Credit: Omega

Building a women’s watch collection under $10,000 is not easy, but it’s not impossible. It’s true that the pink tax is prevalent in the watchmaking industry, where women are charged a premium just because there are some extra diamonds on the bezel. But luckily, things are changing and watchmakers are now catering to both genders with androgynous timepieces that suit the wrists of both men and women.

Looking to start your collecting journey without breaking the bank? In this two-part series, we speak to two prolific watch collectors who know a thing or three about horology. For the first instalment, meet Emilyn Lee, whose watch collecting journey was inspired by her husband’s love for Omegas. They met when they were still studying at polytechnic, and would spend their days trawling Sungei Road to find vintage watches. We ask her all our burning questions about how to start a collection under $10,000.

How did you first become interested in watch collecting?

All thanks to my husband! When we first began dating, flea markets were the trend. We spent countless weekends visiting these spots in Clarke Quay, Sungei Road and Far East Square. As I accompanied him on these treasure hunting trips, my interest got piqued. And being more digitally savvy, I am the one who is doing the information searching. That’s how I got bitten by the watch collecting bug myself eventually.

These days, our weekends are spent meeting up fellow watch collectors, checking out stores and attending watch gatherings.

What was your first watch, and why?

The first watch I bought for myself was a Pop Swatch when I was a teenager. I love it as it is big and has a simple dial. This Swatch watch is still well and alive … even after over 20 years! Now who says quartz watches don’t last? Of course, it’s important to change the battery before it runs flat so that you don’t run the risk of corroding the circuit!

What collecting advice do you live by?

Collect what you like; within your means. Getting a me-too watch doesn’t bring out one’s personality.

The watch you look for needs to meet your lifestyle. If you can afford to buy more than one piece, then consider one for your daily wear and another for dressy needs.

Most days, I am a jeans and polo tees person so I like watches that are functional, reliable and robust. So this means a trusty Omega Speedmaster Reduced or the Patek Philippe Calatrava Travel Time Singapore edition is often seen on my wrist.

On days I need some ra ra, the Konstantin Chaykin Clown II Audacity never fails to bring a smile to my face. For occasions when I am feeling feminine, I tend to reach out for my jewellery watch. I am fortunate enough that my husband looks out and buys these for me. I have this vintage Omega bangle style jewellery watch that I absolutely adore: this is always conversation piece.

What are some criteria we should be mindful of when looking for watches under $10,000?

Frankly be it a purchase of few hundred dollars or tens of thousands, these few criteria applies:

a.         Good aesthetics and fit

We wear watches as a reflection of our personality and as part of our outfits (check under hashtags #WOTD).

So the overall watch design, its dial, features and bracelet/strap needs to appeal to me to tick the first box. It is important to consider the size and overall fit as well as my wrist is particularly small.

b.         Strong watch brand reputation

Strong brands stand behind their products – their watches should be well-built. These days for the under $10,000 range, one can explore not just big brands but mid-market and micro-brands as well.

Some examples include:

•           Omega
•           Longines
•           Breitling
•           Tag Heuer
•           Habring
•           Norqain
•           Oris
•           Baltic 

c.         Do your due diligence before committing to purchase

Take time to learn about the brand. Read reviews of the watch(es) you are looking at. There are also watch sites and blogs that you can access. Make friends with other watch collectors to exchange tips. (I am fortunate my husband is one! You can catch him at @vintagefusion_george on IG.) Follow them online and read what they say and think

The Singapore Watch Fair (until 30 October) will have panel sessions with horologist experts and veteran watch collectors discussing about the watch scene, which many should find interesting and can learn more about watches before deciding to purchase. If you’re interested, go online to register for a free seat.

d.         Buy what you would wear

Watch collecting is about enjoying your timepieces on your wrist. If the timepiece does not speak to you, then you are unlikely to wear it often.

Please do not buy a watch and fear about scratching or damaging it and as a result, keep it in the drawer. Wear it out proudly. Watches are generally quite robust these days and as long as you don’t throw punches, knock your watch against hard surfaces or drop onto the floor etc, it should serve your needs.

I wear my watches. And you see them on my IG @femalewatchcollector.

Emilyn recommends the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80, which costs $950

What’s something you only learnt later, that you wished you knew when you first started collecting?

At times, you may look at buying from the second hand market, that’s when I would always say “buy the seller”! A good seller needs to stand behind their products and have long standing reputation.

These days, even boxes and certificates can be faked so when coming to listings from second hand dealers and grey market offers, these are not necessarily good indicators of a complete “authentic” box set.

If the price listed is very attractive, then take a moment to ponder “is it too good to be true?”

The Singapore edition of the Ophion Vélos will set you back 3,340 Euros

Can you give us a few suggestions for watches under $5K and $10K respectively, and why?

In addition to those mentioned above, below are some more specific models. 

Under $5,000:

1. Longines Record Chronograph Automatic
2. Tissot PRX automatic
3. (Micro brand) Baltic MR01 micro rotor automatic
4. Sinn U1

The Longines Record Automatic Chronograph

Under $10,000:

1. (Indie brand) Ophion
2. Omega Speedmaster Hesalite
3. Omega Seamaster 300
4. Rolex Oyster Perpetual

What’s a non negotiable for you, regardless of price?

The brand reliability and quality!

Catch Emilyn Lee at the Singapore Watch Fair, which is part of UltraLuxe, where she’ll be chatting with fellow watch collectors. UltraLuxe is happening until 30th October 2022.