In the interest of enlarging the discussion, TimeScapeUSA will continue to host occasional interviews with members of the local watch enthusiast community. I know Brian through #REDBARMSP and as a client interested in customizing his private pieces. We exchanged a few notes by email regarding where he fits in the ecology of enthusiasts, and his perspective may surprise you.
Collectors accumulate – I am a watch enthusiast. I accumulate watch experiences and occasionally short-term debt. I thoroughly and completely enjoy watches, and yes, plan my watch and strap combination the night before I wear it. My watch strap, belt and shoes almost always match.
A better category for me is as a self-proclaimed watch slut…let me explain.
I do not commit to any one watch, but keep 2-3 slots open and rotate them as needed. I learn about my next conquest, hunt, acquire, enjoy and then let them go. I love the challenges of meeting the next watch need.
I really started enjoying watches 3 years ago: joining the watch forums, attending local events, dabbling in watch case and bracelet refinishing and pairing my watches with custom-made leather straps. If I could be classified as a collector it would be of watch straps. I love to collaborate with strap makers on the design of my custom watch straps, and they help me diversify the small rotation I keep.
Maybe you could say a little about what you have right now and what you're looking for.
I have a set watch compass I follow:
I have cycled through around 60 watches in the past three years, with several repeats. The Omega Seamaster has been in my possession six times (3 blue and 3 black). Omega and Breitling are my top brands, with a peppering of Rolex, Tudor, Tag Heuer, Sinn and Hamilton.
At that rate you must be making some kind of profit.
I wouldn’t classify myself as a flipper. I try to remain neutral in my watch buying and selling, and rarely make money. To be honest, making money is not my goal. Really, I just try to minimize my losses and acknowledge that I’m out a slight rental charge and postage when I sell.
It seems like you've mapped out pretty specific terrain for acquisition, but I'm curious about one comment that may provoke discussion. When you specify “Top Brands Only,” what do you mean? What makes a Top Brand?
In my opinion, a Top Brand is one of the proven watch companies. Like any other business segment many companies can make a nice product, but will be left behind for different reasons. Boutique brands come out each year, but to me they are nothing more than an empty shell. A watch isn't just the timepiece; it's the history, tradition, and branding. Many companies can make a solidly engineered product...that has no soul. You want my watch money, you need to be proven.
A lot of enthusiasts fall into this kind of language in talking about watches they're really excited about -- a watch having a "soul" or something else that seems like more than the sum of its parts. Could you talk about a specific example you've run across?
There is list of watches that just got everything right: Breitling Navitimer, Rolex Submariner, Rolex Datejust, JLC Reverso, Cartier Tank, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, AP Royal Oak, Omega Speedmaster Professional and some others where the prices get into a whole other level.
For a watch to "speak" to someone, that is a personal thing and you just know it when it's on your wrist.
It's clear that you get a lot of enjoyment using and customizing your pieces. Other collectors have different acquisition priorities – they consider watches as a long-term investment, or they are anxious to compile a diverse collection with more watches than they could possibly wear. Please say something about how you see yourself in the community of enthusiasts.
Even though watches allow me to be irrational, I can't see myself owning tens if not hundreds of thousands in watches – I don't see the point. I like to wear my watches, I want to enjoy them. Why buy a watch, put it in a safe for years, and wait for it to increase in value? This has absolutely no appeal to me.
That said, I'm also the watch enthusiast that has bought and sold over 60 watches in 3 years. I am reducing this insane pace because (if I'm completely honest with myself) the occasional sale losses, shipping, and fees add up.
But watches are a personal, emotional endeavor. If someone wants to buy a NOS vintage watch and never wear it, by all means go for it! Just bring the rest of us a photo. If you want to buy that "one watch" and put all your money into a single piece, make it a nice one – and let us try it on! I'll keep catching and releasing (at a much slower pace), and I'll bring photos of the watch and strap match-ups to the next event.