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15 Dos and Don’ts of Watch Collecting

On the surface, watch collecting seems like a simple hobby: just find a watch you like and purchase it for your collection. But there are a few guidelines that all watch collectors should know in order to avoid making costly mistakes and ruining their investment. From purchasing the perfect timepieces to researching reputable buyers and learning when to wear the watches in your collection, here are 15 dos and don’ts of watch collecting.

Dos and Don’ts of Watch Collecting

Do research to find what you like best.

There are hundreds of watch brands and thousands of styles to choose from. Decide whether you want mechanical, automatic, or quartz watches—or some of each—and find out which brands and styles you like. Look into auction catalogs, books, websites, and even museums to learn about all the different styles and brands. You’ll also want to find out all the factors that affect the price of a vintage watch.

Don’t focus only on the resale value.

If you’re only collecting watches to make money down the line, you’re going to have a tough time. Market trends will constantly be shifting, and focusing only on the resale price will leave you stressed about figuring out the right time and price to sell instead of being able to enjoy your watches to the fullest.

Don’t buy something you won’t wear.

After researching different brands, a lot of watch collectors will purchase a watch more for its brand or price than for their own tastes. This can be good for resale, but there’s not much point in buying a watch that you won’t end up wearing. Make sure you like the style and that it’s comfortable and looks good on your wrist.

Do have a budget.

It’s not a great idea to take out a loan or spend all your collecting money on one watch. You also don’t want to needlessly spend tons of money on watches just to fill out your collection. Instead, set aside a certain amount of money each year to buy watches and work within your budget.

Don’t be influenced by others’ opinions.

Buying a watch because someone else told you that it’s valuable, trendy, or otherwise worth having will almost certainly leave you with buyer’s regret. If you only buy a watch because of others’ opinions on it, you might as well be throwing your money away. Buy it because YOU like it!

Do have a theme.

Find out your particular watch interests—whether that’s an era, brand, metal type, or something else—and focus your watch purchases around the theme. This way, you won’t feel overwhelmed when browsing for new watches.

Don’t be afraid to branch out.

Even if you have a theme, if you see something you love that doesn’t fit the theme, don’t be afraid to add it to your collection. It’s all about what you prefer.

Do research again—this time on your seller.

Make sure your seller is reputable and that you’re not purchasing a fake. Be wary of purchasing online since you can’t see the watch in person. When buying a vintage watch, make sure you open the case to check the condition of the watch and that there are no incorrect replacement parts.

Don’t be afraid to purchase watches from boutique (small) companies.

Watches from small companies are often cheaper because there’s no distributor-wholesaler-retailer process where each step adds markups to the price. Instead, the watches go directly from the manufacturer to the consumer, so the cost is often much less. Plus, watch boutiques often have tons of unique designs and limited-edition pieces.

Do be smart about how you wear your watches.

Don’t buy a watch just to have it collect dust, but also make sure you’re wearing the appropriate watches to the appropriate occasions. If you’re headed out to a party or somewhere your watch might get bumped or risk liquid damage, pick a diver’s watch or something else sturdy. Likewise, pick something sleek and elegant for special occasions.

Don’t compromise.

If you know a watch on the market that you want has an inflated price—maybe because it’s in bad condition or missing its original packaging and paperwork—don’t buy it. Try to only buy watches in good condition that have all their paperwork. If that’s not possible, at least make sure the price is fair.

Do keep the packaging and paperwork that come with your watch.

Just like we advise you not to buy a watch that’s missing its paperwork, we also believe you should keep the original packaging, manual, warranty card, and everything else that came with your watch. There are creative ways to store everything, and you’ll thank yourself down the line if you ever want to resell it, as this will really increase the watch’s value (both resale value and innate value).

Don’t worry too much about certain damaged parts.

If the watch you’ve had your eye on for a while is beautiful, but isn’t perfect at accurately keeping time, don’t immediately turn it down. Generally speaking, it’s far easier to repair the mechanics of a watch than it is to fix the cosmetics. So if the dials, hands, and watch face are in good condition, it’s probably worth the purchase.

Do keep a history of your watches.

Each time you purchase a new watch, write down things like when and why you bought it, how long you were searching for it, its sale price, and any other interesting bits of information. Many people who seek out vintage watches love learning the history behind each piece. By writing these things down, you’re keeping a record of the watch’s history not only for yourself but for any future buyers as well.

Don’t worry about a vintage watch that shows its age.

Most vintage watch enthusiasts feel that a watch’s patina and minor dents and scratches are more desirable than perfectly restored watches because of the character that the imperfections add to the watch. Obviously, if the watch is in really bad shape, it might not be worth the purchase—but if the imperfections are minor, the added character can really shine through.