It is hard to say what truly draws one’s eye to a beautiful watch. Is it the esteemed heritage of the brand? The exquisite craftsmanship? A beloved past-time? Needless to say, there is something magical about the seemingly untouchable world of luxury timepieces. For Alexandre Xavier Bender, Global Merchandise Manager of Watches at DFS, his passion comes from a “moment, or feeling, or sentiment” tied with a specific timepiece.

“This is how I purchase my watches today. You really have to love them and cherish them and they have to mean something to you,” Bender told ICON during Masters of Time X Sydney event. “It would be the craftsmanship and that’s tied to any luxury products that are made on the planet… Be it wine, be it jewellery, be it hotels, restaurants… And the people working behind-the-scenes that bring them to life.” From Cartier to Piaget, though a small addition to an ensemble, it is easy to see why so many people become mesmerised by the art of watch collecting.

There is always an appreciation for the creation of any watch but for many lovers of luxury, one piece is not enough. Nowadays, owning a timepiece collection comes with certain prestige, but when it comes to building a considered curation, it is a practice that takes time, patience and a real passion for the industry. As the Masters of Time X Sydney exhibition makes its way into the final month of show, ICON sat down with the DFS expert as well as Hong Kong’s largest watch collector and the aptly dubbed ‘Watch Professor’, Carson Chan to pick their brains on how to build your own timepiece collection.

opt for an “emotion” or a story rather than a brand

Particularly amongst younger customers as well as travellers, purchasing a watch tends to be driven by a brand name rather than an emotion. When it comes to making a decision, many people are strapped for time so rely on a brand’s reputation and often, the piece isn’t as appreciated.

“If you want to make an investment … the emotion part, I hope every customer has an emotion when they purchase a watch but sometimes we usually go directly for a brand name rather than going for an emotion and understanding the story that is behind the pieces… It takes time to understand the DNA of the brands, to understand the products. And in the end it’s a matter of time. If you’re not giving yourself the time to understand the product you might miss out on a few things… It’s just how much of an effort you want to make to really learn about the product.”

Carson Chan agrees. “It would be nice to understand what’s behind the watch brand, why did Moser do no branding? Why does the JLC Reversal have no branding? These are stories to get into, to understand. Armed with this knowledge, then you can go and explore what you like.”

ignore the discount

Chan says there is no right or wrong way to collect timepieces – except for this one mistake: “By how much [of a] discount you can get,” he revealed to me.

“I’ve seen customers [look at watches] with 20 percent off, 15 percent off. Again, if we use art as a comparison, you don’t tell people, ‘I got this painting from Opera Gallery for 50 percent off’, that’s not the direction you should take. Instead you should know – you don’t need to be a watchmaker – but you need to have some understanding of it.”

read between the lines

Though the aforementioned suggests investing in a story, be careful to not get pulled in with what Chan describes as “marketing talk”. Instead, look for a “local expert” and read between the lines of what stories are being sold to you. He advises, “It’s important to be non-commercial.”

upkeep is important but this is the one thing you should avoid

And with any collection, be it sneakers, cars and even timepieces, upkeep is mandatory to keep your investments in mint condition and assist you in building a pristine collection. But according to Chan, there are some big no-no’s.

“Many people think you need to keep the watch running. So the topic comes up, ‘Do you need a watch winder?’ I am against it. You don’t need it, you just need to have, you just need to interact with the watch once a month. So whether or not you wear it, it’s fine. Wind it, you don’t have to set the time – wind it once a month – keep it in a cool dry place… and try not to get it wet, especially with the leather strap.”

Chan continues, “A lot of it is common sense. Stay away from magnetism … that is sufficient. That’s why [watches] are so attractive. It’s not like collecting 15 cars … watches are a lot easier to take care of.”