Want to start a watch collection? How to get started

Matthew Cule, watch collector and founder of CuleM Watches, talks about how to start a watch collection…

The fact you are reading this article tells me that you already have a keen interest in watches. So, we’re off to a good start.

I am a watch collector and also the owner of an independent travel watch brand. I’ve collected watches since I was a boy and I believe that I will continue to grow my collection throughout my life. Currently, I have around 30 watches, ranging from a Seiko chronograph that I purchased 30 years ago, a Jaeger LeCoultre world timer (a gift from my Dad), and a collection of my own creations. Each watch is individual.

But if you are thinking of starting your watch collection, where should you start?

Lead don’t follow

Most peer groups will see the same or similar watches around the dinner or meeting room table. Last summer I spent the day with friends, and all I could see on the majority of the wrists were one or two big name watch brands. If your watch is simply a status symbol, this may make sense, but if your watch is about expressing your individuality – then look for brands that speak to you, and not just the ones your peer group are wearing.

Define your style

It’s also important to consider your style when building a collection of watches. I’m generally smartly dressed and like to wear an elegant dress watch on a leather strap. Therefore, I prefer to have more watches in this style in my collection. More casual people might prefer larger and more rugged watches like a diving watch or chronograph on a metal bracelet. Think about how and when you’ll be wearing them and choose watches to suit your lifestyle and wardrobe.

Connect your watches to your passions

If you have an interest in particular items or activities, start looking for watches that match what you love.  For example, if you love diving, look for diving watches that are water resistant to a certain depth and can be used for scuba diving. Having a connection to a watch is important when building a collection because you’ll not only take pleasure in looking at it, but it will always remind you of your passion.

What type of watch do you want?

There are four main types of watches in terms of the mechanics: automatic (also called self-winding); manual winding; quartz; and smart watches. 

Smart watches don’t tend to hold their value like other watches as they are out-of-date very quickly. They aren’t built to last and there isn’t much of a second-hand market. However, if tech is your thing, then there are some interesting watches to collect.

Quartz watches are battery powered and tick. They’re easily recognizable, are generally cheaper than automatic or manual winding watches but, in my view, are not designed with the intention to last a lifetime. The main advantage with a Quartz watch is that you never need to wind it, but many collectors avoid them as they aren’t considered to be high-end or luxury and so don’t hold their value as well.

The holy grail of watches is considered to be automatic and manual-winding watches that can be passed on from generation to generation.  Both types of watch can be manually wound and automatic watches benefit from continuously winding themselves as you wear them. Both types of watches will also have a power reserve.

When starting a collection, I personally would recommend buying an automatic watch that is Swiss made, which will potentially last a lifetime – making a great watch with which to start your collection.

World made watches

Many argue that Swiss-made watches are the gold standard and they are of course excellent, like almost anything Swiss-made. But, they do come at a higher price. 

That said, Swiss made watches are a good place to start when building a collection because of the variety of brands, quality, prices and functionality.  Other countries to look at include Germany and Japan, which both have some lovely, high quality brands. There are cheaper fashion watches that are often made in China. These can look great, and certainly won’t cost as much, but they don’t tend to last as long or hold their value as well.

Discovery Time

A great place to start looking at watches is online and social media. Some brands are only currently available online, so you’ll get a much wider choice by looking there. Also, it’s great to browse watch shops and attend watch events like Baselworld. 

The great thing about events and shops is that you can generally try on the watch and see it on your wrist – how does it make you feel when you look wear it, what does it look like on you, how comfortable is it? All of these are important questions.

For watch brands that are only available online, like CuleM, you can download the Try on CuleM app and see how good the watch looks on your wrist. Follow your instinct with online purchases knowing that you can generally return the watch if you are not happy with it.  Check the company’s returns policy first before purchasing.

Digging deeper

As you progress in your watch collecting journey, you’ll probably want to dig deeper and get to know more about watches, the inspiration behind them, the story of the brand and its founder. To really connect with a brand, you may also want to know about their vision, and chat with the founder. This way you can get a real sense of the brand and know if it’s one you wish to follow and buy more watches from in the future.

Watch events like Baselworld in Switzerland, Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair, Miami Watch and Wonders, and Dubai Watch Week are a great way to do this. There are also smaller local events you can search for online. You can meet the people behind the brand, get to know them, and understand the vision for their future collections.


So, think about what you are passionate about and your general style. Then, browse watches online, attend events and check out some shops. Follow your instincts and spend what you can afford.  Set the trend, by leading not following. Enjoy the journey and happy collecting.

CuleM Watches is an independent watchmaker founded by watch collector and traveller Matthew Cule. CuleM will have a stand at Baselworld from 30th April to 5th May 2020 showcasing The World GMT collection. See  www.CuleMwatches.com. 


Chris Price