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Watches and cars crossover for collectors

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Watch Departments at Auction Houses are, traditionally, an offshoot of the larger Jewellery Department, which may, in turn, play second fiddle to the Fine Art or Interiors Departments, depending on the house’s focus.

WatchPro finds out more about how watches and cars crossover for collectors from WatchCollecting.com’s Adrian Hailwood.

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One of the details that makes Watch Collecting stand out is its evolution from a car collecting business, bringing in a whole new energy and audience. Hardly surprising as the synergy between watches and cars is strong and enduring.

The first documented motor race was in 1867 from Ashton-under-Lyne to Manchester but that was steam powered. No one knows who was driving as the ‘Red Flag’ rule was being broken and the whole event was highly illegal.

The first race for petrol-heads was in 1894 from Paris to Rouen, with further races in Paris in 1895 and Chicago the same year, so racing and wristwatches grew up in parallel. Early watch ads aimed at the motorist suggest the wristwatch not for timing laps but as an alternative to a dashboard clock that won’t get shaken to bits while driving or stolen whilst parked…

Of course, racing is about speed and speed needs a chronograph. It is no coincidence that the golden era of mechanical chronographs the early ‘60s to ‘70s matched something of a golden age of motorsport with the likes of Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Jo Siffert being as associated with their watches and their racing prowess.

Jim Clark

Clarke’s Gallet, Enicar and Breitling, Rindt and Siffert’s Heuer’s all represented the best the watch industry had to offer at the time and were as cutting edge as the cars they drove.

Quartz watches, despite their virtues, rarely excite the same passions as mechanical watches and it may be that the same it’s true in cars for engines vs electric motors.

There is something special about intricate mechanisms that seem to have a life of their own. They share a common reference to more exciting pursuits, even if you use your Rolex Daytona to time your pasta, or your Porsche 911 to nip to the shops.

To quote Damian Butt, presenter of both TheCarGuys and TheWatchGuys YouTube channels and early-adopter of Watch Collecting, he explains: “Cars and watches go together so well because they require similar decision making to buy and collect. They are both often expensive, shiny, beautifully designed, well-engineered, and portray an image and character beyond words.

“Even buying them is similar – you need to be invited to get the special ones, and they can be worth more money than you paid, so it’s easy to justify buying more.”

The other element collectible cars and watches have in common is their tradability. Whether it is moving on a lovingly restored classic with many years of enjoyment or flipping the latest hard-to-get release for a profit, both cars and watches can be liquid assets.

A visitor to a recent Collecting Cars Porsche meet-up remarked, “Of course I’m interested in Watch Collecting, I’m looking to sell three watches to buy another car…”. Whether it is space in your garage or watch box that you are looking to clear or fill; Collecting Cars, or Watch Collecting can help.

Words by Adrian Hailwood, Head of Watches at Watch Collecting.

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