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The Evolution of a Watch Collector

It all started innocently enough.  As a young kid, I pretty much always wore a watch.  A G-SHOCK or Casio, possibly even a few Diesel fashion watches.  I didn’t wear them to make a fashion statement or because I had developed an early appreciation for watchmaking. I wasn’t fascinated by the backstory of G-SHOCK, in which Kikuo Ibe dropped a watch that was given to him by his father and started a quest to create a watch that could not be destroyed. No, I wore them for one reason only—to tell the time.  Every morning, I’d strap on my watch, and it gradually become as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth.

We didn’t have smart phones (how did we live?), so we used watches as they were originally intended—to keep time.  All these years later, nobody needs a watch to tell the time anymore, but I would argue that watches are as important and useful today as ever.  In an increasingly digitally-driven and connected world, it’s nice to take an occasional step back and appreciate the things that won’t be outdated and irrelevant in a year, or that, with a little love and care, will always work—even when you can’t find a charger.

Thanks to their longevity and usefulness, watches have long been considered an ideal heirloom: items that carry the stories of generations past. The concept of passing something down through families can be profoundly significant for a variety of reasons.  For me, it provides a tangible and direct connection to the important people in my life that came before me and that I never really got a chance to know.  It also, as it happens, sparked the fire that has long since fueled my passion and love of watches.

My college graduation gift – Panerai Luminor Marina
An OMEGA Seamaster that belonged to my grandfather.

One day, when I was old enough to understand, my dad pulled me aside to show me a special watch he kept in his safe: a small gold Vacheron Constantin dress watch that had belonged to my grandfather.  He gave the watch to my dad on the day he graduated from law school with the explicit instructions that he was pass it along to his first son one day.  Just as quickly as he had brought it out to show me, it was once again locked away for safekeeping.  The watch was to be mine someday, but my dad would determine when that day had come.

My wedding gift from my father – the Vacheron Constantin that belonged to my grandfather.

From then on, I was hooked. My dad had a fairly modest collection of watches at the time, but I’d ask to see “my” watch from time to time and I noticed when he’d added a new piece.  One of my older cousins also started what would eventually turn into a pretty serious collection and I started learning more and more.  Far from a collector myself, I finally received my first “nice” watch, a Panerai, when I graduated from college.  I loved (and still love) the watch and wore it every day for several years.  After a few years in the working world, I had saved some money and added a couple more watches to my rotation.  There I remained for several more years, happy to rotate through three or four watches.

In November of 2013, I got to marry the love of my life.  Aside from the birth of my son, it was the greatest day of my life. As my brothers and I were getting ready, my father pulled me aside, raised a private toast and officially gave me the Vacheron. Later, during his reception toast, he told the story of the watch as a way to honor my grandfather. My father gave a special day even more meaning, and I wore the Vacheron with great pride that night.

Sporting the Vacheron on my wedding day.

Then, one day in September of 2014, the glowing ember of my watch collection obsession became a full-blown inferno.  I vividly remember reading about the Longines Legend Diver reissue online and thinking to myself that it was the coolest watch I’d ever seen.  Later that day, one of my brothers and I made the first of what would ultimately turn into many, many (many!) trips to Feldmar.  We wandered around a bit and ended up in front of the Longines. Someone asked if we had been helped, and it turned out to be Sol Meller.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to know Sol, you know why we were instantly hooked.  Sol was without question one of the sweetest, friendliest and most genuine people I’ve ever met. He was truly one of a kind—a real “mensch,” as he would have said!  Needless to say, Sol was able to sell both of us watches that afternoon, and we so enjoyed the experience that we were both itching to go back.  Over time, we’ve continued to develop great relationships with Scott, Jamie, Marco and all of the other truly wonderful people that make Feldmar the great place that it is.

Showing off my recently purchased Seiko from Feldmar at a USC football game.

As I started to frequent Feldmar more and more, I wanted to learn more about the watches I slowly started buying for my collection. Naturally, I took to the internet.  I was late to the game and there were hundreds (maybe thousands) of old stories and reviews to devour.  I was swallowed up by sites like Hodinkee, A Blog to Watch and Worn & Wound (and don’t get me started on the forums).  Over time, I’ve developed a great appreciation for so many watches and watch brands, regardless of the logo on the dial. I’ve learned to love brands I used to ignore, simply because I didn’t know any better. Whether it’s the remarkable history or the sheer skill required of watchmakers, there is truly something for everyone.

With all of the resources available, it’s a really great time to be a watch collector or enthusiast.  There are so many interesting micro-brands now, it’s almost hard to keep track. Though I’m relatively new to Instagram (@watchesoutwest, if you’re interested!), I’m finding that it’s an excellent resource and, more importantly, an extremely fun way to share my passion with other watch lovers.  There are also amazing groups like Red Bar that make it possible for us watch geeks to get offline and share our passion together, in person. What could be better?

SC game
Scott Meller of Feldmar and our friend from MIDO at a USC football game this past fall.

I jumped at the opportunity to write this post because the truth is, if it wasn’t for Feldmar (especially Sol), I don’t know if I’d have ever unlocked my passion for watches.  It’s been a fun ride so far and I’ve met some really great people.  I look forward to whatever comes next in this hobby of mine, but when it’s all said and done, I’m still just a guy that needs to know the time.  I think I have a watch for that.

About The Author: Matt Wapnick


Matt Wapnick (@watchesoutwest) is a Los Angeles native and longtime watch lover and collector.  His interest in collecting started in earnest in 2014.  He is the Director of Business Development at CourtCall, the leading provider of remote court appearance services for attorneys and is primarily responsible for the development of new technologies.  Matt spends his free time exploring LA with his wife and young son; they are all excited to be welcoming a baby girl in March.  A graduate of USC, Matt still roots for his Trojans every chance he gets.

Read more from Matt Wapnick

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