Collecting watches is a virus. Once you’re infected, you’ll never get rid of it. But it’s a delightful virus, mind you!
That being said, starting a watch collection comes with its fair share of mistakes, fails, and frustrations. I made almost all of the ones that I’m listing below.
But hopefully, these tips (of what NOT do yo, mostly) will help you save money and enjoy this hobby and passion more, and for the rest of your life!
1. Acknowledge that you have the virus right from the start!
How do you know you’re a watch enthusiast… or addict?
It’s in the little things. But in the little things that you can’t stop doing, without even noticing them.
- You obviously always stop at every watch shop in the shopping mall.
- You always try to see what watch other people are wearing, even if you don’t know much about brands
- You surf the web in search for inspiration and prices
- You see watch designs in your head before falling asleep
My friends, let’s say it together: “Hi, my name is [insert your name here] and I’m a watch addict.”
It’s cool. I’ll be your sponsor!
Being self-aware and mindful about the fact that you are a real watch enthusiast right from the start will help you save quite a lot of money, of time, and of sanity as well.
2. Don’t buy the very first watch you like
There it is!
You know this is it. It’s her (yes, her), and none other. You know the first watch that you want to buy as your first ever “real” watch as a watch enthusiast. It’s the right one, there’s no doubt!
Let me stop you right there.
I remember the day I acknowledged that I was a watch enthusiast: I was waiting at the train station for colleagues to meet me for a business trip, and I was staring at all the watch shops in the station while waiting.
During the wait, I took a picture of a watch that I found beautiful. I really liked it, so much so that I almost bought it. But when I look at that picture today, I really don’t like that design anymore!
I can tell you from experience that what you like about that particular watch today will probably be what you will dislike about it 3 months down the line. Yes, just 3 months!
So just don’t buy it… yet.
3. Find inspiration on Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube
The best way to understand what you like about a watch is to see a lot of design. I mean A LOT of designs. Thousands of them – I mean it.
The easy way to find inspiration is to use Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube:
- On Instagram, search for a hashtag like #everydaywatch and “heart” all the design that you like for future reference. Then explore other tags (you’ll find them in the pictures description). Alternatively, check my Instagram account 😉
- On Pinterest, search for watches and get caught down the rabbit hole. Clicking on a design that you like will bring similar images – hence similar styles. Pin the ones that you like for future reference.
- On YouTube, search for some of the models that you like and check unboxings, first impressions, and reviews videos. And definitely join me on YouTube, I post videos every week!
Get a lot of designs in front of your eyes. You’ll undoubtedly find a design that you like more than the very first watch that you liked. It’s almost guaranteed!
4. Don’t get caught up in social media
On the previous point, I told you to find inspiration on social media. And now I’m telling you not to get caught in it? What wrong with me?
You see, the more you’re on social media, the more you’ll want to buy a watch quickly. Any watch. And that my friend is perfect recipe for disaster.
Some watches have a very large following, and you might want to be part of it too. Some examples (I’m sure you’ll hear about those sooner or later):
- Seiko SKX007
- Orient Bambino
- Squale 1521
- Rolex Submariner / Datejust / Explorer
- Tudor Black Bay
And the list goes on and on.
They all have their hardcore fans. Not a problem per se, these are great watches! But becoming a fan before falling in love with a watch for the right reasons (read on) will make you regret you purchased it.
So don’t get caught in the social media excitement.
5. Read threads on forums
Online forums are a goldmine when it comes to watches.
You’ll read about others people wins, fails, hopes and frustration. Because yes, you can (and you will) experience all of them during your watch collecting journey. It’s just part of the game.
Now, understanding patterns and QC (quality control) problems with a certain brand or model will help you know what to look for in a watch, the good deals, and the bad pieces.
You can either type the watch reference you’re looking for in Google – you’ll almost always find forums threads related to that watch in the results. Or you can go straight to WathUSeek forums and look around. My favorite forum on WUS is the affordable watches forum.
6. Learn to see and analyze the details
Some watches will make your heart skip a bit. You’ll find the rush of adrenaline and dopamine flowing through your veins and brain, and you’ll want to buy it on the spot.
With time, you’ll understand that the overall look and design of a watch is not everything. Details matter too. As a matter of fact, details are more important than the high-level design of a watch. So much so that if a watch has a detail that doesn’t do it for me, it’s out for good.
Start paying attention to:
- the shape and size of the case
- the curvature and shape of the lugs
- the size and finish of the bezel
- the complexity minutes track and chapter ring (or lack thereof)
- the shape and length of the hands
- the placement and execution of the day/date window
- the color, finish, and size of the dial
And the list goes on and on. When you find inspiration, try to find close up images of the watches that you like to better see the details.
And by all means, if a detail bothers you on a watch that you like, don’t buy it. You’ll only see that detail mock you when the watch is on your wrist, and you will have no other choice than to sell it!
7. Never check arbitrary boxes
As soon as you’ll watch videos on YouTube and read forums, you’ll hear people say that you *need* to have certain types of watches in your collection.
You just don’t.
You don’t need to have a dress watch, a beater watch, a chronograph, a white dial watch, a vintage piece, you name it. You just don’t need it. Because we simply don’t need to have any watch at all. So no dial color, style, type or brand is needed. There is simply no such thing.
Don’t make a list of watches you should have in your collection. Don’t try to check arbitrary boxes that don’t match your style and expectations. You’ll be glad you didn’t.
Which leads me to the next point…
8. Understand what you like in watches
This is the single most important aspect to understand about you. The only thing that matters is that you get watches that you like, end of story.
But design and style (even in the detail) are simply not enough.
- I found some watches very beautiful, only to realize that they were not practical or comfortable at all
- I found some watches useful, only to realize that they didn’t suit my style or convey the message that I wanted
These are the most important things to know about what you like in a watch:
- design and detail
Noticed the values is in there too?
Yes, watches convey your vision of life. And if a watch doesn’t convey the values that are dear to your heart, it’s just not worth wearing.
9. Size matters
Of course, you can always wear whatever you like. But please understand that size matters!
Wearing a watch that is too big for you will probably make you look like you’re trying too hard.
Conversely, wearing a watch that is too small for you just might make you appear shy or withdrawn.
So pick the right size for your wrist. Here are a few articles to help you with that:
10. Buy a watch for its design and features, not for its brand
Yes, you can buy a Rolex. Or whatever other brands available on Earth. But should you?
What’s the point of buying a watch from a certain brand if you don’t like the design or if it’s lacking an important feature that you use every day?
And don’t get me started about comfort. I totally overlooked this aspect in watches, yet today is the most important one for me. You wear a watch all day, it’d better be comfortable!
11. Know that your tastes will change over time
It’s just the way it is.
When I became a watch enthusiast, I couldn’t care less about dive watch. In fact, I hated them! I thought they were ugly and simplistic.
But boy, do I love them now! I think they are very bold and interesting pieces of engineering and design, and I couldn’t imagine my collection with at least one diver in it.
Also, I liked intricated, crowded dials… but not anymore.
And this will happen to you too. Your tastes will evolve.
So please understand that the watch that you just bought, you just won’t love it all that much in a few years. It’s just the way it is. And it’s okay!
12. Don’t buy expensive watches in your first 3 years…
Just because, as I wrote on the previous point: your tastes will change.
Buy a $200 and realize don’t like it 3 years later? Meh, it’s not a big deal. Even if you don’t manage to sell it, you only lost $200. Which of course you don’t want (who wants to lose money?), but it’s not the end of the world.
Get a brand new luxury watch for $10,000 and realize you don’t like it 3 years later? You’ll probably sell it (if you picked a model that most watch enthusiast like). But that will be for a 15-65% loss. Ouch, that hurts! Even the best case scenario will cost you $1,500!
Before committing to an expensive watch, learn to know what you like about watches and wait for your tastes to settle.
That takes at least 3 years.
13. … but don’t buy cheap watches, either
And by cheap, I mean badly made.
Affordable watches are okay! In fact, two of my all-time favorite pieces only cost me $75 each!
And you’ll be amazed, but some expensive watch can be cheap watches too. You can buy a watch for $2,000 and still have a poor quality. It’s just the way the (watch) world is, unfortunately.
So do your homework and learn how to spot a good value proposition and a bad one.
14. Don’t be a watch snob
At some point (early on, actually), you’ll hear and read people commenting negatively on a particular watch or brand. Yet when you look at said watch or brand, they are totally fine. So what’s the deal?
This is watch snobbery, and it kills the watch enthusiast world.
- There is nothing wrong with getting an Invicta Pro Diver instead of a Rolex Submariner, if you can’t afford one.
- The Patek Philippe Nautilus is no better than an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (learn to pronounce those brands the right way)
- The Seiko SKX007 is not the be all and end all of affordable dive watches
Don’t buy into quick judgment. Or into judgment, at all.
It will make you lose a lot of great opportunities. And it doesn’t look too good, too…
15. Never compromise
Sure, you want to find the best value proposition out there.
- if you don’t like a detail of the watch…
- if you buy out of reason and not out of passion…
- if you miss an important feature on your next timepiece…
- if you settle for less but you know you want that more expensive model…
…then just don’t buy the watch.
Never, ever compromise. You’ll regret it.
16. Get a classic everyday watch first
I don’t care what you like in watches: your first watch should be an everyday watch.
Now, the good thing is: what an everyday watch is to me is going to be very different from what it is to you. So no, we’re not going to end up wearing the same watch. That just won’t happen, relax.
So what’s an everyday watch?
It’s a watch that:
- you can wear at least 95% of the time, meaning you can wear it in the environments and situation you encounter the most in your life
- is small enough be comfortable all day long
- is large enough to be practical and enjoyable
- is on the simpler side of design
- has a more classic look, so that it can work as a dress watch when worn on a leather strap (but you don’t go to formal events all that often)
So don’t buy watches that:
- are fashion watches
- have complicated dials
- have loud designs or vivid colors
- have a proprietary bracelet or strap design (you won’t be able to change it down the line)
That’s it. From there one, you still have thousands of options available!
And remember: this is only true for your first watch! Afterward, feel free to explore more designs, types, and styles of watches.
Because even if your tastes evolve, nothing beats a classic, simple everyday watch.
My first watches were not everyday watches. So what should happen happened: I don’t own any of them anymore. Don’t do like me. 10 years from now, you’ll be glad you’ll still own the very first watch that started it all!
17. Don’t buy for another 3 months – seriously!
Got your first proper watch? Perfect! Now, just don’t buy ANYTHING for the next 3 months.
When you get started collecting watches, it’s easy to amass a lot of pieces in a very short period of time. Yet doing so will lead you to a watch collection disaster.
Watches that you don’t like after 2 months. Poor models that have very low resell value (if any). Pieces that don’t tell a great story together. And a lot of money lost in the process.
I’ve seen people on forums reporting buying 15 (luxury!) pieces in about 6 months… only to resell most of them because they don’t like them anymore. Ouch.
Don’t be that guy, you know better by now!
18. Never impulse buy
This one is pretty straightforward, right?
- If that watch at the tax-free shop in the airport makes your heart skip a beat, don’t buy it yet.
- If that vintage piece just showed up on eBay but you know nothing about its history, servicing costs and variations, don’t buy it yet.
Impulse buying is the worst that can happen to you. These pieces will bring you joy maybe for a few weeks, and then you’ll feel a lot of remorse and frustration for having succumbed to it.
Because guess what: a poor impulse purchase might lead you to yet another impulse purchase, just to offset the frustration of not having picked the right watch in the first place.
So how to stop this never-ending circle? By not beginning it in the first place. Just don’t impulse buy.
19. Buy used, if you can
Buying a used watch in mint condition that is still covered the manufacturer’s guarantee is the best purchase that you can make.
- You’ll have a better deal
- You know you have a watch and movement that are working. Problems mostly arise in the very first weeks of ownership
- If you don’t like the watch all that much (and as long as you picked a mainstream model), you can resell it without much loss – or sometimes with a profit!
Just make sure the watch you get is from a reputable seller that has a lot of positive feedbacks.
20. Try watches on your wrist if you can
And don’t buy them the first time you try them on.
Seeing a watch online is one thing. Seeing a watch in the metal and on your wrist is a very, very different story.
I loved the Orient Ray 2 in blue on the pictures… I really didn’t like the blue color of the dial in real life. So much so that I got rid of it and bought the black one instead. Fail.
I love the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date Automatic. It’s gorgeous. But I didn’t understand how big it was until it was shipped to me. I wear it, but if I had the chance to try it on before buying it, I would not have made the purchase.
So if you can, find an authorized dealer to try a watch on your wrist.
And when you’re done, walk away. Learn and think hard before pulling the trigger.
21. Did you find your next watch? Wait 3 months before buying it!
If you can only remember one piece of advice from this article, make it this one.
This is the reverse of impulse buy: slow buy.
I know that when I finally found a watch that I like – the design, details, features, price, … – I want it, and I want it now. I searched for so long, I can’t be wrong! Right?
Been there done that: you buy a watch only to find out 2 weeks later that a better alternative existed. Better design, better price, better brand, you name it. All of a sudden, your perfect watch does not look all that perfect anymore, does it?
So wait at least 3 months before buying any watch that you just discovered!
Not to mention that waiting to find the perfect watch, and then waiting to get it is way more enjoyable than the actual fact of getting it.
Opening that box is not as fun as you might think. Studies have actually concluded that there is way more excitement and joy during the phase of expectation of a reward than in the receiving of the reward itself.
So, after 2 or 3 months of discovering a watch, you don’t think about it all that much anymore (or found a better alternative), well… you just saved a lot of money and hassle of selling it.
(By the way, the day you discover a better alternative, you have to reset the counter!)
But if you still do, you’ll make sure that the watch you get, you really, really want it. And you’ll enjoy the wait even more!
22. Learn about the history behind the watches
I never really cared about some brands before. Jaeger-LeCoultre was one of them.
But that was until I learned about their history, achievements, and dedication to craftsmanship. Same goes for Rolex or Grand Seiko.
So guess what: a Jaeger-LeCoultre has now made it into my grail watches list!
These brands might speak to you, but eventually, you’ll find a brand that speaks to your heart and values. Not because of their designs. But because of their story. And you’ll want to own a piece from their collection.
The sooner you understand this, the sooner you can start saving up for that special piece. Because most of the time, we fall in love with brands that sell expensive watches. Life’s a b*tch like that!
23. Take it slow – it’s a lifelong marathon, not a race
You’re a watch addict for life. There’s no rush!
Enjoy the process of finding that perfect watch. Or that perfect one watch! Because having too many watches doesn’t work either.
Then enjoy the wait. This is where the fun and excitement really lies.
So take it slow. It’s worth it!
And because I trust you’re not going to buy a watch today nor tomorrow, why don’t you begin your journey by checking my favorite men’s watches? Thanks for reading!