Watch collecting is a great hobby, but a few pitfalls can spoil the fun, especially for beginners. I’ve been a collector for three years now and have definitely made my fair share of mistakes. Today, I’m going to share what I’ve learned so that you are well-prepared for your own watch-buying journey and can have even more fun with our shared hobby: watch collecting.
Mistake No. 1: Bigger Is Not Always Better
As watch enthusiasts, we always want to get as much watch bang for our buck as possible. After all, buying a luxury watch isn’t something you do every day. However, this can lead to inexperienced watch collectors buying larger models even if a smaller model would suit their wrist better. If there’s one thing I learned pretty quickly in my three-year “career” as a collector, it’s that a greater diameter doesn’t equate to more watch. I’ll tell you my own story to illustrate this point: When I bought my first mechanical watch, I opted for the Black Bay 41, a true all-arounder from Tudor. I also had the opportunity to try on the Tudor Black Bay 36, which, as you may already know, is exactly the same watch but with a smaller diameter. This variant struck me as having a more harmonious and better-proportioned dial, and I liked it on my wrist. However, I thought that size alone made the 41-mm version a better choice. Thus, I didn’t pay much attention to the smaller version and bought the bigger timepiece. It seemed to make economic sense to me at the time, as well: The 36 was notably smaller but pretty much cost the same amount.
I was happy enough with my decision for quite some time, but eventually, the size of my watch started to bother me. I kept thinking about the smaller version and its striking proportions. The longer I was involved in the watch world, the more I realized that smaller watches appealed to me much more. Plus, I learned that a 41-mm timepiece with a lug-to-lug of over 50 mm is simply too big for my wrist. So, guess what happened? I sold my very first watch and later bought a 36-mm version in its place – a decision I remain happy with to this day. I swallowed a slight drop in value and paid more than I would have liked to in the end, but I learned my lesson: Bigger isn’t necessarily better. So, if you have several watches to choose from, don’t automatically choose the largest option because it’s “more watch.” Try on several models, see how they look and feel, and always choose the timepiece with proportions that best suit your wrist.
Mistake No. 2: Lack of Variety in a Collection
Again, back to my first watch purchase. When I bought my first Tudor Black Bay, I didn’t know that I would go on to become such a passionate watch collector. I bought it thinking it would be my one and only watch. Little did I know, that was just the beginning. At some point, the Rolex Submariner and Omega Speedmaster made their way onto my must-have list. Once I finally owned all three, I was faced with three black-dial watches in my drawer. You can probably guess which of the three I wore the least: my first, the Tudor Black Bay. As great as the watch was, it just couldn’t hold a flame to the Omega Speedmaster or Rolex Submariner – and so it spent a lot of time resting in my watch box.
As you already know, I ended up selling the watch. When I bought the 36-mm version, I didn’t opt for another black dial but instead went for blue, a color that had been missing from my collection. The blue Black Bay 36 remains in my collection to this day, and I always enjoy having it on my wrist. On the other hand, the Omega Speedmaster has since left my collection, as I always ended up going for the Rolex Submariner when I wanted to wear a black watch.
What I’m hoping to convey with this little story is: Make sure your collection has some variety in it. I try to do this by making sure any addition to my collection has a different dial color or at least a different accent color. I think dials are a great way to add variation to any watch collection; however, how you mix things up is ultimately up to you. Think about what variety looks like to you. Different manufacturers? Different complications? Different color schemes? If you keep your collection diverse, you are more likely to wear and enjoy all of your watches to the fullest, regardless of the amount of wrist time each individual watch gets.
Mistake No. 3: Impulse and Substitute Purchases
As their passion for watches first starts to grow, I think every new collector feels a rush of euphoria. It feels like you can’t move fast enough to build and perfect your collection, but this is actually the perfect time to exercise some patience. I’ve seen the same thing happen to several friends: At the start of their collecting journey, they bought timepieces from all sorts of price points every couple of weeks. At first, they loved them, but over time, a lot of their purchases just ended up lying around unused. The lesson? Don’t indulge in impulse purchases. You should, of course, buy what you like, but give it some time before deciding on a watch. Do you really want that particular timepiece, or is it a transient desire that will fade fast?
We’ve all made the wrong decision at one point or another. Sometimes you don’t even notice it until a few months down the line when you realize the sports icon you so longed for doesn’t really look as good as you imagined it would. These experiences are par for the course with watch collecting. However, if you make impulse purchase after impulse purchase, repeated bad decisions are inevitable. In the worst case, you will have to hold on to the timepiece for a long time or take a heavy loss, both of which spoil the fun of collecting considerably.
Another major watch buying mistake is making substitute purchases. Again, my best advice here is to give things some time. Do you really want the Tudor Black Bay, or is it just a concession for the Rolex Submariner you’ve always wanted? If it’s the former, go for it! However, if it’s the latter, skip the Black Bay and save up a little longer until you can afford the watch you really want. A substitute purchase might make you happy in the short term, but it will never take the place of your dream watch. Of course, occasionally, the opposite can be true: You are so focused on a single model that you overlook other options that offer just as much or more than your dream watch. In any case, the watch model you choose and how you ultimately go about buying it is entirely up to you.