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Watch Collecting Knowledge

For any would be collector, there are some handy understandings that can ease their entry into the world of watch collectors. In future articles, I will discuss how you can try not to lose money or overspend as a collector. So now I'd like to explain a few things about collecting that don't involve making or losing money on a watch.

One consideration for the new collector is to collect watches that you already know something about. This is simpler than studying micro-mechanics, in fact, watch mechanics should be less important to new collectors than the human factors. Three examples of collecting what you know something about include: swimmer/divers might want to research watch collecting by asking sellers about diver's watches, astronomer hobbyists might want to investigate watches with lunar or planetary indicators and sports fans might check out sports related watches. These three examples help to illustrate the way a collector could begin watch collecting by investigating watches having a ?raison d?etre? they already understand because they know the environment that inspired the creation of these watches.

Learning the terminology surrounding watch collecting can seem a daunting task. Escapements, wolf's teeth and pinions might seem like the kind of applied physics terminology that most of us try to avoid (for example I have tried to avoid learning the droplet size that my car's fuel injectors produce). But if we ease into watch collecting through some endeavor we already know a bit about, the world of horology won?t seem so intimidating. So let me sum up by saying that if you already know something about diving, then you probably already know some things about diver's watches. Likewise if you know something about a sport like soccer/football then you could also know something about collectible sports watches, etc. Beginning a collection by acquiring watches that allow you to use the knowledge you start with, will help you to pick up the rest of the horological knowledge that you should have.

A second option when beginning collecting is to buy a collectible watch that you are certain you will wear. Getting some use out of a watch is always important and educational. One of my first collectibles was a Zodiac Kingline automatic Chronometer with a 36000vph Grade 88 movement. This watch was interesting and I wore it almost every day for 3 years. It was good for me that one of the first 10 watches I collected was a high grade watch that I could wear every day. I recommend the same to all of you.

Equally as important, these two recommendations will help you to make sure that the first purchases of watches for your collection are watches that you won't feel bad about later on. A few bad purchases can discourage any new collector (although seasoned collectors often take bad purchases in stride because the laws of averages suggest that if you buy dozens of watches, at least one or two will be "lemons"). I believe that all watch collectors should be forearmed with as much knowledge as possible but there are different ways to know everything it would help one to know. Sometimes knowing a group of people with broad watch collecting knowledge is as good as trying to know everything on one?s own.

There are two ways to do this. One way is to window shop at various watch sellers' locations. Estate watch sellers, flea market watch sellers, pawn shops and other retailers of vintage watches all know things about watches that they can explain to new collectors. I'm not suggesting that you should take valuable time away from a retailer engaged in business, but if a seller is not busy, ask questions about watches in order to learn. You may find a seller who wants to encourage hobbyists by selling them something at a very fair price (perhaps because it has been in their inventory for too long), or perhaps a helpful seller will recommend another seller who might have watches of the type you want in a price range you can afford. With sellers the best approach is to be honest, and expect honesty in return. Don't boast about how much money you want to spend, don't ask retailers what they paid for their watches, and please don?t ever ask what the "best" watch is (although you might ask sellers what watches or brands are their personal favorites). Just do the kind of research that any thoughtful shopper should do before any purchase and if nothing else, you will find out who the consumer oriented sellers are.

If a retailer is busy then perhaps you can discretely stand by while salespeople give descriptions and explanations about watches that interest you. Oftentimes a busy salesman showing me a watch or catalogue has offered to help another buyer at the same time. Sometimes buyers have asked me my opinion while I was at a watch counter window shopping or looking at a catalogue. If the salesman or the potential buyer seem "crowded" by your presence then back off. You can always be honest about your interest by saying, "I don't mean to intrude but I had an interest in that type of watch myself." If you explain that you want an education, the buyer and seller might not be unhappy about your interest. Please allow a buyer and seller privacy in a retail store when financial considerations are being discussed because this becomes rather personal. Always thank both parties for letting you listen in. Never ask questions in this situation, but simply observe from a distance. A reputable seller will want to show off their integrity and consumer orientation. But if the buyer considers your attention an intrusion then apologize and move away. Being interested in watches is not a mistake, but being invasive always is.

The second way to advance one?s understanding of watch collecting is to make purchases in group situations. This can be done if you join a watch club that has marts at their meetings (like most NAWCC meetings), or if you and a few watch buying buddies go watch shopping together. At a club mart it is perfectly acceptable for a buyer to ask the opinion of seller "B" about an interesting item being offered by seller "A". The clubby atmosphere requires that all the buyers and sellers accept the opinions, gawking and second-guessing that a group setting will encourage. Try not to disparage either the items or the sellers because this won't help your reputation and future acquisition of knowledge. Also remember that there may only be a few "impartial" opinions being offered when you ask any group what they think about a certain watch. Don?t hesitate to listen in when one seller is buying something from another seller in a club setting. You might want to sell some of your watches in the future and selling terminology is almost as important as horological terminology to a collector.

When shopping in groups please set ground rules amongst your group so you can avoid having someone in your group create a bad impression for YOU. These same sellers could have something you want in the future. If one person in a group is being a nuisance the seller might dislike everyone in the group. On the other hand the value of shopping in a group is twofold. If you know something about diver's watches but nothing about military watches and you have friends who know allot about military watches and nothing about diver's watches, then sharing knowledge on a group shopping trip allows everyone in your group to educate everyone else in a real world setting. Group shopping trips also allow you to rate each seller in a more objective way, and it also allows friends to rate how you all approached a purchase as buyers. This is the one situation that encourages the group members to listen in on the financial terms of a prospective sale to one of them.

Of course it is assumed that everyone in the group will enjoy discussing everything you?ve seen, heard and bought on an outing. Group shopping will give new collectors more confidence when they return to a retailer to buy something. It also helps new collectors to make a list of "questions to ask" a retailer when the deal for a specific watch is ready to be struck. I will cover general terms and provisions that should be listed in writing when purchasing in a future article, but no general list will cover every situation and so shopping with other new collectors (or an experienced collector if you stay out of the way) can be of great assistance when deciding what terms to discuss when buying a particular watch.

It is always helpful to increase your horological and collecting knowledge by having pleasant discussions with retailers and other shoppers who visit the same retailers. It is also good to discuss watch buying with club members or by listening in on watch ?deals? made at club marts. Whatever you do, be pleasant and courteous. Help yourself in the future by the impression you make as a novice. Establish a reputation for honesty and attention to detail as soon as possible. And always try to learn as much as you can about the watches you want to collect, the sellers who sell those watches and your own strengths and weaknesses as a purchaser of watches. Other articles for new watch collectors may be found at Good luck and shop carefully.

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