As many of you know, Instagram is the favorite social media platform for hard core watch collectors. One thing all these accounts have in common is that all the content is created by their owners portraying their journey through watch collecting. As we've said it before, watch collecting is a journey not a destination. Despite that there are hundreds of watch related accounts we follow on the gram, there are probably a couple dozen watch collectors we really admire and we would like to feature them here on WCL. Therefore, today, we will be talking about @NYCWatchGuy, a young watch collector with 17,000+ followers —and counting— and someone who clearly embraces our motto that watch collecting is all about the journey.
Growing up, he was obsessed with the blue “illuminator” light in G-Shock watches, but at the time he couldn’t afford a real one. Then in reality the watch he really wanted was a Casio calculator watch with a TV remote built in but he couldn't afford it either. All through college, he continued buying various digital watches all priced under $50 USD including a Casio Atomic watch that would automatically sync itself with the atomic clock located in the U.S. And just as expected from a young novice watch collector at the time, during his senior year of college, he took the plunge for a $1,000 USD Movado chronograph that he purchased on Black Friday at Macy’s. I was the most expensive thing he had ever bought in his life and while it was still a quartz watch —@NYCWatchGuy didn’t even know the difference between a quartz and a mechanical timepiece at that point—, to him it felt like a grown man's watch wearing it daily for about 3 years.
Then around 2011, the groundbreaking move took place as he saw an advertisement for a Zenith El Primero Chronomaster Open Power Reserve, right then it was when his watch collecting journey really began. After falling in love with it, he knew he couldn’t afford to buy a brand new one so the hunt began for a pre-owned one.
After looking all over the U.S., he finally found this watch in Rome, Italy, where after scouring 10 different stores, the watch he was lusting after was sitting in the safe of an old woman who owned a jewelry store. It was fate, a safe queen sold to him at a great deal. After happily wearing that watch for the next 2 years —never thinking he would ever buy another watch— he couldn't stop thinking about the fact that he had dropped $3K on something. Well, that goes to show that when it comes to watch collecting there is no such thing as a destination. At this moment, @NYCWatchGuy's collection is well beyond his first $4K spent on two watches and more in the six figures range.
Then in 2013, while traveling to Istanbul, Turkey, the Four Seasons Bosphorus —his favorite hotel in the world— had a watch store that sold A. Lange & Söhne. Every day for a week, he passed by that store and saw a Lange 1 in the window. It was the most beautiful watch he had ever seen and sadly he couldn’t even muster up the courage to go inside and ask to try it on, knowing that he couldn't afford it. Finally, he googled “Lange” and went down the rabbit hole of the luxury watch world. Ended up on blog sites, watch fora and Instagram to officially be doomed to become a prominent serial watch flipper and watch collector. During that same trip and in order to scratch the itch of watch collecting and to not return empty handed back home, he purchased a modest Frederique Constant World Timer. Years later, the watch would be sold and FedEx lost the package. With the watch lost and the money for it being returned to the purchaser, all he got were $115 USD from FedEx as compensation for the loss. Here an important lesson learned and a reminder of always shipping watches fully insured by a third-party.
Right after this trip that's when @NYCWatchGuy became totally obsessed with watches. His next purchase, a Glashütte Original Panomatic Lunar, as it was the closest thing to the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 he could not afford then. This watch was yet purchased on another trip at the Frankfurt Airport on a trip to India.
Then the itch got worse and worse and before walking he was already running into a perpetual calendar. To scratch the itch he went ahead and purchased an IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Kurt Klaus Edition because it was the cheapest perpetual at the time. Then soon after he had to have an Ulysse Nardin Plushenko Diver Limited Edition and literally made someone bring it straight from Russia as the watch wasn’t sold anywhere else. Around this time he discovered the Arnold & Son HM Perpetual Moon and he purchased that one too.
Then a Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre purchased in the Bahamas followed with the thought that this was his end game piece and destination. But clearly there's no destination when you love watches. This watch was so expensive he took out a one year no interest line of credit to complete the purchase. From here on, the downward spiral became a well documented journey post after post. Then, it was time to dive into independent 'haute horlogerie' and he purchased an F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu looking at it as and investment and depleting his bank account. Later another F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier would join the journey and the collection.
While there are some investment grade watches within certain brands and references, @NYCWatchGuy just considered buying more and more as an investment, little did he know that he was just fueling the fire of a very expensive hobby. Ladies and gentlemen buy watches because you like them and want to wear them, but not because you feel like you'll be making money with them down the road. While buying right is always the key and there are some watches that appreciate, flipping watches is a slippery slope and most of the time there will be some loses that every once in a while they are offset by some gains, but not all the time.
Then around that time his financial ability to buy modern watches was severely depleted with so many hefty purchases and he decided to go vintage watch shopping as an outlet. He immediately fell in love with vintage chronographs —especially Universal Genève— and over the course of the next 3 years, he owned no less than 100 vintage watches —yes not a typo. The bulk of them actually turned out to be very good investments and often funded several other purchases. At some point, he probably had one of the largest Universal Genève and Yema collections in the world.
Eventually he decided to go back to modern watches in a major way in 2016, starting with a A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual in white gold with a black dial. He then felt like he had officially made it in the watch collecting game —not such thing exists though. At the end of the day it was Lange the brand that had sparked the desire to become a watch collector and he finally owned one. Soon after came an MB&F Legacy Machine 101 and then it was yet another milestone.
After that, everything was a bit of a blur. Then an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph Tribute to Italy ref. 26326ST.OO.D027CA.01 in a 500-piece limited edition followed. With a strong desire for more from the independents he then took the plunge and acquired a Kari Voutilainen Vingt 8. In his own words: "For a long time, I said that the Kari would be the watch I could never sell, and if I had to get rid of all my worldly possessions, including my apartment, I would do all that first before letting go of the Kari. Eventually I did, but only because I stopped wearing rose gold watches. At some point, I’d like to have Kari make me something custom in a white gold/steel/titanium case."
Finally he had reached the pinnacle of watch collecting in terms of type of brands and price range, it was time to get the big grails and the Richard Mille bug hit him. First a Richard Mille RM30 White Rush, followed by a RM 35 Black Toro. At this point it's hard for him to even list or keep track of all the watches that followed with many watches —including Pateks and tons of APs— between other big purchases like the one of a Richard Mille RM 004 V1 Split Seconds Chrono along with an A-series Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo ref. 5402ST, both of which are likely his favorite watches at the moment including a Romain Gauthier Logical One.
If You Had to Wear 'One Watch' What Would it Be?
"My 'One Watch' is something I think about a lot. If I could only have one, what watch would it be? I thought this would be a very hard question for me to answer, but turns out it isn’t. My pick is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo reference 5402 A-Series. It’s a vintage watch, but still looks modern. It has historical significance as the watch that saved AP. It continues to appreciate in value, and will probably never go down. Modern watch people and vintage watch people will all nod their approval when they see it on your wrist and at the end of the day, you can literally wear that watch with any sort of attire, and it will always look good. A true timeless classic that checks every single box for me" says @NYCWatchGuy.
Words Straight from the Horse's Mouth
Learning more about @NYCWatchGuy has been a really interesting experience and one that brought us much closer to him and just to finish this article, here's what he has to say about his watch collecting journey:
"In going through this exercise, it really made me think about why I buy watches, and then why I buy certain watches. I’ve always been intrigued by gadgets, and I see watches as gadgets that are aesthetically pleasing. For me, the look of a watch always comes before the functionality. If I don’t love it on my wrist, I won’t buy it, no matter how horological important the watch is. I also don’t have unlimited money, and so I have to be careful not to buy things that absolutely will not hold value. I took some really bad losses early on with some of the purchases I made, and so now I am far more careful about what I buy, and how much I buy it for. More than anything though, I find myself gravitating towards independent brands, where I have gotten to know the watchmakers and feel like my purchase is actually making a difference to their bottom line, unlike the Richemont and Swatch Group brands. And of course, sometimes I do buy watches to sell them, knowing that I can use the profit to fund another purchase. Any watch collector who says otherwise is full of it and probably lying, otherwise he’s in the unlimited cash club. When I first got into watches, my worry was that most of the collectors I met were going to be snobs. It turned out to be the opposite. The collectors are great, it’s the brands that can be quite snobbish. All said and done, this has been an incredibly fun hobby for the past 5 years. I’ve gotten to meet some of the most awesome people, many of whom have become close friends of mine. I’ve made money, I’ve lost money, but more than anything, I’ve enjoyed the journey of chasing after some elusive watches. At this point, a grail watch for me would be to find a steel Nautilus at retail. That’s how absolutely ridiculous the industry has gotten. And probably a Grönefeld Remontoire with a custom Kari Voutilainen dial. And an F.P. Journe tourbillon. Christ, I have a problem."