Rather like shoes or an outfit, a watch is at its best when in tune with its setting. Having just one watch is a reasonable route for many people, but when means allow there is plenty of fun to be had in building a collection. Doing so requires not only funds, but also time and a little humility early on.

There are a few simple guidelines for starting a collection, and the basic set-up requires only four key pieces, after which the aspiring collector can progress to more iconic models, vintage timepieces, grand complications, and limited editions. Throughout this first phase in the collection, selling a watch is to be avoided at all costs. A watch loses half its value as soon as you take it home, representing a financial loss too heavy to justify.

First up is the go anywhere and do anything all-rounder. Stainless steel  or gold of case and strap, this timepiece will become a central cog in the collection.

Play it safe colour-wise by sticking with a neutral dial in white, silver, or black.
A Rolex Submariner for men and Datejust for ladies are ideal choices here, as their build quality is second  to none and both are timeless classics. The chunkier 40mm Submariner has a black dial and matching diver’s bezel, meaning  it works well in both stainless steel and gold options, taking you from boardroom to board shorts — a solid piece of kit. The Lady Oyster Datejust has many options, but thinking long term, opt for neutral specifications in steel or yellow gold.  At 26mm in stainless steel and 28mm in yellow gold, it is a suitably petite addition to a lady’s wrist and the matching dials close few doors aesthetically, enhancing the watch’s chameleon-like qualities. The addition of brilliant gold elements and the ridged bezel add an extra touch of personality too.

From there we move on to a more formal dress watch, at which point men and women momentarily part ways.

An all-black dial and strap combination for men is perennially useful. For that, an IWC Portugieser in stainless steel with a black alligator strap and black dial is ideal, either with or without a chronograph function. Its symmetry and poise make it a true aficionado’s choice. For ladies, formal occasions open up a whole world of colour and decorative finishes. At this early stage in the collection though, we’re still looking for maximum usability, so we’ll opt for a nondistinctive colour, while introducing some diamonds for the first time.

Vacheron Constantin’s newly relaunched Overseas collection has a 37mm model aimed at female buyers, with a rosy beige dial and 84 round-cut diamonds in the 18K gold bezel. When paired with the rosy beige alligator leather strap, it is a guaranteed winner.

There are occasions when something more conservative helps play the “understated self-confidence” card; in these instances, a timepiece inspired by watchmaking designs from the 18th century is called for.

The Breguet Classique 7147 in 18k rose gold, or its more complicated big brother, the Classique 5327 with a perpetual calendar, both with a brown leather strap and white dial, fit the bill and will never date. Both are unisex and match well with brown leather shoes and a belt.

The final box to tick in the basic collection is a sporty piece designed for action. Within the automatic watch sector we’re looking at a chunky dive watch, such as the recently relaunched Hamilton Khaki Navy Frogman or Tudor’s Heritage Black Bay. 

The Hamilton model is water-resistant  to 100m with a screw-down crown lock and red aluminum rotating bezel, available in 42mm or 46mm versions. Its accessible price point also means that you can feel comfortable throwing it into a gym bag or wearing it in the water.

Tudor’s 41mm Black Bay has a Tudormanufactured automatic movement
and distinctive snowflake-shaped hands, but it is the burgundy bezel and aged leather strap combination that gives this watch its vintage 1950s look. Not only that, it feels robust and reassuringly solid on the wrist.

The ultimate collection goal is limited edition timepieces — either commemorative or playing on the rarity of the materials and the man-hours required to produce them, and the 2016 fairs delivered several gems.

Blancpain’s The Great Wave comes out of the brand’s craftsmanship studio and uses Mexican silver obsidian, which forms the watch’s dial. A white gold engraving inspired by a Japanese print of a wave is then applied on top, having first been coated in Japanese rokusho salts to give it a unique dusty patina.

Montblanc is celebrating its 110th anniversary with 110 pieces of the ExoTourbillon Slim watch, with a fully exposed movement visible through the sapphire case back, and a unique hand-painted map of either North America, Asia, or Europe and North Africa on the dial.

Parmigiani’s Tonda Chronor Anniversaire is a perfect example of the understated brilliance it has become known for since launching 20 years ago. An enamel dial is matched with a white or rose gold case and an all-gold, hand-wound movement with a chronograph, fly-back hand, and large date functions. A powerful addition to any collection.

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