“So how many watches do you own?”
A few years ago, I was talking watches with a good friend of mine. I remember the discussion vividly. He mentioned his interest in acquiring a vintage Omega (CK2292). For whatever reason, the watch seemed oddly familiar. Had I seen one somewhere recently? I knew this watch.
That was because – it was familiar. I owned the same watch!
I quickly considered two possibilities:
- I was experiencing very early onset of memory loss from too many nights out
- Or… I might have owned too many watches.
Luckily for myself, it was the latter. To put this in context, I owned about 40 or so watches at the time. Ironically, I do not remember how many I actually owned. Perhaps some of you can relate, perhaps not.
That is beside the point. What is important to note here is not the number of watches themselves, but rather what these objects represented together (if anything at all).
To me, there is a distinction between an accumulation and a collection. And by extension, the accumulator and the collector. A collection is thought-out, coherent and representative – the result of careful research and focus. By contrast, an accumulation is sporadic; perhaps even random. It’s the outcome of opportunity and occasional impulse (read: late night eBay trawling).
I had become more of an accumulator than a collector.
At first, the pangs of shame bubbled up. What was I doing with such a “messy” assortment of watches? While I’ve since refocused my collection, I think accumulation can be extremely helpful, if not necessary, for new watch enthusiasts. Additionally, not everyone needs to be a collector. In a similar regard, it would also be bold to claim that every watch must fit perfectly within a collection.
Owning many different watches has allowed me to meet people, discover new watches and learn more about watchmaking. It has helped me develop my tastes. Looking back, it was (and continues to be) an important experience as a collector.
Within this context, accumulation functions as a process to better understand oneself. Identity reveals itself through discovery, exploration and reflection. Likes and dislikes are affirmed. As one evolves, so do the watches we own. In this way, watches are not just objects to be desired, they are also gateways to knowing who we are and who we would like to be.