You don’t have to be rich to start a respectable watch collection. Here’s where to start 2
Photo by Michael Surazhsky on Unsplash

You don’t have to be rich to start a respectable watch collection. Here’s where to start

Collecting watches is not about having the most watches.  
SIEG SUAREZ | May 10 2021

Most people want to collect watches but do not know where to start. They fill their minds with pre-conceived notions, i.e. you need to be loaded to begin with. They couldn’t be more wrong. Here, we break down five important factors in watch collecting. A lot of it depends in knowing yourself and what you want. You’ll be surprised starting a collection is quite achievable, whether you’re rich or just on your way there. 

1. Know your purpose 

In starting a watch collection, you have to ask yourself what the purpose of the collection will be. Many people purchase watches to commemorate certain milestones in life: marriage, birth of a child, promotion in work, etc. 

Some people collect watches for investments. These people target coveted and limited-edition watches. If investment is your purpose, the limited edition Seikos and Omegas are good choices to start you off. Seikos and Omegas, while they may be lower in price (most of the time), there are models which are hard to find. If you can find them at SRP (or even discounted) and you hold on to them, they have a chance to increase in price later on. This is the most affordable way to enter the world of limited editions. Just a note, though: not all limited editions increase in price. There are two challenges here: getting the watch in SRP and analyzing those whose value will probably increase (hard to do).

You don’t have to be rich to start a respectable watch collection. Here’s where to start 3
Rolex Professional GMT-Master. Photo from Rolex's official website

Those with deeper pockets, can target the Patek Philippe Nautilus, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and the Rolex Professional watches especially the Daytona, the GMT-Master, and the Submariner in their different variations. These watches are the “it” watches. They’re popular, hard to get, and relatively expensive. The ‘hard to get’ part is due to limited availability.

Those with even deeper pockets would look at more complicated watches from Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and from lesser-known brands, but equally as prestigious, such as F.P. Journe and Greubel Forsey. These watches are not after commercial success. These brands are after watchmaking perfection. 

If you know your watches, these manufacturers have some of the most astonishing watch achievements ever. Also these watches are not commonly seen. As opposed to, let’s say, Rolex which you can see almost daily. These watches are very rare and very expensive. Due to the complicated mechanisms, these ultra watches are usually made in limited runs only, usually 10 to 25 pieces. The maximum is 100.

Some people collect watches as part of a bigger collection. An example of this is the Audemars Piguet collaboration watch with Marvel. A diehard Marvel fan who has access to serious funds will be interested to buy this. Another example: someone very patriotic or someone just very much into Philippine objects might collect watches which highlight the Philippines. Examples of these watches are the Seiko Tubbataha Reef limited edition (limited to 1000 pieces) and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Philippine Edition 2010 (limited to 50 pieces).

Regardless of your purpose, you should have a connection with your watches in order to build a meaningful watch collection.

2. Set a budget 

Once you know your purpose, it’s time to identify your budget. How much funds are you willing to devote to your collection? A lot of people presume watch collecting is only for the rich but you can, in fact, start your watch collection with almost any budget. 

At around P10,000, you can already snap up a quality watch from Seiko, Citizen, or Orient. These brands are very much respected in the watch community. With a higher budget, you can then expand your choices to higher tier Seikos, Citizens, or Orients, or dip into the Swiss brands.

Just a warning: it’s never good to purchase counterfeit and fake watches. It won’t do you well and will only look bad on you. An authentic watch will always make you look respectable regardless of how cheap or expensive the watch is.

You don’t have to be rich to start a respectable watch collection. Here’s where to start 4
F.P. Journe watch. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

3. Come up with a number 

After determining your budget, it’s time to know how many watches you plan to keep in your rotation. The most important factor in determining the number of watches within a given budget is your lifestyle. Do you work in a corporate setting? Are you a sporty person? Do you go to the office or are you always in the field? Once you have answered these questions, you will get an idea of how many watches you really want.

Let’s look at TV personality and art collector Kim Atienza, for example. He’s known for being a person who loves the outdoors. If you look at his watch collection, he has several Rolexes for different purposes (a Rolex Explorer, a Rolex Submariner, a Rolex GMT Master, etc.). We can’t be completely sure if he uses these watches for the professional purposes which they have been made for. Regardless, the watches he chose are a perfect fit for his lifestyle.

Let me share my personal philosophy: I’d rather have less watches but are of superb quality than have so many watches but are poorly made. Collecting watches is not about having the most watches.  

You don’t have to be rich to start a respectable watch collection. Here’s where to start 5
Greubel Forsey-GMT. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

4. Start with two watches

Let’s start with just two watches. My suggestion is that you determine your weekday work watch and your weekend watch. For those in the corporate field, a daily watch in leather might be appropriate. For the weekend, a steel casual watch can complete your look. Once you have these two figured out, you can then add a third watch for special occasions. From this simple collection, you can expand and diversify further.

5. Wear your watch

Before we end, there’s one simple reminder I’d like to impart to all: wear your watches. I have friends who would buy a watch and immediately keep it in the safety deposit box for years. Watches are meant to be worn. You shouldn’t be afraid of dinging your watch (causing a deep scratch or a chip). Wear it! It’s part of the journey. After all, we don’t know how much time we have in our lives. Every moment counts.

[Follow the author at @watch_mnl on Instagram. For more on Sieg Suarez, click here.]