The “Front Page Test” is an easy ethics standard which requires asking yourself: “How would I feel if the course of action I am considering were reported on the front page of the local newspaper or in a popular blog?”. The idea is, if you feel this would be uncomfortable or create problems for you, then the best course of action is to change the intended course of action. Simple as that.
Of course, there are infinitely more angles to consider when making ethical decisions: one’s personal ethical lines, promises made, the overall good and bad consequences on a societal level, the consideration of would happen if everyone behaved the same way, and so on. The front page test is simple, and skips the noise around how you truly feel about an action.
The application to watch collecting
I am certain I have said this in another context before, but reading about this test today, it occurred to me that this was a great analogy for my application here.
Many of us are acutely aware of the increasing influence which social media is having on our own tastes and collecting habits. We find ourselves lusting after hyped watches and dreaming about buying watches which, truthfully, we thought were ugly just recently. This is true for myself too. Wading through these thoughts can be challenging, and this means that collectors find themselves perpetually unsure whether they truly like a watch – or whether they simply enjoy the idea of owning a particular watch – for example, because it is considered the best in its class, or iconic, or is ‘the best variant’ of its kind etc. Do you really like it, just as something you would wear? Who knows.
So the idea is this: if you are unsure whether you truly like a piece, apply the following thought experiment: Imagine a world where Instagram didn’t exist, and you simply went on to live your life without meeting other watch collectors, and going to watch meet-ups etc. That is, you’re simply collecting watches for the sheer enjoyment they bring you, and you have no reason to buy any watch, other than to wear it and enjoy it for any reason you choose… the beautiful dial, the incredible finishing, the exceptional craftsmanship, or even just the historical significance. Only YOU get to enjoy this, and you don’t really get to have any social validation for it.
Would you still like to have it? I argue that many of the most insanely hyped watches today, would never see any wrist time with their owners if they were living in a watch collecting vacuum… they simply bought it because its hot, and not because they genuinely liked it, personally. Admittedly they justify the purchase with the knowledge that they can always sell it for a profit… but anything that goes up can also go down. As unlikely as that may be, that isn’t the point of this idea anyway.
Try it, and let me know what you think… would you still have all the watches in your collection?