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Edito  - Watch collectors: A Study

Edito Watch collectors: A Study

Horological field notes, compiled over a decade in the wild world of watches

The natural world has its intrepid chroniclers such as Sir David Attenborough and Nicolas Hulot. Their panoramic documentaries take us by the hand and lead us into unknown lands, explaining every new species, every misunderstood beast and putting their behaviour and stories in context. In the world of watch collecting, we have our share of unique phenotypes too, each with distinctive behaviours and calls.

This is our little attempt at taking a taxonomical approach to watch collectors. The list is in rough chronological order, which is to say that the earlier classifications are more likely to prevail among watch collectors with fewer years of experience. It is not meant to be taken as a prescriptive life cycle, although many collectors do go through the stages in the order described. Some collectors never leave the larval stages. Others skip entire stages altogether.

For the uninitiated, however, this aims to be a practical guide to the various sub-species of watch collector, listed with some commonly exhibited traits and characteristics. An entirely subjective “dinner party rating” is also included, based solely on my own observations, for those wondering about the sociability factor. The rating, awarded out of ten, is given according to how much I think my mother would enjoy sitting next to them at a formal meal.

Before we start, a quick caveat: I love all my collector friends — as a rule they have a good sense of humour and know that the following words come from a place of affection. Please don’t read any further if you don’t like or understand satire. I don’t need complaint letters in my inbox on a Monday morning.

The Novice

This is the guy who’s just bought his first serious watch. Most likely, it’s a Rolex Submariner. He’s had his first significant success in life, something that merits a watch purchase, and is very pleased with this acquisition, which everyone encouraged him towards (and hence everyone now admires). The Novice is pitiably insensible of the perilous position that he currently occupies — teetering on the edge of horological infatuation, an abyss from which few escape.

Wears: Rolex. Maybe Omega, maybe TAG Heuer. (Probably Rolex.)

Says: “I don’t think I need a second watch.” “What’s your favourite watch brand?” “Who needs a watch that costs more than five grand?” “Should I get a second watch?”

Dinner party rating: 7

Collectionneurs de montres : une étude

Seamaster 300 © Omega

The Convert

“Hardcore” doesn’t begin to describe the Convert. He’s glimpsed the cabalistic world in which people walk around unnoticed with the equivalent of a house mortgage on their wrists, he’s heard terms like “tourbillon” and “sonnerie” and “boutique-only limited edition” being thrown around, and he wants in. He wants all the ones you’ve heard of — the Offshores, the Nautiluses, the Portugiesers, the Luminors, the Big Bangs. He’s building the collection to end all collections, and may your Maker shield your anointed soul if you encounter the Convert in his acquisition frenzy. Particularly susceptible to “exotic” materials such as carbon fibre, bronze, tantalum, ceramic — anything that will invite curiosity from the casual observer and thus allow the Convert to launch an evangelical oration modelled on St Paul preaching to the Romans.

Wears: Any brand you’ve ever seen advertised in a major newspaper.

Says: “This movement is 100-percent in house.” “It’s got Geneva Seal certification.” “This piece is from the first market allocation.” “You can drop my name when you go to the boutique; they’ll take good care of you.” “It’s used in the medical/Formula One/aerospace industry.” “My position on tourbillons is…”

Dinner party rating: 3.4

Collectionneurs de montres : une étude

Portugieser Chronograph © IWC Schaffhausen

The Renegade

At a certain point in his watch-collecting life, a man just decides that he’s had enough of all these brands that everyone’s buying. Mass brands are for n00bs, not for him, because he’s totally evolved now. He’s looking for real avant-garde horology, and he’s only going to support the independent brands from now on, because these are the guys with the creativity, with the innovations, who aren’t sinking the market with endless limited editions and pandering products. (You can still hear some residual Convert zeal in his voice.) He’ll tell you all about how he was in Geneva for business the other day, and he had a drink with the founder/CEO of his favourite indie brand, and these guys are gonna be the future of watchmaking.

Wears: Akrivia, De Bethune, F.P. Journe, H. Moser & Cie., Laurent Ferrier, MB&F, URWERK, Philippe Dufour, Greubel Forsey, Voutilainen

Says: “My favourite brand? You’ve probably never even heard of them.” “Horological art.” “You have to visit their atelier.” “Look at the hand polish on those sharp internal angles. Here, use my loupe.”

Dinner party rating: 7.6

Collectionneurs de montres : une étude

Sapphire Vision © MB&F

The Historian

Like a bloated gourmand, the Historian yearns for a simpler time. He hankers for an era when watch diameters did not exceed the width of his wrist. He craves the aesthetics and philosophy of a watchmaking that existed before he knew the difference between crown and crystal. He wants vintage, and he wants it precisely because vintage watch collecting is a mire of sinkholes and quicksand, and successfully navigating this treacherous landscape is an indication of his connections and savvy. Can very easily slip from fascinating (like that five-year-old who can recite the periodic table) to tiresome in his eidetic recall of obscure dial trivia. Acronyms such as “BNIB”, “BNP” and “NOS” are liberally sprinkled throughout his communications. Overhearing a conversation among Historians is like listening in on intercepted spy code — a jumble of reference numbers and jargon, containing very few actual words. Phrases such as “A-Series”, “tropical dial” and “craquelure” will induce a more-than-slight tumescence in his groinal region. Completion (so to speak) is hastened by the presence of dial-side addenda such as retailer logos and royal blazons. May also possess a morbid interest in yellow-gold timepieces.

Wears: Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe

Says: “Had to let the 5513 go. Wrong hands.” “Had to let the 5402 go. Wrong lume.” “Had to let the 1665 go. Wrong crown.” “This dial was only made in 57 examples for 8 months in 1955.” “I know a guy who can get you one.”

Dinner party rating: 4

Collectionneurs de montres : une étude

Vintage Royal Oak © Audemars Piguet

The Prodigal

After travelling the world and the seven seas, the Prodigal has come to realise that sweet dreams are made of the most basic Rolex that he owns. Wears it every day for the rest of his life. Occasionally reminisces about his saucier dalliances with other timepieces, maybe even keeps some of them around, but for all intents and purposes, they are a thing of the past. Looks with paternal fondness upon other collectors still at the Novice, Convert, Renegade or Historian stages. The fondness is rarely reciprocated.

Wears: Rolex

Says: Whatever the hell he likes.

Dinner party rating: 9.2


Collectionneurs de montres : une étude

Oyster Perpetual Submariner © Rolex


Lecture 3 Comment(s)

24 July 2021
Comte Henri
Et moi je pense que votre note de soiree doit etre de moins dix… quelle tristesse de lire SEULEMENT quelques lignes mal ecrites et puantes
26 June 2021
d william
in fine : elles donnent l'heure toutes ces montres :-)
21 June 2021
Romain Vsp
Extra cet edito! :)

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