The Ultimate Guide to Collecting Watches
There’s no wrong way to go about collecting watches, at least according to Ruediger Albers, president of Wempe US. “A watch is something that you buy because you love it, because you enjoy looking at it, because you’re intrigued by the craftsmanship and artistry that go into making it.”
During his 32 years working at the company, Albers has sold his fair share of timepieces to an equally fair share of enthusiasts. Many acquire a new timepiece at the rate of one or two per year, while others routinely make purchases twice a month. For some, collecting watches is like collecting art: They tend to concentrate on one particular brand, one particular complication, or one particular style. Then there are the avid collectors for whom it’s a major sport—securing limited editions or nearly-impossible-to-find models, like the Patek Philippe Nautilus or the Rolex Daytona.
For Albers, these purchases are a way of memorializing life’s milestones. His personal reserve includes a Patek Philippe, several Rolexes, a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso (“probably the most attractive rectangle watch”), and a Panerai, among others. Each represents a special moment in his life. “I have a Patek Philippe that was made for Wempe’s 125th anniversary,” he recalls. “There are only 125 of them in the world, and I picked number 88—the year I moved to New York.”
If you’re among the fortunate who cannot count their watch collection on one, two, or even 200 wrists, Wempe collaborates with Buben & Zorweg, a firm that specializes in watch winders and safes in a wide range of sizes and scales. “We created a unit for one client that was custom-built and programmed to give every watch in his collection just the right amount of winding time that it needed,” Albers recalls of the bespoke safe.
Whether you’re collecting watches as you would works of art—putting them out of reach to appreciate over time—or seeking out sentimental pieces to pass down to the next generation, Albers’s advice holds true: “Buy what speaks to you, what you find attractive, and what gives you pleasure,” he says. “You only live once, so enjoy it.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Winter Issue under the headline “Prime Time.” Subscribe to the magazine.