Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors Feature Articles

It might be reasonable to assume that the “watch collector” is a relatively recent breed of timepiece consumer. These are the types of people who make it a point to own a variety of watches, often focusing on the emotional versus the mere practical utility of each. The watch collectors of today are indeed a well-established and diverse community, and virtually every level and size of watch collection is certainly represented among aBlogtoWatch readers. While new technology has made mechanical watches practically obsolete it ironically also allowed watch collecting to thrive more than at any time in its history. But, while of course it wasn't always this way, watch collecting is nothing new.

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors Feature Articles

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors Feature Articles
Used with permission. Image Credit: https://www.fratellowatches.com/

One good reason to assume that watch collectors (on a mass level) are a more recent phenomenon is a relative lack of information to suggest that prior to the 1980s there was any type of organization among watch collectors. It was not until this time that I believe watch enthusiast magazines and books began to be published. Moreover, watch brands themselves were quite disorganized with their production and client records until rather recently as well, which suggests that they really didn’t need to organize events, meetings, or mailings to “regular buyers.”

So are people who seek out information about new watches and want to create a varied assortment of models available to them a new thing? No. In fact, I would suggest that watch collectors have existed from the very beginning of watch ownership. This becomes apparent if one mentally time travels back to the earliest times when portable timekeeping devices began to first emerge in the 15th century.

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors Feature Articles
Painting by Maso da San Friano circa 1560 thought to be of Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Florence. It is believed to be "the world's oldest painting to feature an image of a watch," according to the BBC.

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors Feature Articles

What caused me to ponder this concept was a recent trip the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. It wasn’t my first time there, but I realized that it had been at least a few years since my last trip. It is really a place I need to return to regularly since there are so many impressive objects to consider. In fact, I recommend the same to anyone else who finds themselves in Geneva once in a while and who appreciates timepieces. In addition to many important Patek Philippe timepieces, the more historic collection of items at the Patek Philippe museum include many of the most impressive timekeeping objects found anywhere in the world. It is really a place that can't be missed for anyone who wants to know why timepieces are a big deal.

One of the most interesting things you can observe at the Patek Philippe museum is the evolution of pocket watches. Materials, designs, and mechanisms slowly evolved over a several hundred year period to reflect advances in technology, tools, as well as horological expertise. Early pocket watch performance paled in comparison to some of the late 19th century masterpieces.

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors Feature Articles
Patek Philippe pocket watch images from our recent visit to the Patek Philippe Watches Grand Exhibition 2017 In New York City here.

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors Feature Articles

One pocket watch I saw from the 17th century included two interesting tools in addition to the timekeeping mechanism itself. Open up the case back and you'll see a small compass as well as a foldout sundial. The reason for these tools being there was obvious, as the user needed to regularly reset the time on the pocket watch since devices at that time were lucky to be accurate to 30 minutes or an hour per day. A sundial was the reference clock...

Why There Have Always Been Watch Collectors Feature Articles

So consider that for 100 - 200 years the people wealthy enough to purchase portable clocks also needed to deal with the fact that these early pocket watches were not particularly accurate (the development of the minute hand was a big deal!) and that they needed to be reset frequently - often every single day - using the sun. On top of that, imagine how often early pocket watches - and clocks, for that matter - simply stopped working.

  • I have to wonder if setting one’s pocket watch was done more often by the local tower clock as opposed to relying on a sundial (which of course is great if you are not in a town with a clock).

    And I wonder if then, as now, if people who had multiple watches did so simply because they could afford them and wanted them (as opposed to having to have a spare). You don’t tend to hear stories about inheriting Grandpa’s back-up watch.

    So I think a lot of people only had one. Wealthy collectors are another matter. But I like the logic – honey, I had to buy two Patek Grand Master Chimes in case one of them needs service.

    • Moonraker

      Grandpa’s sidepiece?

      • SuperStrapper

        You mean weekend grandma?

        • Phil leavell

          No aunt Edna !

    • IanE

      ‘relying on a sundial (which of course is great if you are not in a town with a clock)’ – often not a useable strategy in Britain!

    • BNABOD

      My late grand father had about 6 last time I was there. One was stolen (his dad’s gold pocket watch). I think in general the reason folks have, had more than one was simply because they inherited them rather than collect them. At least that is the case in my family.

    • Phil leavell

      If you get the second Grandmaster and don’t end up sleeping on the sofa or worse. Please write a book an autograph for me

      • Sadly, that was just a hypothetical example…

        • Phil leavell

          Oh yes but we can still dream. But tell me would not be worth a week on the sofa LOL

  • SuperStrapper

    Fun article. For now anyway, as im sure it’ll get derided and admonished for no good reason soon enough.

    Inassume there have been collector’s for most things as long as they have been around, as collecting and appreciation is just part of human nature. Thag had the sharpest and shiniest rocks in his cave, Oog was always jealous. Car racing was likely innovated as soon as there were 2 cars that existed in the same place at the same time. Feathers, bones, tools, beads, precious stones and gems have been found in ‘collections’ that extend beyond reason of ceremony in living and burial sites of ancient civilisations around the globe for as long as they have been discovered.

    Today we see collecting without practical reason all the time. And not just beanie babies or empty coke cans: I know a guy that has over 1200 knives of all kinds, a very practical item. But he’s never used one of them. I personally have a (modest) collection of about 40 rifles, but I shoot them and reload for them. In one of my bigger gun forums there is a member that has an enormous collection of guns, every single one of them deactivated. Bizarre, these humans. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e029f9d242fc8af6d79b5da93a38e5f501c8134b2ee139b26f9cc2fe71226544.jpg

    • proudAmerican702

      I’ve been studying that photo for hours…still can’t find Waldo. 😉

      • SuperStrapper

        Keep looking…

  • Marius

    BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS!! BREAKING NEWS!!!

    After conducting a five-year research, ABTW in collaboration with Hodinkee and Judge Judy made this epochal discovery:

    Apparently, the watch industry and watch collectors existed BEFORE THE APPEARANCE OF WATCH BLOGS! That’s simply astonishing, and this is what the savants conducting this research had to say:

    Lord Chayton Grosvenor III, editor-in-chief of ABTW: “I’m still shocked, and I’m still trying to pick up the pieces! I would have never imagined that watches were produced before the rise of watch blogs. How did watch brands manage to exist without Hodinkee and the rest?!”

    John Meyer Lansky, editor-in-chief of Hodinkee: “I still can’t believe that this is true! I mean, in the absence of the Hodinkee Collectors Summit, how did these individuals know what timepieces to collect? And how did brands manage to sell limited edition watches without the sought after Hodinkee signature?”

    Stay tuned, and watch history being unraveled!

    • BNABOD

      and he is back. How was Madeira? always wanted to go there……..

      • Marius

        I went last year to Madeira. This year, at the start of September I will visit Northern Portugal (Porto, Braga, Coimbra, etc) and then I will fly to the Azores.

        Madeira is a fantastic island. It offers exceptional landscapes & scenery coupled with a very rich vegetation. As far as I know, Madeira has the most impressive vegetation of all islands situated in the Atlantic Ocean. What’s more, the entire island is exceptionally clean and tourist friendly.

        My suggestion would be to find a nice hotel in Funchal, the capital city, from which you can easily find various tours around the island. I stayed at the Quinta Das Vistas Hotel which is situated on a hill from which you can oversee the city and the golf, but you can also find plenty of great hotels on the seafront.

        Lastly, regarding the local cuisine, Funchal has very good restaurants that mostly specialize in using fresh ingredients. My tip would be to go to Câmara de Lobos (it’s situated a few km away from Funchal) and try their local specialty — Scabbard fish. They have various methods of preparing it, but all taste great.

        • Berndt Norten

          Don’t forget the obligatory visits to Henriques &Henriques and Pereira d’Oliveira

        • BNABOD

          thanks for tips Marius. A must see for sure.

    • Slymenstra Hymen

      how dare you say such callous and hateful things! you have offended the ABTW pearl clutching committee and shall be executed at dawn

      *** not the artist formerly known as prince and most def not toshiro
      mifune pretending to be yojimbo or a cracker honky adopting yojimbo as a
      nomme d’plume also not ariel adams or his migratory foreskin,
      definitely not MC’s drippy ballsack

  • Word Merchant

    For as long as there has been more than one of something, there have been collectors.

    • JosephWelke

      Just remember, you need three of something to have a collection. Two is just bookends.

      • WINKS

        Very true. Just ask my three wives.

        • TrevorXM

          That’s what you get for winking too much.

  • palettj

    These Sunday constitutionals are becoming more bizarre every weekend.

  • TrevorXM

    I liked the article myself. A nice introduction to the material if you’re new to this stuff. Interesting to me.

    Just a suggestion, but if I were writing material like this I might try and think up a “big theme” for a book on the subject. Sort of a collected essays thing. Then each time I publish something on the blog it could be something to fit into a whole.

    • Moonraker

      Now put on your glasses and tell us what Dinkee thinks. 🙂

      • Phil leavell

        Don’t poke with a stick you’ll get surrounded oh yeah I’m blocked too LOL careful of the multi personality blogger disorder that appears to be running rampid. And I’m still me or am I me or do I want to be somebody else

  • mtnsicl

    The first three paragraphs had so many contradictions that I couldn’t read any further! I simply lost interest.

  • JCCJR

    On a side note: NAWCC (National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors) was founded in 1943 by members of the Horological Society of New York and the Philadelphia Watchmakers’ Guild who wished to create a national organization.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      these guys would even be to nerdy for me, and I`m a watchaker.

    • I like your Magrette avatar.

  • Berndt Norten

    A simple google search with keywords “a history of collecting” revealed, as I suspected, a huge literature on this topic. Ariel doesn’t seem to have consulted any of it. Hit number 2 is a syllabus for a course on the history of collecting in England, offered last year at Cambridge University. The reading list is voluminous–enough for a semester-long advanced seminar. Reading Ariel’s post one gets the sense that Ariel thinks these are novel questions–like, why do we collect. With all due respect, if you wish to be taken seriously you have a duty to do some basic research. Plenty of shoulders to stand on

    • Marius

      I strongly believe that the course on the history of collecting offered by Cambridge University is slightly too advanced for the author of this article. I would like to suggest an alternative source, namely the course on “Sex And Robots” offered by the prestigious Bucks New University in collaboration with Glyndwr University. These two proud academic institutions have recently been awarded the rather dubious title of “Worst Universities In The United Kingdom”, so they should offer a splendid source of information for this, as well as future Sunday articles.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        For gawd sake you two.

        • Berndt Norten

          Ok I just blocked myself again.

  • Berndt Norten

    Goodbye everyone. It was fun but it’s time to ramble on. The Kravitz Design article pushed me over the edge. It’s my McEnroe Moment ‘you cannot be serious’).

    Moon Unit, DanWD-40, Mikita You Will Never Know, Marius the Great, and a few others: I’ll miss your wit and wisdom.

    Berndt Out.

    • SuperStrapper

      Lies.

    • Moonraker

      What the hell is going on in this place? The full moon was last week. I should know, I gotta rake the damn thing. Now I ain’t going to beg, but I might go for a little cry in a private spot. If this is the end, I enjoyed what you brought to this community. Reconsider please.

      • DanW94

        Berndt’s a-hurtin’ from that Kravitz aburtion……

    • Phil leavell

      Philo de scato. Says Smell the BS and will await your return .

    • DanW94

      Come for the watches, stay for the comments. Or vice versa. Seriously though stick around. I’ve thought about it to but enjoy the watch coverage and the cast of characters. I realize sometimes we should reel it in a bit and maybe this is one of those times.

    • Moonraker

      To Berndt:

      The August air was like a sweet perfume
      The drum major led a marching tune
      We all got up to dance
      But we never had the chance

      Well I went down to my favorite site
      Where I heard the joke songs, just last night
      But the man there said the puns have gone away

      ‘Twas the day the music died…

      But thanks for everything, bud. Hope to see ya again. And may your grail watch eventually be on your wrist!

    • Sheez Gagoo
    • Raymond Wilkie

      You serious ?

    • DanW94

      Berndt, don’t let the KRAVITZ DESIGN!! incident be your “Love Guru”. You got so many more “Wayne’s World” moments left in you.

      • Moonraker

        I was gonna say Deer Hunter/Heaven’s Gate. Thanks for going the lighter route.

    • Roger Goodgion

      You must be joking around. no one would miss wilkie. his comments and insight are so underwhelming they are clear evidence that a 6 year old has hacked his account. now marius is always a good read, whether i agree with him or not.

    • ZL

      KRAVITZ forgives you, and the comments would be left with an unfillable poetic gap!

  • Esteban

    I don’t want to sound pedantic, because after all, I enjoy these sites, but this is the first post ever (and I’ve been reading weblogs since usenet) that I’ve jumped straight to the comments.

    The topic is: 1 obvious to anyone calling himself human, and 2 not something you’d expect properly covered on a watch blog, but on a university psychology or anthropology faculty, maybe.

  • Sheez Gagoo

    Forget about collecting watches. Collecting watches is a thing of the past. There is only one watch the whole world needs. Which satisfies all your horological desires. All other watches fade into oblivion compared to this one and only watch. And this watch is…

    I’m looking at you, Bernd Norten.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Berndt………………………..has……gone…………………vanished.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        I heard. And a wannabe Hendrix from the nineties is responsible. Because he raped a Daytona.

        • Raymond Wilkie

          You heard right. I only escaped the same fate because i didn’t read the article.

  • #The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

    Nice piece – Glad you included the bits about accuracy and maintaining such things.
    Nice read.

    • SuperStrapper

      Didn’t you read the comments? I assume No, or you would see that you’re actually wrong and probably stupid for enjoying this because it wasn’t written under the direct tutelage of the armchair experts here.

      • #The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

        I will do a ‘one-time’ response to your query and comments:
        “Didn’t you read the comments?” Yes, I read thru them before I wrote my post.

        “I assume No, or you would see that you’re actually wrong”
        Well, it would not be the first time anyone ever told me I was wrong; whether that was the case or not. But, opinions are like assholes…

        ” (and you are) probably stupid for enjoying this because it wasn’t written under the direct tutelage of the armchair experts here.”
        Well, I did enjoy reading the piece. I hope others also enjoyed it. I found the part about accuracy interesting – never thought of that before. I do remember being rather disapointed when I discovered that my hallowed Rolex Sub mariner was not as accurate as I had expected. But I got over it and discovered that being “on-time” is not everything it’s cracked-up to be.

        It seems to be a ‘relative’ term as I’ve earned in life. Truth be told I bought it mainly for its’ durable bracelet.

        • SuperStrapper

          Your sarcasm detector requires serious calibration.

          • Slymenstra Hymen

            too late to claim that!

            no sir, you will brought before the Pearl Clutching Committee of ABTW and after they all have a lick of your back into the boiling water you go

            *** not the artist formerly known as prince and most def not toshiro
            mifune pretending to be yojimbo or a cracker honky adopting yojimbo as a
            nomme d’plume also not ariel adams or his migratory foreskin,
            definitely not MC’s drippy ballsack

          • SuperStrapper

            I’ve seen GWAR twice. Crazy shows both.

          • Slymenstra Hymen

            god I thought you were awesome before, now you’re a legend

            did you know Barrymore’s in Ottawa when it first reopened in the late 90s still had blood stains on the ceiling from the last Gwar show? now THAT is entertainment

          • SuperStrapper

            The first GWSR show I went to was so long ago i was in the pit. I was covered in so much fake blood that I couldn’t get a cab to take me afterward. True story.

  • Phil leavell

    See how it’s a watch blog what would a first generation Bulova 214 first gen tuning fork be worth and if an NOS still in the box tags stickers. I was thinking about 350 to the sound Fair

    • Moonraker

      $6, but I’ll give you $10.

      • Phil leavell

        So I’m serious side if I offer the guy 350 good deal ?

    • Mark1884

      Well………… it would be worth more, if it was a KRAVITZ DESIGN!!!!!

      Sorry, that was for Berndt…….. Godspeed in your travels wherever they take you!

      • Phil leavell

        LOL keep the sprit alive.

      • Lenny Kravitz

        Thank you kind sir

  • netei

    nice article!

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