Watch collecting thoughts & trends – January 2015

Every now and then I’ll be sharing some thoughts and ramblings on watch collecting and trading. Most likely these will be completely random – there is no big story or agenda. No pictures either.

Modern watches and the search for in-house (so-called manufacture) movements

In the last decade -or even two- there has been an increasingly high focus on in-house movements – something that is highly praised and seen as a big plus. I don’t necessarily share these sentiments to say the least. Why?

I DON’T LIKE THE BIG COSTS AND EVEN BIGGER WAITS OF REPAIRS! I don’t want to send in my watches to the manufacturer. I love the fact that I can bring in my watches to my local and trusted watchmaker, who is able to service them for a decent price in a reasonable amount of time. Period. And;

Although the majority of my collection nowadays consists of modern watches -a perk of the job-, my main focus and area of expertise for the last decade has always been vintage watches. In times-not-that-long-ago, this whole manufacture thing never was this big a deal. In fact, I doubt there is any vintage watch completely made in-house. Établissage was the way to go – even for the most respected of brands, and there was nothing wrong with it. A case by a well-respected case manufacturer, a dial by a top-quality dial maker and an ébauche whether or not finished or altered to individual specs – these are the parts that make up some of the highest-valued timepieces of recent auctions.

Strap and bracelet trends

I have always been game when it comes to changing straps. It is a fun way to bring a bit of your own personality to a watch. The market for straps has been booming in the last years, which to me surely is a good thing. Remember when it was hard to find a NATO strap of decent quality, or with an usual pattern like camo? Not any more. Back in the day I had to go to old-fashioned jewellers or department stores to get perlon-type straps, as those were the only one still stocking them. How time flies. And the fun we had – I vividly remember my old 1675 Concorde with a NATO strap with solid gold rings -custom made- and a dear friend rocking his 3970P on NATO. But back to trends;

We’ve seen the NATO straps. These will hold. Cheap and fun. I wouldn’t hesitate to put them on a Datograph or the aforementioned 3970P – those of you who shiver at the thought should grow a sense of humour and google sprezzatura.

As far as leather is concerned, we’ve seen the big, bad, Panerai-type straps. Note: seven layers of leather or thick padding are over. These are done with. Key nowadays are thinness, comfort, elegance and nonchalance. No tapering is no-go; the taper should preferably even be vintage style with a 4mm drop. Exotic hides will be back in focus, notably teju lizard and ostrich.

A quick mention of SuiGeneric – pay attention to them. The straps by these guys bring a irresistible bit of fun. Polarisation guaranteed, as are conversations. Don’t like them? Why so serious?

Perlon: perhaps overplayed by the hipster Instagram crowd? They are still fun and cheap though. I haven’t quite made up my mind on these. Things used to be way more fun when something like this would be like a discovery – now trends and overexposure are everywhere. Sigh.

Now for bracelets. Straight-ends, no flush-fit, are the way to go for vintage watches. This is serious guys. JB Champion, Gay Freres et cetera – snag’em and rock’em. In the words of Drake – thank me later.

The annual calendar trend

It is rumoured by some that the annual calendar complication is the new black. I am however not so sure. I have yet to see one that will prove to be a big hit. The complication is admirable and cost-friendly, but somehow it lacks the X-factor – have you ever see anyone listing one in their list of grails? There is enough to be said for them, but to most they will continue to feel like a near-hit.

The Omega Speedmaster

Hardly a secret to most I’d say, but the Speedmaster’s status is rising. Knowledge is key in collecting – one simply can not appreciate subtle differences and rarity without knowing of it. Great work on this subject was done by the late Chuck Maddox and in the past we’ve seen books like The Omega Saga, Omega Sports Watches and The Master of Omega. Then there was OmegaMania and now all has culminated in the superb Moonwatch Only. With prices of Rolex rising to unobtainable levels, the Speedmaster will prove to be a superb alternative to many collectors, with prices rising accordingly. Railmasters, Seamasters and Flightmasters will be slipstreaming, although short production runs and fewer distinguishable versions make them somewhat less appealing – with a handful of examples you will have covered near all bases with very little to be desired.

The quest for perfect quality

Sure. Unpolished cases and perfect dials are what to look for. These are the ones making headlines on Hodinkee, Instagram, VRF or wherever. But most of us have a budget that is limited. There are ends to our pockets. The focus on perfect examples is unrealistic at best. One should always strive to get the best example obtainable within ones budget, but don’t be fooled by the watches highlighted on your favourite blog or social media outlet – these are in the spotlight for a reason. They are the best of the best. Set realistic goals.

Vintage watch collecting in general

I’ve said it in the above – the prices for (sports) Rolex are getting out of hand. This is not a bad thing per se, but to most of us this has been the main area of focus for years, if not decades. The wealthy crowd is pushing us long-term collectors out of the market. But hey, what can we do? Look for alternatives. The Speedmaster, as mentioned, is one of them. But we’ll see other brands and models gaining attention of an audience wider than their long-time cognoscenti – including among many others Longines, Movado, Eberhard, Enicar and Zenith. Watches by lesser-known names, but featuring cases by recognized case makers and high-quality movements will be in focus as well. Keep an open mind and look for quality!

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