Use The Things You Love
You’ve probably heard the title of this article before. It’s occasionally used in pithy statements meant to impart a sense of immediacy, a sort of wake-up call. I heard it recently used by legendary watch writer Jason Heaton in reference to a common phenomenon among watch collectors: Watches That Don’t Get Worn.
It’s so easy to acquire in this hobby- and if we look at it honestly, acquiring is a large part of it. “Collect” as a verb means to bring together and gather things. It’s no surprise, therefore, that a lot of us end up filling a watch box with what amounts to horological clutter- pieces that used up their fifteen minutes of fame quickly, watches that weren’t very good, but too much of a bargain to pass up, etc.
Interestingly though it’s not always clutter that winds up gathering dust in the watchbox. There’s the curious phenomenon of Watches That Are Too Nice To Wear. I’ve fallen prey to this delusion myself. A reach or grail purchase; something that we dread the thought of wear and tear reducing the value of.
Is it Rugged Enough?
Perhaps a vintage watch that in our minds can’t take daily wearing. A thin dress watch that’s not “rugged” enough for wear outside of the most languorous of activities. Too much money at stake; too delicate; and so they sit in the watchbox as well, while something cheap and cheerful rides on the wrist.
I want to challenge myself and you, the reader, to re-evaluate the Too Nice To Wear phenomenon. Is it really? I hesitated late last year to take my neo-vintage Fortis Official Cosmonaut’s Chronograph, by far the most expensive watch I own and a real reach for me, on a weekend camping trip. Shouldn’t I take the Timex instead? Plus it was on a leather strap, and we all know leather simply can’t tolerate sweat or moisture. But I took it anyway, and had a blast. Of course it held up fine to hiking through the woods, a bit of rocky scrambling, and some honest sweat and dirt.
No outdoor activity should be spent constantly admiring your wrist, but the times I did look down for the time, or start the chronograph to time a certain leg of the hike, it was just a little extra special. Because I love that watch- enough that I sold nearly half my collection to purchase it.
As readers of my other articles on the site know, I’m also a fan of vintage watches- precious metal dress watches in particular. Was my newly acquired 14k Hamilton Thin-O-Matic the best watch for an evening of yard work? Maybe not, but (shockingly) it handled the gentle motion of leaf-raking and shoveling without falling apart or losing value.
Exercise common sense, of course. I’m not going to take that vintage Hamilton whitewater rafting (although were it sealed and pressure tested, what a story that would make!), or wear the Fortis while jackhammering concrete (wear your jackhammering watch for that). And there is a valid case for appreciating some watches the way you do fine art or antiques- simply for their aesthetic or historical significance, and not for daily use.
But don’t let the things you like the most become background clutter. If a watch represents such an investment of money for you that you don’t feel comfortable wearing it, re-evaluate if maybe you’ve reached beyond where you should in collecting. Are you scared of 30 or 50 meters of water resistance? It’s generally more capable than we credit it. And despite my tongue-in-cheek statement earlier, leather straps can easily be cleaned of a bit of moisture or dirt as well.
For most of what we own and collect, scratches and dings are a worthwhile trade for enjoyable wrist time and happy memories. Wear your favorite watches. Because if not now, when?