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The Collector’s View: Why I bought a Rolex at 15 Years Old

by Daniel Chua on April 11, 2018

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who grew up around technology, the advent of smartphones meant that a watch was parallel to a dinosaur: redundant and outdated.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.

 

Rolex 114200 Front

What I finally bought: the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 114200 a well-built watch will last a lifetime. Not many things can attest to having the same quality.

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.

 

The handsome and well-rounded Rolex Oyster Perpetual 114200. I will never get tired of staring at its blue dial.

 

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.

 

Rolex 114200 Bracelet Clasp View

Full of character: The companion for all my adventures.

 

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

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17 Comments
Leave a response
  • Just another guy on the web
    May 21, 2018 at 1:23 am

    This watch-porn advertorial is pathetic. A rich kid buys an expensive thing and it’s tarted up as an Ode to The Human Spirit? Exactly how did this plucky schoolboy afford it? Did he “bravely” release some money from his college fund?

  • Sam
    April 24, 2018 at 9:25 am

    It sounds almost condescending to me to state that an appreciation for heritage and quality led him away from Seiko to purchase a Rolex instead. Seiko themselves have a heritage and ability to produce quality products. Perhaps a better explanation would simply be the prestige and charm of Rolex watches makes it a more attractive option while higher end Seikos like GS/Credor are quite niche; it is less likely to appeal to the laymen who is only beginning his horological journey.

    I would like to emphasise that he did try on many other watches but finally settled on a Rolex instead. It is also not too surprising to settle on a prominent brand watch as it is also a display of social status, horological interests notwithstanding.

    I do agree though – perhaps he should’ve also mentioned about what he has done with his first Rolex, what it signifies to him and where he has brought it?

  • Mike
    April 15, 2018 at 8:01 am

    Common guys, this is just a fun essay from the eyes of a teenager getting into watches. I was that same kid over 40 years ago. I didn’t start out with a Rolex but I eventually attained one and then many more came and went afterwards. But it was that first one – a black dialed Date with raised baton markers that I still have and never fails to bring a smile to my face when I put it on my wrist.

  • April 13, 2018 at 10:06 am

    I for one enjoyed the article. Wish I put away the money to buy a rolex at that age. Good on this kid. As a watch lover I found his admiration for but aspiration beyond the entry level relatable. I just wish it went into how he made and saved the money a little more.

  • Chris
    April 12, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    Peter, you give your commenters a hard time yet you’re the one that decided to lead with his age as the primary hook for the story?

    Also, where’s the content? He got a G Shock given to him, went on some forums, then saved up and bought a brand new Rolex for no reason other than he decided it was better than other brands?

    Strip out his age and this is a story of a guy given a G Shock and 3 years later buys an entry level rolex. So what? There’s no mention of what he did to get it? Things he did wearing it? Places he took it? It’s not a rare or unusual watch?

    If it wasn’t for his age – an age at which most people have money for the Cinema, and if they save up, a bike – there would be nothing of note here, and as you lead with it, it seems that this was the sort of reaction you were looking for?

    I look forward to your next article on how a woman buys a man’s watch and wears it.

  • Tushi
    April 12, 2018 at 11:34 am

    That’s assuming that this is the real deal and there really is a young man behind this who is passionately “collecting”, Rolexes at the tender age of fifteen rather than this being a guised advertorial for Rolex. It’s becoming an industry standard now, that watch “articles” are really paid reviews, or highly incentivized “press releases” by the brand.

  • Rotundash
    April 12, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Good on you Daniel for a well written piece that shows your passion for watches. I can only wish that I had been interested and motivated to buy a good watch when in my teens, you set a goal and achieved it – great stuff!

  • George
    April 12, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Come on y’all, give the kid a break. It’s a well written article by a young man with a passion (or problem!) we can all relate to. We should all rejoice that in this gadget laden world there’s at least one person of the younger generation who can appreciate the things we do.

    • April 12, 2018 at 4:45 pm

      Thank you George. And as mentioned in another reply below, Daniel made the money to support this hobby on his own. No handouts from his parents.

  • Nicholas
    April 12, 2018 at 8:18 am

    “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.” – Wow.

  • Tushi
    April 12, 2018 at 4:32 am

    It also reads like a Rolex advert . . . “Don’t buy a used watch, you might get a lemon . . . buy a brand new Rolex!”

  • Tushi
    April 12, 2018 at 4:28 am

    “Much like our brain, the escapement constantly controls the amount of energy required from the oscillator.” The escapement does not control the oscillation of the balance, that is the hairspring. Speaking of escapements, this whole story is a case of “overbanking.” This is a terrible message. Why on earth should a 15yo buy a rolex? With what money?

  • Chris
    April 12, 2018 at 3:56 am

    How is this an article? Ridiculous.

    There is no story here, just a click bait title. Really disappointing

  • Jchan
    April 12, 2018 at 12:06 am

    So a little kid buy a Rolex with his parents money and this is news? I expected better from you guys.

    • April 12, 2018 at 4:43 pm

      Did you know that he made the money to buy the watch? He runs a small web business which fund this hobby. i think this is very admirable.

      There are many adults, who were born rich, who have never worked a single day in their lives who show off on IG and other social media with their megabuck watches and exotic cars. And many people (I am not saying you) lap it up. I think this is abhorrent.

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