Successful Long-Term Watch Collecting

Several decades ago when I became obsessed with watches, clocks, and horology overall, I would sometimes criticize myself for the purchasing I did. Now, many years forward, while these were not investments that can compete with returns from a 401k retirement investment, they are things that I have been able to use, enjoy, helped me blow-off steam-- more valuable than we give ourselves credit for, the medication a hobby like this provides is real and useful—and, for the most part, held their value or increased. I wouldn’t characterize watch collecting as an investment, though vintage watches and some modern watches purchased properly can appreciate.  Certain of my personal watches have had very strong appreciation. But importantly, the carefully spent money you have in your collection 10 years from now will likely still be there, often plus some. It’s not cigars, wine you drink, expensive vacations, cars, technology or hifi that depreciate. In hindsight, I’m happy with the purchases I made. The key at early phases of watch collecting is to avoid buying watches that you then sell quickly (so-called catch-and-release.)  This is where you lose. You want to buy “keepers.” In the beginning I did too much catch-and-release. The goal is for you to know that when you are buying and selling very quickly, this will deplete the cash you have for this hobby and overall. So again, you want to stay focused on watches you can enjoy for many years. Even if you buy a watch and make a small profit by quickly selling it, the effort spent and “habit” of catch-and-release are both losses when viewed in the long-term.  Whether a watch is long-term or catch-and-release is a function of your personal tastes and interests as a collector and the way you perceive the art in this. Your tastes will change over time, but not as much as you might think. Watches that were keepers for me many years ago are still keepers, that’s why they are keepers 😉

My goal is long-term experienced value to me and to the collection. There are trends right now that have collectors almost totally focused on specific aesthetics of what a collector sees with their eyes. For example, if lume was added to a vintage dial, some collectors (overly in my opinion) react to that. Likewise, if a dial was refinished well and accurately 50 years ago, they make a fuss but ignore equally or more important “total watch” attributes. You want to understand the total watch in-balance.  See my other blog on watch originality and authenticity along with the FAQ referenced in the blog.  Some focus-on and obsess over only the things they can see, which is the wrong way to collect in my opinion. It’s the total watch-- the study and appreciation of the mechanical watch begins with what’s inside, the movement.  Some collectors have collections full of “cool looking watches” that do not work properly. That’s also a failed collecting approach-- the whole idea here is to enjoy these watches for what they were designed for to the extent that is practical (some exceptions, for example, vintage watches typically are not water resistant unless the watchmaker states otherwise for example.)  Anyone can post a picture of the watch on Instagram or a forum  and obtain “ooh’s" “ah’s”, and "likes" but it doesn’t mean the watch is a good collectible if it runs poorly and cannot be remedied economically. It's important that you rely on an experienced watchmaker well versed in vintage watches.  ClockSavant offers quality servicing, repair, and restoration for your watches and all of the watches we sell have undergone a comprehensive quality assurance program.

If you are collecting now and don’t understand the evolution of, for example, Valjoux and Lemania chronographs movements, how Omega/Tissot/Lemania worked together as one example, Excelsior Park, or others, how watch brands worked with outside suppliers and partners, but instead focus only on brands you recognize and dials/appearances, then my recommendation is you begin studying the movements and begin assessing watches from the inside-out. Experienced collectors start with the movement, watch collecting today begins with what’s inside.  Remember that with the quartz revolution, folks lost interest in mechanical timekeeping, It was the movements—what’s inside—that reinvigorated the Swiss watch mechanical watch industry. The movement is the long-term focus of watch collecting. An excellent reference for vintage chronographs and evolution, as one example, is They provide an online chronograph database and also published a book. I have not read the book but but their online database is excellent. My impression from what I see on the author’s website is that the book may be valuable to a new collector. 

Successful long-term watch collecting (picture of Tissot Omega 33.3 Lemania 15TL)