Friday, February 22, 2019

You Have How Many Watches? How to Keep Track of Your Watch Collection

There comes a time in many watch collectors’ lives when we can no longer remember all the details about all the watches we own. Maybe those memory leaks start at three watches for you; perhaps you’re one of the fortunate few who owns a watch for every day of the week and can remember everything about each of them.

I know two collectors who bought second watches identical to ones they already had because they forgot they owned those models.

Cataloging your watches sooner than later makes
a lot of sense. Photo by alexkerhead, licenced
under Creative Commons. 
I want to talk about a few options you can consider for organizing your watch database. The first is Chrono24. In addition to selling watches, Chrono24 offers a watch tracking database. Whenever you purchase a watch via Chrono24, it’s automatically added to that database. You enter information into the Chrono24 database using pre-set menus, which can be convenient, but only convenient if you don’t have many obscure brands or vintage watches. If you like to wear those, you need to enter information in manually.

Chrono24 has built-in fields for photos, a must for any watch database. Chrono24 has both phone and web apps, syncing the information between them. Chrono24 displays your watch collection’s current estimated worth, which is a treat to see, as well as how much your collection has gained or lost in value over time, which can either be fun or depressing.

Chrono24’s notes field, where you can enter in free-form information is limited to 255 characters, which can be restricting. I keep much information in my notes field, well beyond the 255 word range.

Watchbox offers a similar app, though Watchbox’s database is not available on the web. Watchbox shows you your individual watches’ estimated value along with the total value of your collection. Watchbox also tells you how accurate the data for your watches’ values are, using a formula they call “data strength.”

You can add photos as well as notes that aren’t limited to 255 characters, as they are with Chrono24.

Neither Chrono24 nor Watchbox let you export data, so if you choose one of these, you’re stuck with them for life, unless you want to reenter the information manually into another database. That can be a drag.

Neither Chrono24 nor Watchbox has a field for “last service date.”

Excel and its Google online cousin, Google Sheets, are other tools to keep track of your watches, especially if you’re already an Excel or Sheets wiz. I found adding photos of watches to be clunky with Excel and Google Sheets, especially if you want to have more than one or two photographs. With Excel and Sheets you’re not restricted to the fields that Chrono24 and Watchbox feel are important. Excel and Sheets can show you the total value of your collection — minus Chrono24 and Watchbox’s insights into the current market — as well.

After fiddling with Chrono24, Watchbox, and Sheets, I landed on my old standby, Evernote. It’s the jack-of-all trades database and suited, with a little tweaking here and there, for keeping track of watches. (Most of what I have to say about Evernote also applies to Evernote’s competitor, Microsoft OneNote.)

As with Excel and Sheets, you can enter  all the information you want into your database. Data fields are flexible. You’re not stuck with what the database designer thought was a good idea. For instance, Watchbox has a field for Case Material; but I never use it. Watchbox also has a field for Dial Color, but I’d rather have that information in notes, because a dial’s color isn’t always describable via what’s offered in a pull down menu. Grand Seiko SBGH267’s dial, for instance, doesn’t fit neatly into any color category. Nor does H. Moser’s Endeavour Moonphase with its Vantablack dial.

Evernote  lets you create templates you can use for your collection. Here’s the template I use in Evernote:

Serial Number: 
Year Made: 
When Acquired:
Where Bought: 
Price Paid: 
Last service:

Simple, straightforward, and fast to use. As you can see, I have no fields for straps and bracelets, fields included in Chrono24 and Watchbox, because straps and bracelets come and go, while the watch is forever. If I need to, I put that information in notes.

When you create a new note in Evernote you have the option of making a free-form note or using a template.

Evernote syncs among your various devices. The data hangs out in the cloud, but you can also keep a copy on your phone to make access faster (like for when you’re showing photos of your collection to friends.)

If you have a great memory, you might not need to
catalog your watches. Photo by Dominic Lockyer, used under
Creative Commons. 
I often have voluminous photos for my watches. Videos, too. Evernote accommodates those with ease. Evernote cannot show you the net worth of your watches, however.

Evernote also lets you link to other notes, which I find handy because I often have related notes with reviews of my watches or emails with the sale information. Evernote is available on the web, phones, tablets, and as a standalone Windows or Mac program. In short, it goes everywhere. As with Excel and Sheets you can export your data, should you want to move into another database. You can also share your watch collection with somebody else.

There are a lot of apps collection for Android and iPhone and there’s nothing wrong with using one of those, except it’s a bad idea. Unless you can export the data, when the app goes belly up — and it eventually will — your data will be lost. Apps that aren’t updated sometimes won’t work on your new phone or will stop working on your current phone. I’d recommend against using any database app that keeps all your information in one place, like on your phone.

Keeping track of your watches in a database is more of a fun endeavor than a daunting task. As you enter in information, you’ll learn more about your watches and see them as a team, rather than as individual players. My favorite part of organizing my watch collection is adding photos. Speaking of which, when you have your collection in a database you can show off your watches to friends, and fellow collectors, ADs, and passersby who happen to be wearing A. Lange & Sohnes. Having your collection in a database is good for insurance purposes or for talking with the police if a watch is stolen.

You may not always have all your watches with you physically all the time, but they will be with you in spirit in your go-everywhere database.

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