I’m not so much a collector anymore. I started collecting, but it became a business and I’ve been doing this now for 28 years.
When I was a kid, about 10 years old, there were a couple of cool watches that I really loved. One was a Seiko chronograph and at the time, in the 70s, that was about $100, which was a lot for a 10-year-old to want. Thankfully, I came from a family that could do that. I also had a Heuer chronosplit that was a type of digital watch and a Pulsar.
I went into investment banking after Boston University but I just sort of segued into this. It was a very interesting segue because I was trying to understand how some of the people were making money at this business and I would watch the Europeans coming to America, see what they were buying, and do the same thing.
There are many different levels of collecting in terms of price points. Right now, you can start collecting watches that are on average priced at $5,000. Then there’s the watches that may range between $10,000 and $100,000, with an average being about $50,000. Then $100,000 to upwards of $3,000,000, most of which, both modern and vintage, would probably be in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. Very few of them are over $1,000,000, but certainly more now than there used to be. The most important thing that I’ve seen is that the disparity in price between medium condition and pristine condition continues to get wider and wider.
At this point I buy one out of every 20 watches for myself and, to be honest, usually when I buy something for myself, if I think it’s cool, someone else will think it’s cooler. Generally I’ll either sell or trade it for something else that they have that I think is cooler. With all collectors, it’s a very fluid business.
I have a couple of beautiful Paul Newman Daytonas and some sport watches, various Submariners and chronographs. I love Rolex for the sporty look and due to my expertise, I can tell what’s correct and what’s not correct. Funnily enough, some of the people who make the most money in the watch business have been collectors because they are passionate and they hold on to their collection and trade, and the prices can go up so much. So, in fact, the collectors have probably made more money than the dealers in terms of asset value.
—As told to Hyla Bauer