Everything You Need To Know When Starting A Watch Collection
Watches are one of the most popular collections we insure at Kelly Klee, and it’s easy to see why. These objects are so special because they are so much a part of you — a true reflection of your style and interests. In fact, watches often not only hold great monetary value, but great personal value, leading many people to naturally grow from watch owner to watch collector.
You may already have a watch or two that you wear on occasion — maybe something for work and another for dress. Maybe it is a special piece that was handed down to you, or given to you for graduation or your wedding. Whatever piece it was, it made you realize you wanted to keep collecting. However, figuring out how to start a proper collection can feel daunting.
Here, we’re breaking down the fundamentals to starting a watch collection that adds value to your life as well as your bottom line. It’s actually a lot simpler than you may think.
Always start with what you like
You would think this goes without saying, but a lot of new collectors start out with their eyes on ‘holy grails’ or models donned by celebrities and sportsmen. Like a good art collection, your watch collection should be a reflection of your personal taste. Whatsmore, your watch collection needs to fit your lifestyle.
What makes a watch collection so unique and so much fun is that you get to wear it. So if you’re always out on the boat, a collection of incredibly beautiful but delicate dress watches aren’t going to get worn or shown off all that often. Your watch collection — especially if you are a new collector — should simply start out with pieces that you would love to wear.
Don’t be afraid to shop pre-owned
The pre-owned, second-hand and vintage watch market is hot and so much fun to shop. The second-hand market allows you to access watches you otherwise couldn’t find in retail. For example, most people shop the second-hand market to find rare and vintage models for their collections. Vintage watches are great investment pieces and there is something for just about everyone’s budget — from tens of thousands of dollars to six figures.
People also turn to the second hand market for discontinued models — essentially watches that are no longer made by the watch brand but aren’t quite vintage yet, either. As trends change and horlogeries upgrade their lines, certain models become discontinued, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable to collectors.
Collectors also turn to the pre-owned market to snag hard-to-get contemporary retail models. As you’ve probably heard from veteran collectors, there can be waitlists as long as five years for popular luxury timepieces. On the second-hand market, though, you can sometimes find ‘new’ watches for sale. But be warned, you’ll often pay a premium to cut the line.
Set a budget and stick to it
With a watch collection, you’re playing the long game. You don’t need to invest an exorbitant amount of money up front to start a solid and valuable collection. Figure out how much you’re comfortable starting with and stick to that — this ensures you have room to grow and keeps you from getting tempted by pieces may lead your collection astray.
In fact, the pre-owned market is a great place for new collectors to start because of the great value you can get. What many new collectors don’t realize is that a watch bought retail, no matter the brand, will lose value the minute you strap it on. If you’re just starting to collect, choosing to start with an older, pre-owned model means your money goes further. It will also likely give you the chance to see its value hold well or even increase in the coming years, which is great for growing your collection.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with starting your collection with a retail watch. If you invest in a piece that you love and that matches your lifestyle, it has already earned its keep. But as we’ll detail below, you will still want to do the proper research beforehand.
Do your research
Whether you buy your watch retail or second-hand, you have to do proper research. If you’re buying retail, investigate the model thoroughly — look at what technical upgrades make it different from the previous model, as these could be a great outlook on how the model’s value will hold or increase over the years. Alongside consumer reviews, you will also want to look at how previous models are holding up on the market.
If you’re shopping second hand, the first thing you need to do is investigate the dealer you’re considering buying from. Make sure they have good reviews on and offline, fair prices compared to other sellers and a policy that is reasonable and easy to understand. Only after you totally trust your dealer should you take a look at the watch itself, examining the condition, model, reference number, provenance and any previous history available.
Don’t be afraid to upgrade as you go
Unless you inherit a box of watches, you have to grow into your watch collection. That starts with setting a budget for yourself that affords you the space to grow. But, it also means that you have to know when it’s time to let go. For example, eventually you may have your eyes on a really great vintage piece that will add a lot of depth and value to your collection. Don’t be afraid to let go of another model in your collection to help you purchase this new one.
This system allows you to leverage your investments to grow your collection. It also allows you to keep your collection highly-curated and manageable. Watches should be worn and loved, and if it is mostly sitting in a drawer between windings and occasional wears, consider how you can use that value to buy something you’ll appreciate more.