Everyone’s approach to collecting is different: some of us buy a watch for its looks and for others, to fulfil a need. For me, it’s admiration of heritage and quality that comes with a finely-crafted timepiece. Likewise, the hard work of saving up in the process of ownership contributes to the enjoyment of the piece.
As a kid who grew up around technology, the advent of smartphones meant that a watch was parallel to a dinosaur: redundant and outdated. The do-it-all devices have completely revolutionised our entire life, including time-telling. Consequently, I never understood the appeal of a traditional timepiece. The watches I had were those that were given as “gifts” and, I only wore them during school hours to keep track of breaks as phones were banned in class. However, they’d usually break within a week and I’d throw them away. Thus, I can’t attest to being interested in watches at that time. So, the million-dollar question: How did I start collecting?
My interest in timepieces was sparked when I was gifted my first “real” watch at the age of 12: a humble Casio G-Shock. As a kid who was fascinated by technology, the functions and capabilities of that watch captivated my imagination; it was magical. I spent hours each day, toying with its buttons and exploring the myriad of features it had. However, as every happy story has an ending, so did mine: I took it off while washing my hands, inadvertently forgetting about it and never to find it again, along with the thought of owning a watch.
It was only later during my teens when my interest in watches was rekindled, during an encounter with a Rolex Datejust belonging to a family member. Its gorgeous, silver sunburst dial along with its fluted bezel. It shimmered and sparkled under light – it was beautiful. And, the soothing, smooth ‘ticks’ of its seconds hand piqued my curiosity: it felt alive. Moreover, the idea of a watch that was powered perpetually seemed like a paradox; unreal. Winding the watch and hearing its gears click into place with each degree turned was akin to music. The appeal of a technology intensive quartz piece had suddenly vanished.
Not being able to forget the encounter, I spent the next few weeks exploring and gaining more insights on timepieces, reading every forum and turning over every rock. It soon became clear to me that there were two types of movements: quartz which ran on a battery or an electrical source, with its characteristic ticks and mechanical which runs on the power of a spring and whose seconds hand move in a sweeping fashion. (I only later learnt about seconds morte and other exotic mechanicals) Naturally, I set my sights on mechanical timepieces and began researching the various brands available. Every website I visited and every forum I read pointed to Seiko as the quintessential starter brand; a cult classic. However, my appreciation for heritage and quality meant I lusted after something that was a cut above the rest.
I prioritised versatility and practicality, setting those as guidelines to aid in my search. After scouring watch shops across the island and trying on a slew of watches, I eventually settled for a used Rolex Air King. With an unadulterated, uncluttered glossy black dial and highly legible Arabic numerals, it screamed class and quality; a beauty. Reasonably priced too, well below the budget I had set for myself. It seemed perfect and almost too good to be true.
With limited knowledge and not wanting to risk buying a lemon, I decided to proceed cautiously and seek opinions from other collectors. It was a wise decision as I soon learned that the piece had a reconditioned dial, which made it less desirable and thus affected its value. That close encounter made me wary of the hidden dangers of buying used, especially for a beginner. After all, a Rolex is no small change, more so for a teenager.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual
I eventually plucked up the courage and went down to an Authorised Dealer to check out the range of watches available, with the same guidelines in mind. I tried the Submariner which felt big, and the cyclops on the Datejust made it a deal-breaker.
Then I found it: handsome, attractive and all-rounded – the Oyster Perpetual 114200. Its striking sunburst blue dial, along with its simplicity checked all my boxes. As I held it in my hands, my heart beat raised and palms became sweaty; a Coup de foudre moment. The moment I shook it, its seconds hand sprung to life and I was instantly reminded of my first encounter with a mechanical watch. I spent a good ten minutes simply staring at its beauty, without a word spoken: time seemed to stand still. As I tried it on, its lugs hugged around my wrist snugly and case sat neatly. The fit was perfect and I knew, it was the one. Many watches have come and gone since then, but nothing compared to the feeling I had when I picked up my first true love.
This watch has been with me through thick and thin and made it through the ups and downs, with battle scars all over its case as proof. It’s not a Rolex a collector would typically buy, but it remains my favourite watch out of my entire collection and will be, forever.
Having only pursued this hobby for 3 years, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a seasoned collector. Nonetheless, in the short time I’ve spent exposing myself to the sea of horology, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the heritage and dedication that’s present in every watch. Additionally, my curious nature allows me to view seemingly ordinary objects in a different perspective: on a mechanical watch, the balance wheel is parallel to a heart, never missing a beat. Much like our brain, the escapement constantly controls the amount of energy required from the oscillator. And likened to our limbs, gears are essential in the full functionality, allowing a watch to fulfill its basic purpose of time telling. Thus, this trait of mine has helped me understand the appeal behind a mechanical watch.
But, what I like most about this hobby is its accessibility: there’s always something for everyone. Finding the right watch is parallel to a journey: it may be a long way, but it’s worth it.