There's a funny meme that went around the internet some weeks back about watch collecting. It attempts to illustrate the cycle of a typical watch collector's journey through the hobby, from simple beginnings to more and more complex collecting until, well, uh... let's just call it ‘the end of your watch collecting days.’ I'm not so sure that all eleven steps outlined in the meme are completely accurate, though, so let's dive into it.
Step 1: Seiko
Analysis: This makes sense. Seiko is easily the most accessible starting point for "serious" watch collecting. Take the SKX007, for example. At a retail price of about Php 10,000, it is universally praised as a superb and functional timepiece appreciated even by watch snobs. The Seiko catalog is littered with special colorways and limited editions. The SRP77x "Turtle" has dozens of variants all by itself, and collecting just this model is a popular pastime for Seiko fans.
Not all collectors get their start with Seiko, however. There are a few people who started with a Swiss watch, whether it was gifted or purchased for themselves. My own first purchase as a "watch collector" was a Sturmanskie — a Russian watch that cost about Php 15,000. That said, people like me are the minority.
Verdict: A great place to start. Maybe even the best place to start.
Accuracy Score: 95% accurate
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Step 2: Tag Heuer and Other ** Swiss
Anaysis: I take offense with the expletive attached to this step. I quite like Tag Heuer, especially their heritage lineups. But admittedly, there are certain Swiss brands that are associated with what was once coined as the "$30,000 Millionaire" in the United States — a person who tries to live like a rich man but can't afford the lifestyle. None of that is the watch's fault, however. BMWs used to be associated with the same crowd, but it didn't change the fact that they are excellent cars. Same with "affordable" Swiss brands like Tag Heuer, Oris, and Tissot — they do make good quality products. The only bad thing I can say about these brands is that most of their models don't retain much resale value, especially for the more budget-friendly quartz-powered ones, which might be a major consideration for many people.
That said, some people jump straight to the next category after coming from Seiko. The mid- to high-end Seikos already reach the pricetags of affordable Swiss, so in many cases the progression skips this step.
Verdict: Nothing wrong with budget-friendly Swiss watches, but it’s a step that you can skip over if you want.
Accuracy: 60% accurate (it would have been 70% accurate, but I'm knocking off 10% because of the uncalled-for profanity.)
Step 3: One Decent Swiss
Analysis: The first watch that comes to my mind when I hear the term "One Decent Swiss" would be an Omega Speedmaster of some sort. It's a versatile piece with rich history that's not crazy expensive. Alternatives could be the Tag Heuer heritage watches like the Autavia, a Tudor Black Bay, or maybe even a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. In many cases, these watches are purchased pre-owned but there's no shame in that.
Nowadays, though, you can substitute Swiss for a good German (Sinn), Japanese (Seiko), and American (Longines) and still get a lot of watch for the money.
Verdict: The term "decent" implies that the affordable Swiss watches are crap, which isn't necessarily the case. That said, you can get better long term value in the mid-to-upper price ranges.
Accuracy: 75% accurate
Step 4: Buy All Rolex!!!
Analysis: A lot of the wealthier novice watch collectors actually jump straight here. It's very common to see an almost exclusively Rolex-filled collection, and it's not hard to understand why. Yes, secondary market prices are ridiculous, but the resale values tend to support the unfortunate practice of overpricing. If you have the money, there's little incentive to skip over the newest hot Rolex. It helps also that — especially for the sports watch range — Rolex doesn't have any really bad models.
That said, Rolex is not the be-all and end-all brand. There have already been variants of this everything-one-brand movement. It's not hard to find richer enthusiasts owning multiple Patek Philippe Nautilus and Aquanaut variants. Not too long ago, it was also the case with Audemars Piguet Royal Oak collectors, and Panerai collectors. In recent times, Seiko and Grand Seiko have entered this space as well. The crown, however, rules supreme in this category.
Verdict: The enduring nature of all-Rolex ownership makes this one of the truest of all steps.
Accuracy: 98% accurate
Step 5: It's Vintage, Bitch!!!
Analysis: Imagine yourself with a lot of money in your bank account. Think of the amount that would be there. Then double it. And then add two zeroes at the end of the number. Now imagine there were not just dozens of you who had this sort of money, but hundreds of you, all with money to burn. You all can afford to buy multi-million-peso watches, and you're all on the VIP lists of all the major authorized dealers. How do you differentiate yourself from the next rich guy? Simple: buy something that would be extremely difficult to find, and something that requires you to explain why it's so special for the layman to understand. Not only are you now wearing something that not anyone can buy even if they can afford it, you then look like you're smarter than everyone else because you appreciate something that's not mainstream. That's the appeal of vintage to most people.
Granted, it doesn't have to be super expensive vintage. You can have very cool vintage watches that don't break the bank, like the genuinely awesome Seiko 6139-powered chronographs. For even greater cool factor, try to watch more obscure brands that have history, like Vulcain, Enicar, or Wittnaur.
Verdict: Not everyone gets here — the majority gets stuck in Step 4 in some way. But those who do progress definitely enter a vintage phase.
Step 6: Being a Smartass
Analysis: I actually think, for most people, the "Smartass" phase begins as soon as you label yourself a "watch collector."
Verdict: True for sure, but this should have been Step 1A.
Step 7: Self-Proclaimed Vintage Expert
Analysis: Similar to Step 6, this likely would have come as soon as you bought your first vintage watch.
Verdict: Merge with Step 4
Step 8: Realizing the Watch Industry Is Full Of **
Analysis: Watch collecting for many is a passion, an activity predominantly ruled over by the heart and not the head. On the other hand, watch companies are just that — companies. Their sole purpose is to take your money, in exchange for their products, of course. That conflict can never truly be resolved, and the effect tends to be a waning of one's want and interest in fine timepieces (or crappy timepieces - we don't judge here).
Verdict: If you've gotten this far in your horological interest, you've probably felt this way about the watch industry in some form. Unless of course you're in it to make money, in which case there's not a lot of conflict.
Step 9: "Been There"
Analysis: This typically comes immediately after Step 8. It's hard to get excited for anything anymore. Another special edition colorway? Whoop-dee-damn-do! A re-issue of a vintage favorite? Great, sure, whatever. Another technological first because the movement has one more cog making it the smoothest operating movement ever? Wake me up when they've added ten more cogs. I'm tired of watching re-booted oldies.
Verdict: "Whoop-dee-damn-do" might be the silliest word-thing I've ever written into an article, and I put it in there to make sure you're all still reading.
Step 10: Settle With "The One"
Analysis: AW HELL NAW. Just one? One??? Not possible. Nope. It's impossible for a watch lover to have just one, single, solitary watch. That said, it is common for collectors to "consolidate," which is a fancy way of saying you're selling several watches to fund a more expensive one.
My own theory is that you need at least three timepieces in your life at any given time. The first is a watch that you can bang up while doing outdoorsy or sporty stuff, which is also what you wear when you don't want to have to worry about being mugged. The second is a sort of casual piece like a luxury sports watch that will fit in a boardroom setting as well as in a mall. The third is your this-makes-me-feel-good piece, and it can be anything — simple, loud, cheap, exorbitantly-priced — anything. It's the one watch you can't live without, but it might be something that you can't wear in every situation. Hmm... on second thought, maybe this is what they meant about "The One."
Verdict: I'm not convinced everyone can narrow their watch collection down to just one, but the act of downsizing definitely happens quite often.
Step 11: Dead