Switzerland, the home of haute horology and a country full of passionate watch collectors. One of the latter is our our dear friend @circleofwatch. As he is a down to earth avid collector with timepieces for the most exclusive taste, we wanted to share his toughts about the watch industry with our readers.
For that reason we met at one of our favorite dinner places in Zurich, Restaurant Lunmiere for a deep watch talk and the best Beef Filet Café de Paris. Special thanks to our friend Yves Müller from Visiuns for the jaw-dropping pictures. So let’s go…
TCC: At what age did you start collecting watches?
Circleofwatch: I think I was about 10 years old when my father gave me a Mondaine watch. It was made of pyrite, if I remember correctly. I guess that's probably why I'm such a fan of gold watches today. The second watch I really wanted was a Casio digital watch because it had a timer function that always "beeped" wonderfully after expiration. I liked the sound of the watch the most at that time. These were my first experiences with watches, and I've worn a watch ever since.
TCC: What is your advice for someone who wants to start a collection now?
Circleofwatch: Firstly, I would ask people how much money they are willing to spend and then recommend starting with a watch within that budget. More importantly, people should go after their taste and choose a watch they like best in terms of appearance. A watch should not be considered a potential investment because, as a collector, I believe you buy watches to wear; not to sell.
I would also recommend establishing good relationships with dealers. It is always worthwhile to visit them from time to time and talk about watches. This way, a dealer will quickly notice that you are a collector and interested in the mechanics and design of wristwatches.
While your knowledge increased, hopefully so too will your budget and you can then slowly but steadily expand your watch collection.
TCC: What was the last watch you purchased?
Circleofwatch: The last watch was the Patek Philippe 5164A Aquanaut Travel time. I bought it just before the COVID-19 shutdown in March.
TCC: Others may collect cars or art but you collect luxury watches. What made you choose watches?
Circleofwatch: For me, a watch is the only piece of jewelry for a man. If I dress myself every day, my outfit is not complete if I do not have a suitable watch. Moreover, I can take my watch with me everywhere I go which I cannot do with a car or an artwork. A watch is, for me, an extension and expression of my personality and taste.
TCC: Why did you start collecting?
Circleofwatch: In my family, watches are a tradition. During my university days, I was always able to motivate myself by printing out a picture of the Rolex Yachtmaster 2 and telling myself that I would buy this expensive watch as soon as I passed everything. I really liked the blue bezel and I thought that this would be the only expensive watch I needed. However, when I wore this watch for the first time, I soon realized that it was too big for my wrist. The fact that my dream watch didn't fit me, so to speak, led me to delve deeper into wrist watches and also into different manufacturers. It was then that I realized that I cannot just own one expensive watch after all. There are so many beautiful watches with different functions and for different occasions.
TCC: How big is your watch collection?
Circleofwatch: Today, it’s about 15 wrist watches. Besides that, I also have some inherited pocket watches but I rarely wear them and, if I do, it would only be for very special occasions. But I will probably sell some models in order to buy more special pieces. There are some watches and brands that I bought a few years ago that don’t fit my personality/taste anymore (don't worry I never owned a Hublot watch haha).
TCC: What’s your favorite brand and why?
Circleofwatch: Patek Philippe is my favourite watch brand. I like the history, the tradition, the craftsmanship and the fact that the company is family-owned. This way, Patek Philippe can always act in the long-term as opposed to being forced to make short-term profits that are negative for the brand image in the long run. In today's fast-paced world, I find this feeling of longevity/eternity very reassuring.
TCC: What’s your favorite piece in your collection and why?
Circleofwatch: Hard to answer. I certainly think the Daytona Ref.11652, since I got this as a gift. It is also a perfect companion for every day, every occasion. This is the watch I wear the most and that's why it has one or two scratches as it has been with me travelling the world.
TCC: And one that is not in your collection?
Circleofwatch: I have been looking for an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo 15202ST for a long time. But in Zurich, the chance to get such a watch is very small. Of course, I also dream of a Patek Philippe minute repeater. That would be the ultimate goal…but as of now, the AP Jumbo would be enough.
TCC: Imagine you can only keep two watches of your collection - one for the daily use and one for special occasions (e.g. weddings). Which two would you pick?
Circleofwatch: I would take the Rolex Daytona (116520) for everyday use and the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711r for special occasions. But if I could, I would increase to a three-watch collection in order to take the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Traveltime 5164A with me as well. It’s truly a beautiful watch that I don’t want to miss in my collection.
TCC: What’s your favorite complication?
Circleofwatch: Minute repeater, for sure. I love the sound, especially in Patek Philippe watches. If you imagine how many hours of work and the art of craftsmanship behind it and in the end such a great result is achieved; it is my absolute dream to own such a watch.
TCC: What’s coming next to your collection? Any pieces in mind?
Circleofwatch: Unfortunately, this is dependent on the waiting list... but I hope that I will be lucky enough to get an AP 15202ST at list price.
TCC: Do you have any inspiration (e.g. from celebrities) for your collection?
Circleofwatch: Not really. It tends to bother me when brands work almost inflationarily with brand ambassadors. Very often, I cannot understand the concept of engaging celebrities. As a customer or potential customer, I have a bad feeling when brands have so many ambassadors and demand high prices for watches that don't even have their own movement and where I can buy these watches on the grey market with a 30% discount. Brands should communicate why a celebrity represents their brand more clearly.
TCC: What are your Top 5 accounts to follow on IG?
Circleofwatch: In fact, there are more than five... In terms of collection and know-how, @watch_1505 and @horology_ancienne are, in my opinion, undisputed. I also like the following accounts: @ilikerolexes , @watchrookiee , @aytystyle , @horoloupe , @stefanopileggi . There are also many other great profiles that I follow.
TCC: As we can see on your IG, you have the Rolex Hulk and the Rolex Batman. If you have to choose between the two watches, which one would you take?
Circleofwatch: I would choose the Hulk because the green dial shines and looks different depending on the light. Somehow, it always surprises me.
TCC: Do you see watches as an investment or as a hobby?
Circleofwatch: I consider it as an expensive hobby that makes me very happy because a watch always envokes positive emotions in me. If you have worked hard and saved for a beautiful watch, it is a wonderful moment when you can pick up the watch you have wanted for such a long time and wear forever.
Of course, it makes you happy if you can finally collect an in-demand watch at list price and you could potentially sell the same piece at a higher price on the grey market. But I wouldn't sell that watch because then I am no longer a collector but a flipper. I would also risk jeopardizing good relationships with my dealers with the consequence that I would not be able to buy a watch in demand in my name at the list price again. I want to make it very clear that I do not appreciate people who purchase popular watches from a list and sell them right away.
TCC: Where do you see the future of the watch industry from your perspective as collector? Rising prices or watch bubble?
Circleofwatch: I believe that it will be necessary for many brands to more clearly define their customer segment or try to convey a certain lifestyle with their brand. It's no longer just about the watch as such but also about the company behind it - what values and visions it conveys - so that the customer can identify themselves with the brand much better.
Environmentally friendly topics will certainly become increasingly more important meaning that manufacturers will have to consider whether it is still relevant to have such huge packaging. I would also be personally interested to know where the precious metals and leather materials come from because the younger generation wants luxury and sustainability.
Regarding your second question: I also assume that the prices of Patek Philippe, Rolex and Audemars Piguet will continue to rise, at least for the steel models. Other manufacturers will certainly also adjust their prices upwards from time to time to avoid making the price discrepancy too wide between these top luxury brands. On the grey market, prices will remain above list price as demand is simply too high for the very select steel models. Of course, premiums might get smaller in times of crisis such as today with COVID-19. But manufacturers have learned their lesson in the financial crisis of 2008/09 and nowadays have better control over production and distribution. Consequently, I assume that a Rolex Daytona, a Nautilus or an AP jumbo will still be very difficult to receive at list price in the foreseeable future. In my opinion, these watches will always be traded at a premium.
TCC: Name one or more things that are bad about watch collecting?
Circleofwatch: Long waiting lists; unfriendly/arrogant service personnel (especially in Zurich) if you are not a top customer.
Moreover, it annoys me more and more that you can rent luxury watches in order to show them off at the weekend without knowing anything about it. I never understood the concept of watch renting and I never will.
Last but not least, I would like to mention the growing fear of being robbed while you wearing an expensive watch. With the increasing transparency via social media, expensive watches are easy to spot and, unfortunately, they seem to be an easy catch for organized crime.
© Photography: Yves Müller for The Collectors Circle @collectors.circle