You know how serious watch collectors love to get in the weeds and argue about the most minute of details, like a tiny shift in Rolex case sizing or the merits of “fauxtina”? Turns out, they love debating all the best ways to store their watches, too. We spoke to a few high-level collectors for their top picks and best practices for keeping your timepieces box-fresh at home and on the road. Whether you’re on your third Seiko or your fifteenth Patek, here’s everything you need to know once your collection’s outgrown your nightstand.
On the Road
If you’re the kind of guy who travels with more than one watch, you’ll want a portable watch case. Most pros advocate a watch roll—a simple roll-up pouch with space for two, three or four extra watches. Eric Ku, who sells vintage Rolexes and Tudors at 10pastten.com, suggests finding something with a soft interior, and a decent amount of padding to guard against drops and bumps. His go-to watch rolls are made by Jean Paul Menicucci, whose cases feature a supple leather exteriors, soft suede interiors, and detachable inner cushions for quick and easy 360-degree watch display (without actually unfastening the watch itself). “I like their craftsmanship design and durability,” he says. “I often give them away as gifts to clients. Everyone loves them.”
For just one or two watches, Tirath Kamdar, eBay’s Head of Luxury, swears by the WatchPod, a hardshell watch case made of ballistic nylon with a squishy padded interior. RJ Kamatovic—a Canadian watch collector whose Insta feed is rife with covetable Omegas and Grand Seikos—opts for an even more budget-friendly approach. “The main objective is to provide a cushion and protection against scratches, and protect the movement from being jostled around,” he says. “So bubble wrap and an eye-glass case would work in a pinch. I used to roll them up in socks and put them in a shoe and that worked well, too.”
“First consider your collection today and how you intend to expand it in the future,” says Greg Simonian, president of LA-based retailer Westime, who sold his first timepiece when other kids his age were still trading Lunchables. “You may want to acquire a case that has room for more watches than you currently have, so it can accommodate a growing hobby.” As someone whose inventory runs deep in the kind of six-figure watches designed to spend most of their lives inside safes, Simonian is partial to safe-winders from Buben & Zorweg, a German brand whose safes can be customized to fit any size of collection—and, y’know, match the upholstery on your yacht.
While the internet is rife with nifty combination watch winder-display cases that keep your timepieces ticking behind glass, these aren’t practical storage for anything of real value, explains Paul Altieri, founder of Bob’s Watches and one of America’s foremost Rolex experts. “If your house—god forbid—ever gets broken into, it makes them too easy to steal,” he says. Instead, Altieri swears by a trusty (and inconspicuous) floor safe to store his treasures.
If you live in an apartment (or just don’t fancy ripping out the floor in your bedroom) find a name brand safe that’s heavy enough to hamper would-be thieves from making a getaway. “Make sure it’s minimum B-rated,” says 10pastten’s Eric Ku. “Or if you have a big collection, maybe something rated TL-30.” For those of us not fluent in burglar-proof safes: a B rating requires a minimum of 1/2″ steel doors and 1/4″ steel walls; a TL-30 means the safe has undergone tests in which engineers are given 30 minutes, a set of blueprints, and a handful of tools to attempt to gain entrance.
Aside from a good, heavy safe, there’s not necessarily a need to get fancy with your watch storage, says RJ Kamatovic. “I don’t know that you necessarily have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for a jewelry box,” he says. “I’d rather use that money to buy more watches.” For his money, Kamatovic advises getting a felt or suede-lined storage tray to keep your watches from banging into each other inside your safe.
In addition to protecting the outside of your watches, you should also make sure they’re kept away from direct sunlight, excess heat and moisture, all of which can damage their delicate components. “Moisture is the enemy of watches and humidity can cause problems such as rusting of movement parts, or discoloration of the dial,” says Tania Edwards, a trustee of the Horological Society of New York. “Usually, a constant room temperature is sufficient, but if watches are stored in a safe or watch storage box, adding silica gel can help.” Also, Edwards cautions, don’t store watches where there is a constant change in temperature, such as kitchens and bathrooms, and avoid storing watches next to computer equipment, where magnetic force can affect their accuracy.
Other Essential Gear
Most watch world professionals also recommend a loupe (those little magnifying lenses all jewelers wear around their necks) and a healthy amount of respect for the skill of watchmaking. “I have seen too many watches with lugs destroyed by amateur attempts to change spring bars or open casebacks,” says John Reardon, founder of Collectability.com. “Please don’t do this yourself unless you know what you are doing.” For those who do have the know-how to safely swap out straps at home, a high-quality spring bar tool is essential, says Paul Altieri. “What you don’t want to do is use a kitchen utensil or something a little too large, because that can scratch it up.” A set of polishing cloths may also come in handy, says RJ Kamatovic, for removing small scratches and swirls. “But I would advise against over-polishing—and would never handle gold or complex edges myself. Rolex Oyster bracelet, yes. Grand Seiko’s Zaratsu edge or an Audemars Piguet bezel? Not a chance!”