guy came along to one of our Meetups who has over 500 examples from one brand of one type of watch from only the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Here's one of his:

Men's Bulova President Watch from the 1950s

Men's Bulova President Watch from the 1950s

Another set of collectors seem to enjoy small areas of the watch world for a few years and then move on. This is surprisingly common. Right now I know a few people obsessed with rare mechanical Seiko watches from the 1970s. They are delighted with dial details, serial numbers, and movements. They are taking a very deep dive into a small part of the watch world where the watches cost minimal amounts of money. It is all about the joy of discovery, comparison, and sharing that passion with the (small) number of people interested in the same area.

These guys have ranged around the world of watches over years, with their intense focus falling on different watches as their passions move. They buy and sell watches to facilitate this ever-changing focus. They are not stuck in a certain area, they don't care what others think of their collections and they know what they enjoy most - the hunt for pieces they are focussed on.

Seiko Bellmatic Alarm Watch from the 1970s

Seiko Bellmatic Alarm Watch from the 1970s

One of the world's most famous collectors, widely interviewed and very active on Instagram, collects fancy watches from famous makers, but all with interesting and unusual case shapes. He also collects round watches with so-called double-signed dials, where the dial has both the watch brand and the name of the jeweller it was sold at printed visibly. With these two areas of focus, he's built a staggeringly beautiful and varied collection. He has travelled the world to make purchases and meet other collectors of similar models. He is kind, helpful to others, and comes across very well as a pillar of the online watch community. You can read about Roni Madhavani and his collection here, or watch and learn about the pieces here.

He is an example of how some of the most famous collectors in the watch world are very focused. Some, but by no means all. For one of our events this May, we are visiting a superb collection showing the highlights of an enthusiastic rich collector from Singapore. It has ten different sections, and that's just the highlights! It's in London at The Design Museum and you can come along with us. Find all the details on our Events page.

Three Vintage Audemars Piguet watches belonging to Roni Madhavani. Image courtesy of robbreport.com

Three Vintage Audemars Piguet watches belonging to Roni Madhavani. Image courtesy of robbreport.com

The final type of collector we want to highlight today are the enthusiasts who want to support upcoming brands and new watch ideas. They collect the first watches that launch on Kickstarter, or that they hear about on forums or Instagram. If the new watch brand does well and adds more models with more launches they may support them by buying every one that comes out. This happens regularly in the world of Microbrands where product launches may be a few hundred dollars, and also happens at the very high end of Haute Horologie, when master watchmakers leave a big brand workshop to start under their own name. A group of dedicated collectors take great pleasure in helping new entrants get going by committing to their first creations.

Brew Watches Retrograph, a very successful Microbrand that originally launched its first watch on Kickstarter.

Brew Watches Retrograph, a very successful Microbrand that originally launched its first watch on Kickstarter.

You only need one more watch...

We believe that two watches make a collection and people with two watches usually end up with more. We also believe that the watch world is nothing without its collectors, whatever they are into and whatever area they focus on. The sheer variety and number of watch collectors we've come across in only a few years shows us that there is so much more to share and learn about the watch world. Anyone can be a collector, call themselves a collector, and embrace their passion.

The Watch Collectors' Club is here to help you enjoy and explore the watch world. Whether you have a passing interest, are starting a collecting journey, or have been collecting for years, we want you to join us to share your watch stories. Our in-person and virtual events are the perfect place to come and share your interests, however focused. You'll also have the chance to hear why people own the watches they like, and since everyone's taste is so different, you never know what is going to show up. Collecting is a deeply personal endeavour but is much more fun when shared. Find our events page here, and if you know of anyone with an interest in watches, please let them know where to find us.

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Make the watch world simple

Make the watch world simple