Monday, 16 November 2015

Reasons Why I Am Into Watches

(By Ben, contributor @ UKHorologist)

Introduction

There are many items that people collect - cars, jewelry, stamps, art, wines, pens, antiques, cigars, even sneakers - and of course, watches and timepieces. The reasons why people collect are as diverse as the people themselves. However, almost all collectors have an undeniable passion in the items that they are collecting.

I have previously been and still am passionate about art and wine. However, somehow I do not seem overly enthusiastic about building an art or wine collection, perhaps partly due to the reasons that I will discuss here.

That was before I discovered the world of horology. In the short period of time that I have immersed myself in this new world, my passion for watches has already overtaken that for art or wine. I am much more excited to start building a watch collection.

Having said that, I must admit that I have not yet been properly exposed to other collectables such as stamps or antiques, and so I do not know enough to judge how much I will enjoy those. However, I seriously doubt that I will have the same level of interest in other collectables as I have in watches.

I am genuinely eager to venture deeper into the world of horology. It will be a magical journey. Through my writing, I hope to share with you what I experience and learn along the way.

Research & Discovery

The more I explore this new world and learn about horology, the more I am addicted to watches. It is like a driver cruising on a beautiful road with pleasant surprises every now and then - the more he drives, the more he wants to drive.

Part of the fun from acquiring a new piece, to me at least, lies in the time and effort taken to research about and to finally find that particular piece at a price that appeals to me. That is partly why I do not really want people to give me watches as gifts - it is also because the watch may not be what I like or fit into my collection.

Mechanics

Coming from a non-technical background, I am especially curious to study the mechanics of watches, so that I could better appreciate the construction of the pieces. Without knowledge about the engineering that goes on behind the scene, I feel that I would be missing out on a big part of the whole horology experience.

From what I have seen so far, the mechanics and engineering involved in creating a watch is as much a work of art as it is intricate science, beautifully balanced. And that is even before taking into account the aesthetics and exterior design of the watch, which is a display of yet another delicate relationship between art and science in horology.

Rationality & Objectiveness

Because mechanics and engineering play an important part in horology, especially in comparison to other collectables like art, the prices of watch pieces are more rational. As there are ascertainable levels of skills and amounts of time required from professionals to create each piece, there is a more objective correlation between the quality of a piece and its price.

As with art, history and provenance are also considered by collectors. However, in contrast with art, it is relatively unusual for a watch to be a one-off piece. Also, the quality and authenticity of a timepiece are comparatively easier to establish - perhaps even by the same manufacturer that made it! These all contribute towards the objectiveness of prices in relation to watches and timepieces.

Personal Expression

On the other hand, timepieces also retain the element of personal expression that art has, but perhaps in a subtler manner. Through choosing - and even customizing - a watch to wear or to acquire, one makes a personal choice and statement that demonstrate one’s taste or style, and show who one is. It can also convey a meaning or message, unique to that person, about a particular occasion or emotion, or even what one is thinking.

Although a collector may have a watch that he or she feels that best represents him or her, it is very rare that a single piece can be a perfect expression of an individual. In building a collection, a collector is able to develop a more complete picture, with multiple dimensions representing different sides of his or her personality, as well as a diversity of feelings.

Memories & Stories

If watches can be used for personal expression, then it makes sense that no two watches are the same. Even if they are mechanically identical, the memories and stories behind each watch is what makes each piece unique - not unlike how memories and stories can define the collector himself or herself as an individual.

There might be a story behind why a collector acquires a particular watch - for example to mark a special event or milestone in life. The process from determining which piece to look for, to finding it and finally adding it to one’s collection may also be an experience in itself.

As one could wear a watch almost all the time, and enthusiasts usually do, it could almost become one’s closest friend and companion in its literal sense, as it would be physically on one’s wrist. The watch would be with its owner every day, capturing memories and special moments.  

A collector who has more than one watch may choose to wear different pieces at different times. Then his or her watches collection will also be a collection of memories and stories - a collection where each piece has witnessed some part of the collector’s life, and together they become a legacy showing who the collector is, like a time capsule telling his or her life story.

But unlike with other collectables such as wine, this collection can still be appreciated in the future pretty much as it could be now, immortalizing the stories and memories of the collector, for these to be relived and retraced anytime and by anyone.

Versatility

For watches to be part of a collector’s history, capturing memories and stories, they must be able to be worn almost anywhere and at anytime. This means that the pieces in one’s collection, however large or small, ideally should together be sufficiently versatile so that at least one piece from it would be suited for any occasion or to match any outfit.

To that end, watches could also be considered as fashion accessories. Choosing which watch to wear for which occasion or with which outfit, at least to me, is part of the fun and experience. Also enjoyable is identifying which piece to add to one’s collection next, so that the collection as a whole could be more versatile.

An additional attraction about the world of watches is that not only the pieces are versatile, but horology and watch collecting are also as versatile. The history of timepieces are closely linked to and heavily influenced by many hobbies and professions - from divers and drivers, to pilots and soldiers, to engineers and astronauts.

Practicality

For a collectible to be versatile, it must also be practical. Ideally, it should serve a function that would be useful to the collector in his or her daily life. Although it could be argued that all collectibles can be used for decorative purposes depending on how they are displayed, most collectibles, apart from mainly art and antiques, have more than one use and form of enjoyment.

Other practicalities include the storage and display of the collectibles. Car collectors need large garages to park their cars, and while art collectors need lots of wall space to display their art. Wine collectors need temperature controlled fridges or cellars, while cigar collectors need specially conditioned humidors. And because of the more flashy nature, jewelry collectors need secure safes or storage.

In contrast, watches require little space to store or display, with almost no special conditions or infrastructure necessary. Most pieces are intended to be used and worn, so they are well prepared to be exposed to the outside world.

And while other collectibles need to be displayed at a fixed place, or at least in a display case, watches could be displayed on the collector’s wrist naturally at any time and place. Better still, the collector could choose to display a different piece every time, making his or her wrist a moving gallery that is able to rotate between pieces with utmost ease. 

I also believe that a collector should be able to fully enjoy and appreciate his collection. There is only so much wine or cigars that one could, or should, consume in a given time period. Moreover, once these have been consumed, the same item cannot be enjoyed and appreciated again in its same form. And if these have not been consumed, perishability will become an issue no matter how well the wine or cigars are stored.

Also, in this time and age, busy collectors are always on the move. If the collectible items have to be installed or stored at a fixed place, with not much use in everyday life, it means that the collector would not be able to enjoy it everywhere and all the time. With watches, the collector could at least wear one piece with him whenever and wherever he or she wants.

Community & Interactions

One of the main reasons why people collect and display items that they are passionate about is to share it with others, especially like-minded peers who can appreciate them.

Being a collector is similar to being part of an exclusive club or community. When a watch collector sees an interesting piece on the wrist of, or can have a good conversation on horology with, someone they just met, it feels like that there is an invisible bond and the other person would instantly seem closer to the collector than he or she otherwise would be.

As with most other collectibles, collectors of modern watches are usually able to interact with the house, and sometimes meet the person, that created the piece. Vintage watch collectors may even have the opportunity to get to know the persons who had previously collected each piece.

These kinds of direct interactions and engagements also contribute towards the whole experience of acquiring and collecting a piece.

Inspiration

Above all, horology and watch collecting has become a passion of mine and a source of inspiration. Being immersed in this world can take my mind off other endeavors and bring clarity to my thoughts.

For now, I have said to myself that I will only acquire a new watch if I have achieved a certain goal or milestone. Thinking about my next piece, and that I can start looking for it after achieving that goal or milestone, gives me motivation to focus on getting there. It is an aspiration, a dream even, that is attainable, but would still require me to chase after it.