Inside A Collector’s Mind: What Drives Us To Collect Watches?

15 Mar, 2024 Chat 0
Inside A Collector’s Mind: What Drives Us To Collect Watches?

Luxury watches captivate collectors, driving them to scour the globe for rare and unique timepieces. The thrill of the hunt, the beauty of complex mechanisms, the tangible connection to the past this is what fuels the enthusiasm for fine watches. As our collections grow, so does our sense of achievement. Luxury timepieces enchant and inspire, driving watch collectors ever onward in their journey to behold another beauty and give it a home in their collection.

These are all feelings that we are very well familiar with. The obsession has spared none, from John Mayer, Orlando Bloom and Jay-Z to Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan, who are all proud owners of a unique collection of luxury watches. But what truly drives this passion for collecting timepieces? It is not simply materialism or expensive trophies. It goes deep into a person’s emotions, compelling them to add another rare watch to their collection. And it is this psychological aspect of collecting watches that we are exploring.

The Allure Of Acquiring Rare Pieces

When it comes to creating a collection, collectors are often interested in pieces from an era gone by or limited edition pieces. So, acquiring such pieces gives the satisfaction of owning a rare piece that few others have. This is especially likely if the timepiece is the result of a special event or collaboration, making the watch a prized possession and a souvenir. This is evident from the fact that the two most expensive watches sold in auction are rare and vintage pieces – the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime crafted to commemorate the maison’s 175th anniversary and the Patek Philippe 1933 Henry Graves Supercomplication pocket watch, respectively.

Patek Philippe watches
Patek Philippe vintage pocket watch
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime and Patek Philippe 1933 Henry Graves pocket watch are two of the most expensive and rare watches ever sold at auction

Investment Purposes

While not every collector buys solely for investment, the potential for watches to gain value over time is part of the appeal. Models that have increased in price year over year are seen as a safe bet. Brands whose pre-owned models can sell for double or triple retail pricing are smart money. Even vintage watches from heritage brands can grow exponentially in valuation. As per the latest study on the Swiss Watch industry released by Deloitte in 2023, it was found that even when brands take a long time to come out with new pieces, 55% of the brands reported saying that customers are willing to wait due to them being a long-term investment, with 45% stating that to be because the waiting increases the resale value of the pieces (Deloitte, 2023).

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Watch collectors
Most Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches see rapid price development, which continues to rise even if the model gets discontinued
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Affinity To A Brand

Watch collectors often have a special attachment to certain brands based on their heritage, values, and identity. For example, Omega enthusiasts appreciate its pioneering role in space exploration and timekeeping. At the same time, Breitling fans are drawn to its aviation spirit, and admirers of Jacob & Co. love the watches for their unique design and appearance.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch
watch collectors
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, worn during history’s first moon landing, is a highly sough-after watch.

Wearing a watch from a brand you identify provides a meaningful connection. The brand’s legacy and image can also mirror something within the collector’s personality or passions. Accordingly, they will take pride in being associated with the brand’s ethos. In this way, their collection becomes an extension of how they see themselves. It can also be a way to show their loyalty to the brand, with each new piece added to their collection feeling more in touch with the value and essence of the maison.

Passion For Engineering And Mechanics

Armin Strom watches
Arnold & Son watches
Haute horlogerie ateliers, like Armin Strom and Arnold & Son are well-appreciated by collectors who seek fine mechanical timepieces and have a passion for engineering

For some collectors, the complexity of watch movements and mechanics holds special intrigue. They appreciate the intricate engineering, precision, and sophistication inside the watch. This is echoed in the sentiments of the former product and development manager of Girard-Perregaux, Stefano Macaluso, who stated that collecting a watch with a complex mechanism is much like collecting powerful automotives. “You don’t need 12 cylinders to go fast, and you don’t need a minute repeater to tell the time. But you take pleasure in knowing that it is a sophisticated, mechanical top achievement,” Macaluso stated.

You don’t need 12 cylinders to go fast, and you don’t need a minute repeater to tell the time. But you take pleasure in knowing that it is a sophisticated, mechanical top achievement

Stefano Macaluso, Product and Development Manager of Girard-Perregaux—

This can be considered especially true for haute horlogerie ateliers, like Armin Strom, Arnold & Son, and more. These brands are renowned for their groundbreaking innovations and incredible display of intricate mechanisms. Such unique timepieces that bare open their complexities are much appreciated and are passionately collected by watch enthusiasts. 

Reflection Of Their Personality

Oris Aquis watches
Oris's collaboration with Billion Oyster Project; the maison's sustainability efforts strike a chord with its patrons. (Image courtesy: Oris)

Another reason for collectors collecting premium and luxury watches is how well they complement the personal brand and personality of the person. The watches one chooses to collect ultimately serve as an outlet for personal expression. For example, brands like Oris and IWC boast loyal patrons who identify well with their efforts towards sustainability. Also, people with an understated taste tend to be inclined towards German brands, like Junghans, Meistersinger, and more. 

Celebrity Endorsements Or Artefacts

James Bond in the Omega watch
Omega Seamaster Diver 300M
The fans affiliate themselves with James Bond vicariously through the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 edition

Brands choose celebrities to endorse their watches to attract new patrons in the form of fans of these popular personalities. Accordingly, it is not surprising that some people buy watches just as a way to show their appreciation and love for the celebrity endorsing them.

Jaeger-LeCoultre watches for men
watch collectors
Robert Downey Jr.'s go-to watch brand for award ceremonies — Jaeger-LeCoultre

Similarly, in the cases of auctions of timepieces worn by celebrities, collectors may also want to acquire the piece as a memento of their love for the brand ambassador. Models famously worn by celebrities and public figures become elevated in the collector’s mind. These watches represent far more than fine watchmaking. They become akin to historical pieces and become treasured artefacts, worthy of occupying a coveted space in their collection.

The Thrill Of Chase

It is not uncommon for watch collectors to obsess over a specific model of a watch, with them being willing to go to any lengths to get their hands on it. And for dedicated collectors, this pursuit of watches can become addictively thrilling in itself. The research, networking, and bidding wars required to track down an elusive piece, including globetrotting, provide an adrenaline rush. Locating the perfect watch at auction or spotting a vintage gem elicits childlike euphoria. As such, collectors love the adrenaline rush this chase gives them.

Richard Mille watches
Richard Mille is known to produce limited pieces of their watches making them a favourite among the collectors

For collectors, a watch is not just an instrument to tell time. It is an artefact that needs to be cherished, making the need for collecting watches akin to obsession, one that makes them feel alive and accomplished. And with pre-owned timepieces getting much attention recently, the path to collecting them has become even more affordable and efficient. As time marches on, so will the passions of watch collectors worldwide. As technology provides more possibilities, yesterday’s vintage gems integrate with tomorrow’s visionary innovations into curated collections as unique as the collectors themselves.


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