Our latest Collector’s Spotlight features James AKA @waitlisted on Instagram! He’s got quite the varied and eclectic timepiece collection. Learn more about how he got into the hobby and hear about some of his favorite watches below!
Please give us a brief introduction. How did you get into the hobby of watch collecting?
Hi! I’m James, also known as @waitlisted on Instagram. I’m a 30-something New Yorker who grew up on the east coast but ended up in college at UCLA before coming back here, so I’ve sort of ping-ponged between the two coasts. As for how I got into watch collecting . . . honestly, I kind of just fell into it one day. As a kid, I went through phases where I got into collectible-type hobbies very, very intensely – stamps, sports cards, coins, pogs, you name it. Obviously, I had a limited budget back then, so I never had the biggest collection of anything, but I made up for it by reading just about everything I could get my hands on regarding whatever it was that I was interested in. I guess I’ve always had that tendency – I don’t know if I have the “collecting bug” per se, or it’s more that when I get into something, I tend to get really, really into it, and collecting is one manifestation of that trait. I’ve also gone through phases of my life where I didn’t collect anything but I was really, really into something else – creative writing, for instance, or some video game.
I always wore watches growing up, but like many, I stopped when cell phones became common in the early aughts. After going bare-wristed for a number of years, I finally got “into” watches about six years ago, around when apple first announced the apple watch, ironically enough. I came across one or two watches that I liked online, started reading about them and I fell deeply down the rabbit hole in short order.
What was your first watch?
I grew up in the 90s, so Casios and Swatches were definitely my jam. I would say my first “real” watch was a quartz Victorinox that I got in high school. I think it was around $350, which seemed like an exorbitant amount of money to spend on a watch. Anyway, I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever, wore it around for a few years and then unceremoniously lost it sometime during college.
Your IG handle is “@waitlisted.” Why did you choose that name?
It’s kind of a cheeky watch joke: as a watch collector, and especially if you’re interested in certain models, you inevitably spend a lot of time on a waitlist (or a “wishlist,” as some dealers have taken to calling it, given the rather. . . flexible . . . nature of modern-day waitlists). As for how I got the username, it was basically pure luck – on the morning I created my Instagram account, I spent maybe an hour trying different watch-related usernames, and I was on the verge of giving up because it seemed like literally everything was taken. Then I tried “waitlisted,” and by some miracle, it went through. I think the person who previously had the username had just changed it to something else (I was able to find the old profile for waitlisted on google cache shortly afterward), and I was able to pick it up before anyone else had re-registered it.
You have an extremely varied, somewhat eclectic collecting style. What watches do you tend to gravitate toward as a collector? What are your favorite brands and watch styles?
Great question! I sometimes have a hard time synthesizing my own collecting style, because my collection does tend to be super varied across styles, across brands and across price ranges. I have both niche pieces and mainstream pieces. If I were to try to articulate an overarching theme to my collection, there would surely be exceptions, regardless of what theme I were to choose. But if there’s a primary quality that attracts me, I would say it would be watches that very strongly represent the vision of the person that created or designed them. I find myself gravitating to well-considered watches that have a bit of soul, a bit of whimsy or a bit of personality regardless of price range, brand or popularity. Of course, if the watch is a great value, that doesn’t hurt, either.
Please go through your collection, highlighting a few of your favorite pieces.
FP Journe Chronometre Bleu: I lusted after this watch for a couple years before pulling the trigger (and good thing I did, too, because the market for this thing has just gone through the roof). It didn’t disappoint – it’s definitely one of my favorite watches to wear and one of the most beautiful I own. It’s a hard watch to classify because you would think it would be dressy, but the bright blue dial and the dark tantalum case means it can also work pretty well as a casual watch, especially when paired with a brighter strap (I have a teal strap that I love wearing it on). For me, this is definitely an all-occasions watch (unless rain or water is involved).
Konstantin Chaykin Joker: The second I set eyes on this thing, I knew I wanted it. You might say that it’s completely ridiculous to spend so much money on a watch whose dial is a literal joker face, and you would absolutely be right. But that’s also why I love it. It’s a reminder that so much of this hobby is so irrational, anyway, so why not take it a step (or three) further? I love that it’s also sort of a playful rebuke to the high horology establishment, which can definitely seem a bit stuffy and self-serious.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak: My first grail when I got into collecting. It’s one of the few watches that’s so iconic that I knew about it before I was even properly into watches. I love mine – many of my best memories from the past few years have come while wearing my Royal Oak, and it’s one of those watches that I hope will accompany me on adventures for years to come.
Ming (various): I own five watches from Ming, which is by far the most watches I own of any single brand. I stumbled upon Ming shortly after the brand launched in 2017, and I was immediately smitten by both the watches themselves and the brand’s ethos. It’s been amazing watching them grow and develop over the past three years or so (and to watch them win a GPHG prize last year!), and I consistently look forward to their new releases.
Ressence Type 1: Another one of those “love at first sight” watches with a concept that just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go the second I stumbled upon it. I see this watch in many ways as kindred spirits with the Chaykin Joker – both watches are powered by a humble ETA base movement, but use it as a base to create something entirely new, unexpected and exciting.
In addition to being a watch collector, you have become quite the photographer. Can you talk about how both of these hobbies feed off on one another?
Thank you! They’re amazingly complementary hobbies. I really only got into photography after I joined Instagram last year. I didn’t even own a camera before that (like I said, when I get into something, I tend to get really, really into it). Photography has been great because it serves both as a creative outlet as well as a way for me to try to capture and convey the beauty of a watch to others. Before I was better at taking photos, I would always look at a watch at my wrist and marvel at how amazing it was, and then I would think, if only I knew how to translate this beauty into a photo. My pursuit of photography has really just been my attempt to bridge that gap.
Recently, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve been getting requests from friends (and some strangers!) to shoot their watches, so that’s added a whole new dimension to both hobbies for me. It’s always great to have new subjects, and it’s challenging and motivating to photograph a watch that I’m really excited about. And as a watch geek, it also allows me to spend time with a watch that I don’t own myself.
You have become a prominent member of the IG collecting community. Please talk a bit about the IG platform and how it has affected your experience as a collector. Have you met a lot of other collectors and formed relationships?
Absolutely! Initially, being into watches was mostly a solitary hobby that I pursued on my own (except when I drove my “normal” friends crazy with watch talk). It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I started getting a bit more involved in the New York City watch community – going out to events organized by Hodinkee and others, meeting a ton of awesome people and getting involved with the groups here in New York like Watch Club Society (shoutout!) and Redbar. I created my Instagram last year, mostly as a way to meet other people, but also because it seemed like a lot of watch conversation happened over Instagram and I was missing a big chunk of it by not being a part of it.
To be honest, I resisted joining Instagram for a long time because I had really negative preconceptions about the platform. I have no desire to “flex” or to see others do so, and I’m mindful and sensitive about the fact that this is an expensive hobby that revolves around unnecessary material objects. I just didn’t feel like it was possible to have a watch account without coming off as privileged and out of touch, and because Instagram is an image-based platform (in multiple sense of the word), I was always wary of it being a superficial environment that revolved around lazy photos of really expensive stuff shared just for the sake of showing off. Luckily, these fears were far overblown (or at least I’ve managed to stay away from those corners of IG). I’ve connected with people from all over the world, and like I wrote in a caption recently upon the 1-year anniversary of my account: I’ve found Instagram to be a fun, worthwhile place to spend some time, filled with some amazingly kind, talented and cool people (quite a few of whom I’ve subsequently met in real life!).
What are you on the lookout for next?
Really excited to see what Ming has in store! They’re probably the brand that I feel most in tune with right now in terms of design language and overall philosophy.
In general though, I’m always on the lookout for cool releases, regardless of brand. Everyone keeps telling me I have to add a Grand Seiko to my collection, so I think that that has to be on the list at some point, too.
What is your ultimate grail and why?
I would say a 38mm brass resonance by Journe. It’s been one of my ultimate grails ever since I stumbled upon Journe some years ago. Unfortunately, it seems like I’m in very good company, because prices for them have just gone through the roof.
Thanks, James! We enjoyed getting to know you and taking a look at your extremely cool collection!