I have decided to start another collection. Actually the real truth is that I’ve got a bit obsessive about something, and now I’m trying to put a bit of shape and control on it.
I don’t generally have an addictive personality but I do get occasional obsessions where I get one thing and then have to have more similar things, or research and build my kit ad infinitum, until the fascination wears off a bit. The trick is to make sure that it’s something I can afford, where ownership of multiple items makes some sense and where it is possible to dispose of the unwanted items without costing too much money.
Most of my collections involve clothing, where it makes reasonable sense to buy another T shirt, or bright jacket, or endangered species tie (of which I may well have the world’s largest collection). They can all be used, don’t take up too much space, and have some natural turnover as favourites wear out. Likewise I have a reasonable collection of malt whiskies, but I do steadily drink them.
Another trick is to make sure that the collection has a strong theme, which makes sure you stay focused, and which ideally limits the rate of acquisition to one compatible with your financial and storage resources. I don’t collect "ties", or even "animal ties", I collect Endangered Species ties, which only came from two companies and haven’t been made for several years. Likewise my jackets must have a single strong colour, and fit me, which narrows things down usefully.
The new collection got started innocently enough. For nearly 18 years my only "good" watch was a Rado Ceramica, a dual display model. About a year ago I started to fancy a change, not least because between changes in my sight, a dimming of the Rado’s digital display, and a lot of nights in a very dark hotel room I realised it was functioning more as jewellery than a reliable way of telling the time. So I wanted a new watch, but I wasn’t inspired as to what.
Then I watched Broken Arrow, and fell in lust with John Travolta’s Breitling Aerospace. The only challenge was that they are quite expensive items, and I wasn’t quite ready to make that purchase. In the meantime we watched Mission Impossible 5, and I was also quite impressed with Simon Pegg’s Tissot T-Touch. That was more readily satisfied, and I got hold of a second-hand one with nice titanium trim and a cheerful orange strap for about £200. This turned out to be an excellent "holiday" watch, tough, colourful and with lots of fun features including a thermometer, an altimeter/barometer, a compass, and a clever dual time zone system. That temporarily kept the lust at bay, but as quite a chunky device it wasn’t the whole solution.
The astute amongst you will have recognised that there a couple of things going on here which could be the start of a "theme". Firstly I very much like unusual materials: the titanium in all watches I’ve mentioned, the sapphire faces of the Breitling and the Rado and that watch’s hi-tech ceramic.
Second all these watches have a dual digital/analogue display. I’ve always liked that concept, ever since the inexpensive Casio watch which I wore for most of the 90s. Not only is it a style I like, it’s also now a disappearing one, being displaced by cleverer smartphones and smart watches. Of the mainstream manufacturers only Breitling and Tissot still make such watches. That makes older, rarer examples eminently collectable.
To refine the collection, there’s another dimension. I like my stuff to be unusual, ideally unique. Sometimes there’s a functional justification, like the modified keyboards on my MacBooks, but it’s also why my last two cars started off black and ended up being resprayed. Likewise, when I finally decided to take advantage of the cheap jewellery prices in Barbados and bought my Breitling I looked hard at the different colour options and ended up getting the vendor to track down the last Aerospace with a blue face and matching blue strap in the Caribbean.
Of course, if I’m being honest there’s a certain amount of rationalisation after the event going on here. What actually happened is that after buying the Breitling I got a bit obsessed and bought several and sold several cheaper watches before really formulating the rules of my collection. However I can now specify that any new entrant must be (unless I change the rules, which may happen at any time at the collector’s sole option ):
- Dual display. That’s the theme, and I’m happy to stick to it, for now.
- Functional and in good condition. These watches are going to be worn, and having tried to fix a duff one it’s not worth the effort.
- Affordable. This is a collection for fun and function, not gain. While there’s a wide range between the cheapest and most expensive, most have cost around £200, and are at least second-hand.
- The right size. With my relatively small hands and wrists, that means a maximum of about 44mm, but a minimum of about 37mm (below which the eyes may be more challenged). As I’m no fan of "knuckle dusters" most are no more than 11mm thick, although I’m slightly more flexible on that.
- Beautiful, or really clever, or both. Like most men, a watch is my only jewellery, and I want to feel some pride of ownership and pleasure looking at it. Alternatively I’ll give a bit on that (just a bit) for a watch with unusual functionality or materials.
- Unusual. Rare colour and material combinations preferred, and I’m highly likely to change straps and bracelets as well.
Ironically I’m not so insistent that it has to be a great "time telling" device. There are honourable exceptions (the Breitling), but there does seem to be a rough inverse relationship between a watch’s beauty and its clarity. I’m prepared to accommodate a range here, although it has to be said that most of the acquisitions beat the Rado in a dark room.
So will these conditions control my obsession, or inflame and challenge it? Time will tell, as will telling the time…