3 Things my Rolex Submariner Taught Me About Collecting
I was never really a fan of the Submariner. Even when I FIRST got into watches and didn’t know squat, it was the Milgauss GV above all other Rolex watches that caught my eye.
“Everyone has a Sub”
That’s what my thought process was for the longest time. I respected it, but had zero interest in ever owning one. I was learning about Panerai, German brands, Blancpain, Grand Seiko, etc. Why would I ever want a basic piece that is “everyone’s” grail? Things changed a bit way back when I started to learn about the different references, and found out about the Mil-Sub. The fixed spring bars, the imperial gray NATO straps that most of them were on, the utilitarian look – too bad they were over 100 grand. From then on when I saw any type of no-date sub on a NATO strap, I would get all warm and fuzzy inside. When I moved to Manhattan, my love for vintage subs died down a bit because the modern sub can be seen on any street corner, any elevator, or any favorite lunch time spot in Midtown. That didn’t last long, though.
After some time in NYC, a desire to own my first Rolex started to set in. I had my eyes on either a 36mm Explorer 14270, a Polar Explorer II 16570, or a 14060. I ended up grabbing the 14270 first, but not long after, I caved and purchased my first Sub, a head only 14060 from 1991. Alas, I finally had a no date sub on a NATO. Oddly enough, it took me some time to fully appreciate it (I even traded it away and traded back for the exact same one). Regardless, it has become the cornerstone of my collection. To be honest, I pretty much wear it exclusively and haven’t had a burning desire to acquire anything else lately. Yes, I still work in Manhattan, but in a sea of bracelets, I like to think that exclusively wearing my sub on leathers and NATOs differentiates me just enough. Here are three things the Rolex Submariner has taught me about collecting:
- Buying is Not Always about Value and “Bang Per Buck”
I used to always be obsessed with “value proposition” from a technical perspective, to the point where the number one factor in deciding on a purchase was how much bang per buck I got out of said piece. I’m talking about things like fit & finish, movement, accuracy, and other things in relation to price. Three examples of awesome value props that come to mind are most Sinn watches, the Seiko Turtle and the Oris Aquis. Objectively speaking, the majority of vintage Rolex watches are extremely overpriced. My pre-ceramic sub now has a ballpark value of over $4,000. That’s absolutely ridiculous! A little hunk of metal with a basic three hand movement (cal 3000). The thing is, it’s only going to keeping rising in value. Besides the investment characteristics of this piece, what really has allowed me to fall in love with it is its outstanding quality, and rich history with ties to the military, other utilitarian uses, the most powerful leaders in history, pop icons, sports superstars, and others. The aggregate of all these qualities and characteristics create a much stronger emotional response than simply a “value prop” when I look at my wrist. This thought process can be applied to many other brands and technologies, like the brand history associated with Breguet, engineering of Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive technology, or the craftsmanship of a Lange & Sohne movement.
- The Rolex Appreciation Bell Curve
There really is a bell curve for the love/hate relationship with Rolex. If you’re new to collecting, you may have never heard this before. It goes something like this:
When you know nothing about watches, many think Rolex is the pinnacle of Swiss Watchmaking. As you go through your horological journey you find out about other watches and suddenly Rolex doesn’t seem so cool anymore. On the contrary, you might even begin to dislike Rolex because it is so mainstream and commercialized from an enthusiast’s point of view. As your journey continues, you start to appreciate the brand’s history, standards, quality, and even their overly conservative nature. My sub has made me appreciate Rolex in a new way, and really fall in love with their pre-ceramic era.
- Finding the Perfect Watch Helps Define Your Roadmap and You Identify Future Keepers
When you find a watch that you have trouble taking off the wrist, a watch you really bond with (my Sub in this context), it makes you think a little bit harder about future acquisitions and road mapping your collection (see blog link). For example – I’m pretty confident I’m done with true dive watches. I’ve tried dozens of divers. From Seiko to Omega to Oris to Sinn to Tudor and so on. I just can’t see myself acquiring anything other than perhaps a Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe or “sports” diver like the Patek Aquanaut or a Breguet Marine. Anything less wouldn’t get any wrist time thanks to the Sub. On a NATO, it’s literally the perfect diver (for me!) and anything else would just sit in the watch box. As expected, it has made me have to think long and hard about what would be a meaningful addition to my collection. Something that I would actually pick up some days over the sub and enjoy. Doesn’t matter if it’s under a grand or over 10 grand.
It might not be the Submariner for you all. You could easily replace it in this article with something you’ve found yourself that has had the same effect, maybe an Omega Seamaster or Speedmaster, a JLC Master Compressor, or AP Royal Oak. Ultimately, watch collecting is a journey, so you might be super into your Aquis or Sumo for its bang per buck, you might hate Rolex right now because they’re ridiculously overpriced, you might not have found a true keeper in your collection just yet, but hopefully this might open your mind a bit and allow you explore some ideas sooner than you might have, OR you can just forget everything you just read and let your own journey happen naturally! One thing’s for sure, I guarantee that the majority of you will be a very different collector two years from now.
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