For some time now I have been fascinated by watches, those tiny little objects that do nothing more than let you know where you are in the day, and like for so many others that fascination quickly turned into something more obsessive.
I don’t know what it is about watches, especially vintage mechanical models, but they do seem to grip some people and they do become much more than they are in a physical sense.
We use arguments to justify the expense, which can be considerable, including the fact that “it is the only jewellery a man can wear besides a ring”. We argue that some models increase in value, that they are currency anywhere in the world should you get in trouble and that they can survive being 200m below the surface of the sea?!?
We become enamoured with tiny details such as the material used in the balance spring, the finishing of the case and even the placement of the date window. The latter can decide a purchasing decision for many; if the date window is at the 3 o’clock position that is fine, put it at 6 o’clock and no purchase will be made. Put it between the two and some watch collectors will literally weep at the sheer horror of such a thing.
They call it a ‘rabbit hole’ and this is a thing that (mainly) men do tend to fall down. The rabbit hole becomes expensive very quickly; the £100 Casio G-Shock becomes a £350 mechanical Seiko becomes a £2,500 Tudor becomes a…. well, it depends on what funds you have available.
The problem with watches is that they have no limit in terms of better finishing, rarer materials, more prestige branding and the rest. The sense of always wanting to find the perfect watch does not go away and it is hard to get out of.
Many of you will have been through this with phones and PDAs of the past. When mobile technology was in its infancy there was lots of scope for improvement and thus lots of room to spend more money on new devices. For many of us this ended with the iPhone and despite differing opinions on how much this was down to Apple’s control or the completeness of the product, there is by and large an end point. Only a small percentage still buy and look for the latest devices, the rest of the population upgrade when they need to.
Watches, because of why they are craved, are so subjective that the obsessive collector will find a reason to buy a new model and that reason could be one of many.
It took some time and maybe the pandemic helped to cause this, but I now have no expensive watches left. It was not easy to do, but I did it and even made a small profit thanks to a couple of pieces that have increased in value over the past few years. The reality, however, is that very few watches increase in value and that for the majority a lot of money can be lost very quickly.
When I thought long and hard about why I liked watches I realised that it was for good reasons such as the craftsmanship, heritage and personal enjoyment of wearing a nice piece, but I still forced myself to give them all up.
I understand why people love their watches and I would never criticise anyone for falling down the rabbit hole, but ultimately a watch is just a watch.