But that's not the focus of this article. Instead, I'm writing to address two extended questions from my friend's which I feel deserve further examination as they almost universally concern watch lovers of all orders: What counts as a "collection"? And how could we - mere mortals with finite financial resources - build a collection on a budget (relatively speaking that is)?
These questions are quite crucial as I genuinely believe when one gets to a point whereby his/her love for a certain tangible thing in life (e.g. watches, sneakers, cars) becomes so deep, he/she inevitably develops an irreversible sense of specificity about the objective in question. A case in point is that you can't make a suit lover wear a flannel suit in high summer because to him, it is neither weather-appropriate nor does the choice serve as a fair reflection of his knowledge in suiting. He'd opt for a lightweight, breathable linen suit instead. Which means he probably owns at least two suits, each with a specific purpose/ function.
The same goes for watches. Watch collectors acquire multiple timepieces not only because watches are fascinating creations, but also that each of them means something different to its owner and carries its unique functional or aesthetic purpose, however minute the nuances might be. In short, serious watch guys won't stop at just one watch. And when we truly feel the need to have multiple watches in our lives, what are the strategies we can live by? Shall we build something diverse? Or dedicate our resources to a certain specific family of watches that's close to our hearts?
And today I'm trying to give it a crack and offer my two cents on how to build a respectable watch collection with - to push the envelope here - less than HKD100,000.
So, What is a Collection?
I understand this is entirely subjective, but to borrow a quote from former United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity, "I know it when I see it". Now, without getting into the realm of philosophical discussion, let's explore the two main approaches of creating a watch collection and your options to do so with less than HKD100,000.
Approach #1: Collection with a Theme
Now, with only HKD100,000 at our disposal, we need to be smart with the type of thematic collection we want to pursue. Luckily, with a bit of digging and searching, it's not exceedingly hard to acquire, say, multiple Omegas, IWCs or Jaeger Le-Coultres especially in the vintage/ secondary market. A second-hand, non-limited edition Speedmaster could be had for between HKD10,000 and HKD40,000 depending on the condition and exact model, for instance. Another case in point is Vintage IWCs, which present exceptional value with their well built, finely finished movements (think caliber 83, 88 and 89 etc). A well preserved, vintage IWC dress watch in precious metal is usually priced in the range of HKD15,000 to HKD30,000 (like this one). While a Patek collection is definitely out of question given the budget being discussed here, it is more than doable to curate a respectable collection consisted of quality pieces - vintage or not - from other major maisons.
As mentioned, there are also other ways to go about building a thematic collection. The key here is to be creative and passionate about the theme you want to go after and above all, bargain hard! The watch market right now is borderline depressed, which really leaves potential buyers a lot of room for price negotiation. Start with a good core item (e.g. a Tudor Black Bay Black if you're looking for a Tudor collection) and slowly build around it. Identify the type of watch you have a strong affinity to, do your homework and with a bit of luck, you'd find yourself not far away from the "oh THAT's a collection" moment.
Approach #2: The "Swiss Knife" Approach
With HKD100,000 to spend, I'd suggest getting a good vintage dress watch in precious metal, an all-purpose steel watch on bracelet and a proper sports watch (e.g. a chronograph, a diver etc). That way you're absolutely covered for any possible occasion, from your best mate's wedding to a Sunday mountain hike. If I may run a little thought experiment here and have a go at assembly such collection:
Dress Watch: Vintage IWC Cal. 89 in 18k yellow gold (HKD15,000)
(My ideal two-watch collection for under HKD200,000: A.Lange & Söhne Saxonia 35mm and Rolex Daytona with black ceramic bezel)