Buying, Selling, & Collecting So You Collect Watches, But What Else? This Is How You Make The Hobby More Fun
Iseldom write about my own collecting philosophy. That's changing, sure. But I don't like talking about myself, and even more so I don't like talking about my things. In small collector groups and forums it's fun, but these days Instagram flex culture has made the "show and tell" aspect of collecting feel icky. But I'm going to break my own rules here because there's a type of collecting that I think is underserved by watch media, and that's collecting around a watch. We spend so much time debating the watch itself, we can lose sight of how the watch can serve as a stepping stone to so much more. Collecting around a watch makes this hobby more fun.
So what exactly does that mean?
It's a term I made up, but it's almost intuitive. It's a thematic approach to watch collecting that uses the watch as a starting point to explore objects connected to a person, place, event, or period in time. It's about collecting pieces of the story that are connected to the watch in one way or another. It's collecting bits and bobs that help build out the watch's world, and this collecting philosophy helps frame the watches in a more meaningful way.
For me, it's another way to participate in the story about a watch. I collect patches and mementos from the era or world the watch is a part of. It's a whole lot cheaper than buying more watches, and researching all the little objects tied to the watch just adds to the conversation. Other times it's more personal rather than historical. Either way, it's a great way to engage with watch collecting in a way that isn't just about the watch.
Here are some of my small collections around a watch. I've asked some friends to show me their collections, too.
My grandfather joined the New Jersey Army National Guard shortly after WWII and received training as a medic. He later went on to open up his own pharmacy in Northern New Jersey with the knowledge gained from serving. I'm not sure what exact battalion or troop he was part of, but it was tied to the 102nd Cavalry Regiment, whose motto was "Fide et Fortitudine" ("Faithfulness and Strength"). Even though he didn't serve in WWII, my small collection of WWII watches that I've heavily researched and pieces from his old uniform remind me of the stories he and my grandmother would tell me about that era, and the incredible sacrifices made.
Earlier this year, Watches of Espionage turned me on to this Arabic-dial Seiko 5. I bought one and then got it PVD'd for the how-to guide in HODINKEE Mag Vol 10. It's the centerpiece of a small collection that you all have helped me build. Over the years I've been fortunate to connect with readers who share the same niche interest in the sub-categories of military and tool watches. Many have become friends. And some have even been gracious enough to send along patches, pins, and challenge coins from their units, organizations, and institutions. I won't blow up anyone's spot due to the sensitive nature of their professions, but I will say that I'm incredibly grateful. You might recognize ZT Podcast and Expedition16610, however. Plenty of this collection isn't pictured because it's in use, like Heaton's Submechaniolphiilia patch on my dive bag, or Standard H gear, and swag from Cantonment Co. The collection is less about the watch and more about the incredible community we're all a part of. Every time I feel icky about the Instagram flex culture that's come to define the hobby for some, I think back to this collection and all the friends I've made along the way.
I wrote a story about how I bonded with this watch during a cross-country drive. It's been nicknamed the "Seitona" for its obvious resemblance to the Daytona, a watch that's tied to racing. This is my watch that's tied to car culture and my participation in it. The Shelsley Walsh patch and medallion is from the time I ran the hill climb against a bunch of automotive journos, and was leading halfway through, but only until an old hand from Detroit who had been writing and driving for decades turned it on and knocked me into second. Experience is the best teacher. The Goodwood patch is tied to the annual pilgrimages I would take for Watch Spotting. Car culture on its own, it's awesome. It runs just as deep as our watch hobby, but what's even better is exploring that intersection between cars and watches. It makes both more fun.
When I was very young the Antonov An-225 Mriya stopped by Newark Airport for the public to tour. My dad picked up a commemorative coin and I put it on my shelf. A few years later I took my first trip on a BA 747. I got a small, metal, scale-model plane to commemorate the occasion. Decades later I had the opportunity to sit down with pilot and astronaut David Williams to talk watches. I picked up a patch from the gift shop of the museum where we filmed to commemorate the occasion. The GMT-Master symbolizes the incredible advancements and achievements in aviation that humankind has achieved. All these little personal mementos are also a reminder of that. I also found this '50s custom-embroidered flight jacket (below) that belonged to a member of the Flying Shriners, a Masonic society. To me, it pairs perfectly with the GMT.
The Field Watch And Field Patches
I absolutely love patches. I've been collecting them for about as long as I can remember. One specific area that I focus on is patches from old rod & gun clubs, hunting lodges, and fishing tournaments – and not just because I enjoy hunting and fishing, but because I find the designs of insignias and logos incredibly charming, too. I usually wear a variety of watches for my own hunting and fishing adventures, from a Marathon all the way to a Grand Seiko, but I think the basic Hamilton Khaki Field is just about as good a field watch as one can get. When I think of classic American field and stream culture, it's the Khaki Field that comes to mind. The watch is just a watch on its own, but when it's framed by this outdoor culture it's even better. If you're curious about any of the patches, ask me about them in the comments. I've researched most of them.
I'm not alone in collecting around the watch. I reached out to a few buds to share what non-watch watch items they've added to their collections.
This is my Rolex GMT Master II "Coke" accompanied by my most prized possessions. Each one is just an "item" but has immense meaning. When going through navy/marine flight school, you are issued a heavily regulated leather jacket. After watching a student in tears having to hand his in after flunking out, I told myself I would never be that guy. Always work harder. Next is my memorial bracelet for an extremely dear friend who passed away doing the same job. It is my constant reminder that our time here is finite and to enjoy every day we're here as the next is not promised. Especially in the business of military aviation. My gold wings were earned after the two hardest years of my life and remind me that through hard work there is boundless joy. Lastly, there is my GMT. My father got his on R&R in the Vietnam War and it's my daily reminder that we stand on the shoulders of giants.
-@wingwatches, active duty military aviator
This '59 Submariner 5512 was worn by its original owner as a marine blockading Cuba during the Missile Crisis, the Infantry Advisor for the 1st Korean Marine Division, and the commanding officer of the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company during the Tet Offensive. Not having children, he gifted the watch to his friend Andrew for his birthday in 2016, asking him to restore the original bezel and hands that had been replaced, and to pass it down to his children one day.
Man in the Sea. That's the name of the US Navy program of the mid- to late-'60s that encompassed Sealab I, II, and III. It's also the theme of all of my daydreams. To be an Aquanaut, one of those rare human beings who have lived for more than 24 hours underwater, blood and tissues saturated with nitrogen and greatness. I guess I've been chasing a little piece of that fantasy through this collection. This is a rare Jenny Sealab Alarm from the same period. It evokes the romance of the grand undersea enterprise, albeit without actually being a dive watch. Watches actually worn by aquanauts are out there, and maybe one of those will find its way into my underwater habitat of collected dreams one day. But for now, I'll be soaking up the history over at the Man in the Sea Museum. Hope to see you there
-Chris Sohl, diver extraordinaire
This duo of divers represent a 12-year difference in age from the 1959 US Divers Fifty-Fathoms by Blancpain to the 1970 Doxa Sub 300t "Sharkhunter." They were evolving tools that would see quite a bit of change from the 1950s to the 1970s, as scuba advanced right along with them. They both have the distinction of being branded by the US Divers Company, founded in California in 1952. Both of my watches hail from California, the Fifty-Fathoms came from a man whose uncle spent a lot of time at garage and estate sales and had gathered a lot of watches together. The Doxa Sub 300t came from the original owner who bought it when he was 15 years old from Star Sporting Goods, just off Hollywood Boulevard. He then used it for diving along the California coast and around Catalina Island before stashing it away in a drawer for the next forty years.
Along with these treasured watches are documents I purchased that include press releases from NASA news, ABC News, and Metromedia Producers Corporation that detail the perils and triumphs of Jacques Cousteau and the RV Calypso. Topics covered in these press releases and messages sent via NASA satellite range from fatal helicopter accidents, iceberg collisions, and penguin photography to storms with 80-knot winds, damaged propellers, and picking up the Risk board game for the crew to play. During this time some of the crew of the RV Calypso would have been wearing Doxa Sub300t Sharkhunters, like mine. Dive watches teleport our imagination to a different place and time, and through these papers, I can just barely picture what it may have been like for the adventurous folks aboard the Calypso.
-Devin Couture, ornithologist and watch collector
I was fortunate to have this obscure Seiko 6306 featured on HODINKEE over two years ago. In the time since that article was published, there remains an air of mystery around Seiko models used during research in Antarctica. Slowly, new details have emerged, and when combined it paints a compelling story spanning from the early 62mas and 6159 dive watches all the way through Seiko Sumos and Samurais.
As rare as these Antarctic models are, ephemera and items associated with the McMurdo Sounds Sediment & Tectonic Study are equally as elusive. The envelope in the photo is signed by Dr. Tetsuya Torii – a Japanese Geochemist who was the man that gifted this unique watch to the rest of the crew. Of note, the envelope is also from the same year as the 6306 itself. The book, Ice Bird, by David Lewis is a firsthand account of an attempt to solo circumnavigate Antarctica. In the book, Dr. Lewis actually mentions comparing an unnamed Omega wristwatch with a Seiko (6105) diver provided by Torii. Last is a sticker from the "Dry Valley Drilling Project Seminar II." Abbreviated to DVDP, this was the predecessor to the MSST program denoted on the dial of my 6306.
-Justin Couture, The Wristorian
There are two coats shown in this photo [top]. In the early days of collecting vintage Heuer chronographs, people were making reproductions of the iconic "Heuer" patches and in many instances representing them to be original patches. There was no better way to be certain that a patch was original than to buy a dirty, old coat from a member of a racing team, that had a variety of patches (as with the A.J. Foyt coat). The Vel's Parnelli Jones coat is a nice complement to the Heuer Autavia chronographs, that the team had made and engraved to mark the 1970 and 1971 Indy Car championships. The VPJ team made some beautiful, colorful cars, and they are well-represented by this crazy-looking extra-large jacket, that will only fit me when I gain 150 pounds. Both these jackets were sourced from members of the racing teams.
Jeff Stein, the man behind OnTheDash
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON www.hodinkee.com