At Michael Ashton’s namesake gallery in Manhattan (www.michaelashtonwatches.com), the watches and jewelry on display represent only a fraction of what the boutique’s proprietor can provide. Discontinued Rolex and Patek Philippe timepieces (both vintage and contemporary), as well as a small collection of Art Deco jewelry, fill the display cases that line the walls of the 1,600-square-foot gallery on Madison Avenue; but as Ashton explains, his inventory is not limited to the confines of that brick-and-mortar location. “I know where pieces have been tucked away, through different collectors, and I [can] put deals together,” he says. “That’s a tremendous percentage of what I do. I know where 20 years of important watches have been sold.
“It’s just like art,” he continues. “You do get certain pieces back on trade, and you’re excited to sell them to the next [group of] collectors that are looking for them.”
In the last 20 years, vintage-timepiece collecting has grown increasingly popular, and Ashton’s shop has evolved to provide discerning collectors with the types of timepieces that they are after, but that service always has been offered in privacy. An appointment is the best strategy to assure that the doors are unlocked when you stop by, and to arrange a consultation with a timepiece dealer (and private collector) who dedicates his time to the education of other enthusiasts. “A lot of people who want to create a collection or put a substantial amount of money into a collection . . . they need guidance,” Ashton says. “I’m very good at helping a collector; that’s my forte.”