You often hear this advice: buy what you like, but for the new collector this is often easier said than done.
It may sound strange, but as new enthusiasts, we might not always know exactly what we like. While we might have an idea in terms of size, dial color, or general style, our narrow experience limits our ability to objectively and completely evaluate our options.
Consequently, many new collectors end up basing their purchasing decisions on the multitude of watch and brand opinions, criticisms, and compliments that flood social media, magazines, and newspapers.
Knowing exactly what we like or want from a timepiece seems like a never-ending proposition. After all, taste is not developed over night. However, this is normal and not necessarily a bad thing. New and seasoned collectors can agree that one’s taste evolves over time as we are exposed to new knowledge.
In a January 2015 interview for TheWATCHES.tv, Mr. Jean-Claude Biver (a person who knows a thing or two about horology) pointed out that “Taste evolves through buying. It is comparable to fine food. It develops following the same schema… you focus your taste with time. It changes too…”
Early in my journey, I really wanted a classic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso because at the time, I was looking for a watch with classic design and horological significance to solidify my collection. The Reverso consistently receives praise for its history, heritage, and quality of manufacturing. I had never seen one in person; thus based on what I had read and heard, I purchased one. I did wear the watch on a few occasions, including formal dinners and a job interview; yet, even after changing back and forth from bracelet to a number of leather bands, it did not feel right; it wasn’t for me. I sold that piece, but a nagging feeling persisted. Perhaps I had missed something? How could all the critics and commentators be wrong?
Months after I sold the watch, I found a December 2009 interview with Gerald Genta, possibly the most influential watch designer of all time, where he provided his views on the Reverso design. “The Reverso is also a phenomenon.” he said. “In my opinion, it is not as important, because I do not find this watch to be very ‘virile’. It looks pretty on a woman’s wrist, but I don’t think it’s very masculine to wear a watch with a swivel case. I don’t really see the use.”
Regardless of your own opinion about the Reverso or Genta’s comments, personally it wasn’t until I read this interview that felt justified for selling the watch within just a few months of buying it. Before the Reverso, I didn’t have enough experience to understand how case dimensions and shape, and overall design combined with my wrist size can determine how a watch will look and feel while wearing it.
Do I regret buying the Reverso; was it a mistake? In the words of Mr. Biver himself, “… even if we make a mistake, the day we realize that is good news because it shows we have changed. It is positive and I don’t regret my first purchases because they fit with my knowledge and tastes at the time… It is a beautiful evolution that improves the collection.”
Take your time and enjoy every new experience. Remember that beauty is based on a subjective feeling; taste is both personal and beyond reasoning, and therefore arguing over matters of taste never reaches any universal consensus. So, who cares what you read, see, or hear in the “specialized” media? Enjoy every step of the process and see every “mistake” as a reflection of your expanding knowledge.