Like a bespoke suit collection, a watch collection should build over time. No pun intended. If you listen to the advice of the wise, like Simone Crompton, like Hugo Jacomet, the advice that I am echoing here, you will understand the value of patience. A lot happens while we wait. My first bespoke suit will be mailed to me in the next month making nine months in production. I have met with my Napoli tailor three times now, twice in NYC and once here in Florida when I flew him down. Once I receive the suit and start wearing it, I will find out what works and what doesn’t. What I want changed or perhaps even a style make-over. I just won’t know for sure until I try it. That is the first reason for not ordering more than the first one. The second reason is that our taste and needs change over time. I will discuss this suit topic more after I have my suit because this was just a lead into building a watch collection which follows many of the same principles.
When looking at quality time pieces, the first thing I am looking for is in fact quality. As a novice I was generally led to believe that ‘Swiss Made’ meant better and then there was the brand and style considerations which get narrowed down as you search in your price range. My first Swiss made watch to start my real watch collection was the 42mm Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean (see my watches here).
This watch purchase was inspired by my cousin Richard Presley Smith III who also bought the same watch with an orange bezel. He has impeccable taste. I copied him, for the record. I love this watch and am impressed by its elegance, utility – dive watch, and dependability. As a young, active man, it was a perfect first watch and my cousin and I found amazing deals for these two watches.
Like anything of quality, this watch began to feed a desire to collect more, others. Years passed before I would purchase my next watch which was another Swiss made watch, my Zenith Elite Ultra Thin. I had never heard of this brand until a friend of mine mentioned it’s superlative quality to me. It is the perfect watch to wear with a suit or long sleeve dress shirt and it has the style of a classic Patek Philippe at a fraction of the cost. I love the look and feel of this watch but have had many mechanical problems with it and have had to send it back to the manufacturer twice now, with this last fix costing me $600 since the watch is now out of warranty which was surprisingly only one year. I am expecting my Zenith back today.
As I started to build a collection, whether knowingly at first, I should have really thought about what would make a nice, sensible variety. If you are not purchasing a watch because you know it will increase in value as an investment, then why have two similar watches? That is a great question that I didn’t ask myself when I purchased my third Swiss made watch, my Panerai Luminor Marina. It is basically the Italian brand Swiss made version of my Omega Planet Ocean. You can read more about what Italian brand Swiss made means on the history link of the official Panerai site. From a collection stand point, this purchase would have been considered extremely redundant except for the fact that Panerai watches are a great investment watch. They hold their value. Panerai and Rolex are the best at holding their value and it is for this reason that my jeweler recommended that I save everything that came with the Panerai watch including all of the packaging. I did. I also love this watch but it was a subconscious emotional purchase probably inspired by Sylvester Stallone or the like. Though I love this watch and wear it often, in general I would like to avoid these emotional purchases.
I am prone, however, to these emotional impulses. So far, without regret. I think of the guy who says, ‘Why shouldn’t I buy myself this expensive watch? My kids have their entire lives to go to college!’ That is funny only because I don’t have kids. Patek Phillipe promotes their expensive watches as an investment for your kids who probably already have college paid for and a trust fund.
I am happy to say that over the years since acquiring my three Swiss made watches I have used and appreciated them all amply. I very much dislike buying nice things and not using them. One of my mottos is ‘see how many nice things you can wear out’. Fortunately, unlike bespoke suits, nice watches don’t wear out. In the last six months I started to get that itch again. I wanted another watch. From a style perspective I really only had two watches. Two not only look alike, but they are both bulky and sporty. As a matter of fact their bulkiness has caused my shirt tailor to alter the cuff of my watch wrist larger. Knowing that Rolex has the greatest value retention, I started looking more closely at that brand. I wanted another slim watch to wear with suits, but the Rolex Cellini collection is not where the Rolex value is best held. That led me back to these bulky Rolex watches which I was going to justify somehow by getting it in gold. There is a great article on the debate between Rolex vs Omega from Money Inc. I didn’t realize that Omega actually predates Rolex. I actually prefer the quality of Omega over Rolex in spite of the Rolex brand and value recognition.
As I continued casually searching and researching I started being drawn to more vintage looking watches. I wanted something unique, subtle and slim enough to wear with a suit. Last week my wife and I were in New York on 5th Avenue and we started meandering in and out of watch boutiques. I had looked at all the Omega watches many times, but went in again anyways. And there it was sitting in a gorgeous glossy wood box in the glass case. I hadn’t seen it before and for good reason. I was looking at the new Omega Seamaster New York City Edition. Omega just came out with five city editions in limited quantities for the following five cities: Switzerland / Singapore / Paris / London and New York. They are all slightly different. I don’t know about the others, but the New York Edition has a cityscape of iconic New York locations on the caseback’s grey inner ring. I loved the New York edition sold exclusively in the New York Omega Boutique and it checked all the boxes. It is an Omega, which means high quality. It is vintage looking. It is thin. It will go perfectly with my suit. And it stands to be a great investment being one of only 399 made. Mine is number 069. I received it in the mail yesterday and am wearing it today. It is the most comfortable watch I have ever worn and it is beautiful while remaining subtle. Omega tossed in a nice grey strap to match the grey face.
Remember, as you build your watch collection over time, with patience, your taste and circumstances will change and hopefully your watches will reflect the journey you have taken. I leave you with Russell Crowe on his watch journey: