Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

The watch collector – a strange breed of people?

| By Frank Geelen | 4 min read |

Monochrome’s contributor Dr. Watch shares his personal ideas about the strange breed called watch aficionados. Be prepared and join the discussion!

A few years ago, quite a lot actually, Nike launched an intriguing campaign featuring a picture of an unattractive man who was clearly more worried about sports results than fashion. The tagline was something like “Runners are freaks; they don’t act like normal people, they don’t dress like normal people”. I won’t bother anyone with the dressing habits of the average watch fan, but when it comes to ‘not acting like normal people’, watch freaks are just as uhmmm… freaky as the average runner.

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I’ve been a watch nerd for my entire adult life (before the tender age of 18, I think people could be forgiven for wearing stuff, not just watches, that we can only regret later), but sometimes I’m still amazed about the fascinating examples of watch craze one can stumble across amongst aficionados. Maybe it’s nice to mention some examples, although I think we have the same breed of people in mind.

First of all, I REALLY don’t understand anything about the subtle art of collecting Rolex watches. OK, even a very simple human being like I consider myself to be, can understand that a watch that has a good reselling value, will always find a buyer and therefore also many other potential buyers who don’t have the cash (yet), but who like to discuss what’s so cool about all this. Therefore, I do understand that there’s more discussion feasible about a sought after Daytona in steel than about (no offense, owners) about the same Daytona in steel & gold with a funky mother of pearl dial and diamond indexes. There’s no accounting for tastes, but the rare and desired pieces are clearly the favorite topic everywhere. However, how can anyone distinguish all these ‘almost-the-same-hardly-unchanged-for-50-years-but-different-in-details-watches’ by means of some red font instead of white, the presence or lack of  lug-holes or even worse, just a serial number, is beyond my humble understanding.

Let alone things like discolored or even cracked (called spiderweb; see above) dials that are considered a definite NO for any other brand, but add to the charm of the right and only the right Rolex.

Patek collectors are also among the more mystifying creatures I’ve encountered in my life so far. It takes more study to know what Patek you should own and which you shouldn’t than the average brain surgeon would need, but the rewards are interesting. I guess I’ll wait for the time travel machine to be finished and go back a few decades when many of the current sweethearts of auction houses were still considered junk that wasn’t sellable to any sane person. I do like Patek and I think they do a great job when it comes to marketing. Not a problem, many people like to believe the watches are worth every cent, but they don’t get more beautiful, even though the prices are surging. But the really weird thing about Patek collectors is when they appear to have a pretty normal conversation, you’ll find out it sounds strange when you listen closely. Why? The reference numbers! There must be hundreds of numbers and somehow they don’t make any sense, there seems to be no logical classification, but this doesn’t bother the Patek aficionados. I’m open to explanations as much as on the other topics mentioned here.

Paneristi should of course be the grande finale where it comes to watch weirdos. Where to start? First of all, I never thought ANYTHING related to Sylvester Stallone would be interesting, let alone very appealing, to grown-ups. Secondly, I do understand that a different strap helps to tell the difference between all these very similar watches, but do we really need to make such an issue out of that? I read some people are willing to pay up to $800 for a strap and then I’m not even mentioning the thing that amazed me most: many Panerai collectors own an numerous straps. Made new or sometimes very old cowhides and all sorts of variants of animal skins. You name it, lizard, elephant skin, the tender leather of a horse’s ars, chicken leg leather, and much more. Panerai collectors just love straps made from old leather found in a ship’s wreck, that was on the bottom of the sea for any decades. I even read someone used leather of a Ferrari seat to make straps. Well, I rest my case…

Now on a slightly more friendly note, no offence again, everyone should feel free to spend his money where and how he wants; there would be a lot of brands that wouldn’t exist anymore these days if we all had the same view on what makes someone a Watch Idiot Savant.

3 responses

  1. So basically when you own a Patek with a cracked dial and a lot of straps you have the ultimate watch nut watch! Most watch collectors (read all) I know are indeed a bit crazy, but that is most certainly also the fun of it!

  2. Oh, how I can relate to this article. How I’d love a spiderweb dial Rolex. Thanks for a fun read. I’m off to find that Ferrari seat leather strap! 🙂

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