Connoisseur's Guide to Building a Watch Collection

The proliferation of highly complicated and artistic watches has spawned a new breed of collectors drawn to the arena with a great appreciation for the watchmaking or the desire to own a rarified timepiece. Collectors run the gamut from those seeking specific watch brands, periods, or types to those who simply relish owning a sampling of unusual timepieces from the world's best brands. Aside from watch retailers, auction houses are a key venue for collectors searching for either vintage timepieces or hard-to-find complicated models on the secondary market. Julien Schaerer, Antiquorum USA's (www.antiquorum.com) watch director, offers some advice for collectors.

  • Do your research. If you decide that watch collecting is your new hobby, speak to fellow collectors to understand their collections or focus points and, spend time researching what exists and what you want to collect.
  • Stay focused. Many collectors become sidetracked when building a collection and often wonder later why they chose certain pieces and regret those purchases (they tend to sell at that point, generally taking their biggest losses). Stay focused, and always follow your initial guideline.
  • Follow your heart. If you are building a collection for profit or future resale value only, the pleasure will be greatly diminished. Buy things you love, and also consider when purchasing if there is a strong possibility that you might still like the piece 10 years from now.
  • Buy the best you can afford. Probably one of the most important tips I give my collectors is to aim for the best (let it be in terms of condition, rarity, or original box and papers). It is always better to buy one really mint watch than three in average condition. Its increase in value will easily compensate the purchase of the average-condition watches. In simple terms: quality over quantity.
  • Look at current trends, and try to look into the future. One of the hardest, but most important, parts of the game—even for experts—is recognizing that what was trendy yesterday might come back into fashion tomorrow. On the other hand, it might never come back.
  • Use the Internet. It's a very important tool, as it allows you to capture trends as they are on the way up (or down), to find information, or to discover newly found collectibles. However, not everything you read on the Internet is accurate. Consider your sources, and find the ones that you and your fellow collectors can rely on.
  • Follow the auctions. Auctions give you clear ideas of what is hot or not and also how prices are evolving. In the current market, prices change practically every two to three months. Also, as your taste for rare pieces develops, auctions are practically the only places where you will find that missing piece to your collection.
  • Enjoy your pieces. For some it means wearing them, for others, it's simply getting them out of the safe once a month. Watch collecting is a fascinating passion that takes collectors worldwide in search of that special piece. And for many, a huge part of the fun of collecting is in the search.
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