You're ready to be serious about your watch collection but before you begin this exciting journey, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Do your homework

There’s nothing like a solid foundation of knowledge to get you off on the right foot, so research, research and research. After all, we’re talking about forking out thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of ringgit here.

The Internet is treasure trove of information from brand websites to dedicated resources and watch forums. Don’t just rely on your fingers; go out and talk to retailers and collectors who would be able to demonstrate first-hand the beauty of a watch - YouTube videos cannot replace the touch-and-feel experience.

Retired business owner Luc Timmermans, who started collecting watches seriously in 2012, recalls: “I spent months exploring, reading and visiting several watch dealers that represent several brands before I purchased the Lange 1 Moon Phase in rose gold. I was planning to buy a Patek Philippe at first but thanks to my circle of friends, I stumbled upon A. Lange & Söhne, a brand that I had never heard of before. My advice to rookie collectors is to read as much about watches as you can, and look at the different brands to see which appeal to you and fall within your budget.”

2. Buy only what you like

“Never buy a watch if you don’t like how it looks because then you’d never wear it,” says Timmermans. Another good point to remember is to avoid buying for the sake of investment as watch collecting is largely an emotional endeavour. As Su Jiaxian, founder of sjxwatches.com, aptly puts it: “There are many more logical pursuits that are more financially sensible.”

Also, don’t fall for gimmicky materials, complications or other add-ons. A multitude of complications swathed in the most brilliant gold means nothing if you can’t appreciate them. In fact, innovations should be thoughtful and serve a real purpose, like Omega’s co-axial escapement that is the first practical alternative to the traditional lever escapement. Even then, if the aesthetics don’t strike a fancy, there’s no point owning it only have it languish in a box. Ultimately, buy a watch because it gives you pleasure wearing it. 

3. Don’t be a brand snob

Patek Philippe and Rolex are always at the top of anyone’s list, but the likes of Cartier, Breguet and Vacheron Constantin also have strong pedigree, all of whom date back hundreds of years. Younger players like Hublot, Bell & Ross and Tudor are generally reliable mainstream names while independents like Armin Strom, Parmigiani, Urwerk, and MB&F often do interesting things that push the mechanical engineering boundaries.

Occasionally, traditional jewellers like Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels spring a nice surprise such as the latter’s self-descriptive Poetic complications. Japanese brands Seiko and Citizen are worthy of attention too… and the list goes on. If you’re willing to dig deeper, the rewards can be great. “Look at as many watches as possible and develop your own taste,” advises Su.

Also see: Van Cleef & Arpels special: 3 women who evoke Lady Luck

4. <strong>Stay within budget</strong>

Given the spread out there, the temptation to splurge is understandable but let’s not get carried away. There are always excellent options at every price category, so shop around diligently. Grand complications like tourbillon, minute repeater and perpetual calendar tend to cost a lot more due to their complexities and unless you have the means, you probably should gain more collecting experience before investing in such heavy-duty watches. “What I’ve learnt is that you can’t own every watch you like and that you have to be realistic about your choices,” shares Timmermans.

Start a journal

Make it a habit to pen your collecting journey. With a story behind it, the watch goes from a utility instrument to something with sentimental value. A big reason why Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona fetched the highest price ever for a wristwatch at an auction last year was because of its personal attachment. An avid racecar driver, the watch was a gift from Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, with the words “Drive Carefully, Me” engraved on the caseback. It was the Hollywood legend's favourite and he was often photographed with the watch on his wrist during his races.

Timmermans supports this practice, saying: “In any collection, every individual piece has a story, a history, an emotion attached to it, and those emotions are strong. It was a memorable moment for me when my wife gifted me the Patek Philippe 5131R on my 50th birthday. I’m reminded of this beautiful day every time I put on the watch.”

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.