Time is an incredibly fascinating subject. We are the only known species in the world to have conceptualised it, built a numerical system around it, and even fought wars over it. Keeping track of time is an element that has allowed mankind to flourish.
For the past millennia, civilisation has endeavoured to capture the essence of time; in terms of accuracy, artisanship and the ingenious ways it can be harnessed. Those who follow this art form, are known as horologists.
Now, with that whimsical bit aside, one of the first questions new horologists ask is: “What’s the best way for me to get into watches?”
The beauty with this field, is that it’s very abstract. There is no correct procedure to get into watches. Though it’s a field that’s often wrongly solely associated with connoisseurs, and that it requires immense expertise to get into. This couldn’t be further from reality.
Take me for example; it comes about as a juxtaposed thought for a teenager in East London to identify as a watch collector and enthusiast. It’s often noted that socioeconomic backgrounds correlate with a person’s interest in what can be deemed “niche” areas of interest. Watches most certainly fall under that scope. That being said, a millennial 16 year old East London boy with an interest in names such as Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe doesn’t seem to fit the usual mould of being “mega rich or inherited from family”. There’s certainly nothing to stop anyone else from carrying out their passion.
Everyone has their own story on how they got into watches, and it’s usually that story that can lead a person on to taking their interest further. My story was quite unexceptional, with my main source of knowledge coming from online searches; consisting of videos, blogs and reviews. That being said, I think it’s fair to say that most new watch enthusiasts gain their knowledge online.
The internet is a very powerful tool with seemingly unlimited resources. There is a huge watch community online that I’ve found to be very welcoming and encouraging. Whilst I don’t personally use them, online forums such as Timezone and Thewatchforum are good starts, but there are plenty of others.
Videos by aBlogtoWatch and Hodinkee are another great resource. Their websites are always up to date with the latest horology news; stocked with reviews, commentary and interviews. They are very condensed and are well-edited, which makes for a great way to learn and be entertained. This is especially useful if-like me, you’re not interested in scrolling through hundreds of forum pages.
Many people get into watches through this route. Whilst the internet is abundant with resources, you just can’t beat the content found in a good book. These are often written by learned specialists that focus on a very specific area. A friend of mine used such books to get into watchmaking, and swears by them. I would personally recommend books by George Daniels and Moonwatch. That being said, the issues I see with books is that they’re quite uncommon and tend to be very expensive. Certain books are clearly collector’s items, such as those written by Mondani , and aren’t intended for newcomers. With a bit of research, you could venture through the pages of Ebay and get a great deal.
George Daniels, a legendary watchmaker that revolutionised the world of horology. Revered as the ‘Godfather’ of watches. Some of the best horology works are written by him, or were inspired by his work.
One of the most fun ways of getting into watches is by socialising with fellow collectors and enthusiasts. This can mean a whole range of things, from a cup coffee with a friend, visiting a boutique and my personal favourite: going to watch events.
If you happen to live in a major city such as New York or London, then there are abundant opportunities for watch events. A prominent example for me was the 2015 Patek exhibition at the Saatchi gallery in my home city of London. Other examples include SalonQP, which is available to the public, and is a great opportunity to see the latest concoctions by major watch brands, meet fellow enthusiasts, and even talk directly to watchmakers themselves! I was invited to the event last winter by Richard Hoptroff and got to see his brilliant pieces up close, as well as have a pleasant conversation. These opportunities are especially great if you happen to be the only watch enthusiast within a 10 mile radius of where you live!
The above examples require moving about and travelling, though in truth you don’t even need to leave your doorstep. One of the most useful and powerful tools you have is your mobile phone. Social media will prove to be a gateway to establishing your name in the world of watches. You’d be surprised how a few unique and interesting posts, paired with a couple of well placed hashtags can get you noticed by people. I’m currently working towards this myself, using social media to promote my interests and gain support for my own endeavours. Showing good character will set you apart and be a really good boost in making friends.
Last year with Stephen McDonnell, designer of the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual Calendar. Kari Voutilainen can be seen in the corner.
The Really Important Bit:
Getting into watches is a great thing. There’s so much variety and so many things that you can learn in your journey of horology. The most important thing is to simply take your own steps and work at your own pace. You’re doing this because you’re passionate about it. You chose this for yourself. Don’t let anyone intimidate or put you down.
For the everyman watch enthusiast, it often comes as a bit of a rarity to handle high-end luxury watches. Don’t think this is a bad thing. The fun is in the hunt, and it’s up to you to find what interests you. Your first watch may be a microbrand mechanical piece that you bought at a market. You know what? That’s absolutely fine! For whatever reason, the watch you bought caught your attention and you wanted it. I find that to be more interesting than someone blindly throwing money at some mutilated piece of shiny metal studded with rocks.
I love watches because it encompasses my love for engineering and design, other people will have different reasons. Your reason is what will set you apart as unique, and don’t be afraid to use that as a platform to set off and explore!