Everyone would love to get their hands on some magic pill which solves all your problems while you have a nap or chill out. Losing 10kg overnight, earning a million bucks in a week, gaining experience by watching YouTube videos… whatever. Such “magic pills” don’t exist, and most problems require some sort of effort to solve them. The only variable is how much effort is required.
Just like life itself… relationships, careers, and watch collecting all have a proven easier way to solve things or a hard way. The trick, of course, is to find the ‘proven easier way’. What does that mean? Well, you’ve got to find the person who has already solved the problem that you’re facing for the first time.
As google will reveal – nearly every problem you face today, has been faced previously by someone, somewhere. You’ve just got to find them. This is probably why successful people have a larger and more varied network of relationships in their lives than less successful ones. The same holds true for watch collectors too.
If you think about your career for a second… Earlier in your career, what you know tends to matter a bit more than who you know. As you progress, however, who you know increasingly dictates your overall success. Why is that? I would argue that when you align yourself with high performing, diverse, and interesting people, you discover two key things. First, these people bring to your attention things like novel ideas, tools, and skills… and these things give you a competitive advantage in your career. Second, and this is by definition of course, these same people tend to connect you with other high-performing, diverse, and interesting people. This is a perpetual loop.
The same, I have found, is true for watch collecting. There are many watch collectors out there who have been collecting for several decades, and have seen and experienced countless watches over the years. Particularly in today’s hype market, this fact is more relevant now than ever before… because these more experienced collectors have had the privilege of experiencing the watches without all the associated ‘noise’ that comes with hype. They have a perspective which many will fail to gain through experience today.
With that in mind, I suggest that there are two kinds of relationships for budding collectors to form, nurture, and maintain:
PEERS – Like minded peers with whom you share a similar approach to collecting, be it from a brand values perspective, budget, or any other area of common ground. More importantly, find people who are at a similar stage of collecting as yourself, Form an alliance with them. Help them. Ask them to help you. Work as a team. Together, you all get ahead further and faster than any one of you alone. A strong, diverse team beats the lone individual every time. This applies in the workplace, and it applies in collecting too. Rather than trying to compete with one another, you can help one another find the things you’re searching for, advise one another, and share your own experiences regarding certain watches. Think of it like a ‘collective brain’ of like-minded enthusiasts.
MENTORS – These are the people who are further ahead of you in their collecting journey, from whom you want to learn. Seek out a more experienced collector whose collection seems to appeal to you the most… be it in terms of aesthetics, historical significance, craftsmanship or whatever other characteristics appeal to you the most. Get to know that person (or people). Learn from them. You can even ask that person to be a formal mentor, although most folks are wary of making formal commitments… It’s probably better to develop the relationship informally. Observe from a distance to start, then maybe connect over a zoom call, a coffee or lunch… Ask them questions about themselves, their collecting journey, and in particular, ask for advice they would share with a younger version of themselves.
My own advice on dealing with these people is limited, and I’m sure you will all have your own approach… I would ensure that your gratitude is unequivocal… Thank them a lot… remain mindful that they are probably super busy and their time is both valuable and limited. What I believe is the more you are highly respectful of people’s time, the more they are willing to help. If you act as though you are somehow entitled to their time, they feel disrespected and try to distance themselves from you.
In the end, a good teacher teaches you what you want to know, but a good mentor exposes you to ideas that you need to know… even if you don’t realise it yet.