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The Life of a Collector Don’t Be Afraid To Wear Your Watch

In the watch sales world, I often hear the phrase “Oh no, I can’t wear this to the beach, it’s too expensive.” Feel free to change the location, or the adjectives, but it’s certainly a common thread heard often in the watch world. Look, I understand where you’re coming from, you’re spending a very significant amount of money on a luxury item, and you want to make sure you take proper care of it. That being said, most watches these days (especially sports models) can handle some serious abuse. I’ve completed a micro case study that illustrates this statement.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore in Alaska

Royal Oak Offshore vs. Deep Sea Fishing

I recently traveled to Alaska for some pretty hardcore deep-sea fishing (12+ hour days on the water for roughly a week). Now I’m not trying to say that it wasn’t relaxing and ridiculously enjoyable, I’m just saying it was a little more intense than a pleasure cruise with cocktails and Hall & Oates playing over the loudspeaker.

I tend to lean more towards sport watches when I’m purchasing something for myself, mainly because I want to make sure I don’t have to worry about whether or not I should wear my watch to a certain event. For this expedition I wore an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver (ref: 15703ST.OO.A002CA.01). This watch certainly is not inexpensive, it’s no grand comp, but it’s not exactly entry-level either.

It took a glorious beating. Fish guts, salt-water spray, and probably more than a few bumps and bruises all adorned its crystal, case, and strap and one point or another. I made sure that once we returned to our room back on dry land that the watch received a nice, room-temperature water rinse, and dried it off with a soft t-shirt. I also made sure to triple check that the crowns were screwed down nice and tight before we left the dock.

deep seafishing

Showing Wear On The Case

I’m sure it picked up a couple new scratches (especially on the notorious scratch magnet that is a Royal Oak bezel). But scratches, nicks, and scrapes don’t tend to bother me too much. Yes, they’re visible blemishes that mar the meticulously hand-finished components of a lovely hand-crafted timepiece. However, when I do send in my watch for its inevitable service (in hopefully 5+ years from now), it will receive an expert refinish in the hands of Audemars Piguet’s obscenely skilled craftsmen. Maybe the bezel will have to be replaced, and that is not a game changer for me.

Certainly replacing parts is a different story for a vintage Rolex, where changing as little as possible is the name of the game, and NOS is the top of the mountain. The wear and tear that my watch took reminds me of my trip every time I notice a new scratch. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’m in the camp that believes that watches designed to perform under pressure, should be worn and enjoyed in exactly (or close approximations of) those circumstances.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver Water

Back in the lower 48 my watch is still keeping great time. It might look a tad worse for wear, but not dramatically so. At a casual glance only the most meticulous of watch collectors would notice its injuries.

Moral of the story: wear, enjoy, and put your watches through their paces. With minimal preparation and subsequent care most timepieces can handle a lot more than you would think. Yes you will damage them (albeit most times superficially and minimally). But they can always be brought back to life, even with pretty significant damage. And visit Alaska, that place is mind-numbingly gorgeous and enjoyable.

About Alan Strassler
After trying on his father's two-tone Submariner, Alan knew he loved watches. It amazed him that somehow gears and tiny little pieces of metal, barely seen bye the naked eye, could make his watch work. His father tried to explain it to him, but he didn't get it. He understands now, and he's hooked. He currently owns a Breitling Chronomat 01, a Rolex Explorer 1 (39mm), an AP Diver, and his grandfather's vintage Longines. He plans on getting a Speedy next (although there seems to be almost too many to choose from). His current grail watch is the FP Journe 10 year Anniversary Tourbillon. Find Alan at the Rittenhouse Square Location.

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  • beardedman

    Interesting article. I wonder how this applies to more dressy watches. I have a 25 year old Rolex Datejust that was pristine until I scratched the side of the case a couple of months ago. A fairly deep scratch too. I moderated it with a bit of jewelers rouge but it pains me every time I happen to spot the remnant. Maybe I’m being too fussy over a quarter-century old but ubiquitous watch. These too are workhorses that look classically beautiful, fall in between dress and tool watches, and are highly thought of in spite of very reasonable street prices. I won’t shed big tears but if I did a similar scratch on a new Sky Dweller I would be sick. Probably one of the reasons I don’t own one yet.

  • Rich Thomas

    Alan,
    I stumbled on your article looking through offerings by Govberg. This is a truly great watch story. You have a gift. Keep writing!

  • Govberg Jewelers

    It’s certainly a different situation with a dressier watch. On a sport watch, scratches and nicks are almost badges of honor, or good stories anyway. While the scratch on your Datejust or Sky Dweller may make you wince a bit more, it’s a tangible reminder of how much that watch means to you. It’s a door ding on your luxury sedan, so maybe you park a bit further away next time, but it just reinforces the love/care you have for the object in the first place! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! – Alan

  • Govberg Jewelers

    Thank you, it’s always nice to hear from people who enjoy the articles! – Alan