When you collect something, you get interested in all the aspects of the thing you collect. How is it made, what are the brands, how does it work, how much is it worth, how do you determine condition, which ones are collectible, which ones are junk. How do I relate to this thing, and how does it make me feel?

You might collect anything from souvenir spoons to campaign buttons to wool jackets made by a certain manufacturer, but people who collect get some kind of rush about finding the item, then possessing it. Some restore, some purchase new, some buy and sell, and some folks simply hoard the items of their desire. When it comes to the stuff I collect, I’m all over the map.

Lately I’ve been collecting short wave radios, but I stopped after getting four. I figured that four is enough for now because the old ones I like to collect take up space. Watches, not so much. I have a dresser with maybe five drawers in it, and each drawer has two or three watch display cases in it, and a few odd watches lying at the bottom of the drawer. I have several watch winders that work on timers to wind the automatic watches that I have collected. I’m even planning on building a special shelving unit to hold another five or six display cases. Some of these watches are relatively valuable, most are not. I like to collect based on the look of the watch face, or the style of the bracelet. I enjoy old manual wind-up watches just as much as my Citizen Eco-Drive watch that is solar powered.


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I’m nuts about military watches, but the oldest is a manual-wind, Vietnam-era U.S. Navy watch, so that part of the collection is still in its infancy.

When you have more than 100 of anything you’d better be able to maintain your collection yourself as much as you can. With the watch collection I’ve been slowly educating myself about maintenance and upkeep. I have the tools to replace watch bands, bracelet links, and batteries on quartz watches. That’s all fine and good, but what about the quartz watch that quits, and when you put in a new battery it refuses to run? Chances are pretty good that it got shorted out during battery replacement, and you then have to replace the entire movement. I recently took two watches to an out-of-area repair shop and had new movements put in them. I watched the repair person inspect the watch, open the case, get a number off the movement, look it up in a book, and give me a price to replace it. Wait a minute. I could have done that. So I went home, found a non-running quartz watch and pulled it apart.

The non-runner had a very common swiss type quartz movement, probably made in China. I went online, found one, ordered it, and spent less than $14. Wait a minute. Buying a movement and replacing it are two different things. What about the proper tools to do the job? While I’ve got a number of watch repair tools, I decided to watch some YouTube watch-repair videos. I noted the tools used, went online and ordered them. I’ve learned that many of the sellers of watch repair tools are based in the U.K. While I really don’t like the exchange rate or the shipping costs, the five tiny and inexpensive pieces I needed did not cost much to ship. Within a couple of weeks I had everything I needed to see if I could replace a quartz movement.

As I write this I am about halfway through the repair process. I managed to remove the movement and actually got the stem out of the watch without breaking anything. I’ve even been able to remove the hands from the old movement and put them on the new movement. It is "fiddly" work. You have to do it with magnified glasses, and you have to breathe slowly and carefully for fear of blowing a lightweight second hand onto the floor, only to be lost forever in the mists of time and carpet fibers. I’ve just taken a break from this work, and probably won’t return to it until tomorrow. That’s the thing about this hobby. You need steady hands, good eyes, and plenty of patience. I just ran out of patience. Rather then keep bulling forward I’m just going to stop and let it all gel in my subconscious mind. We’ll see what a new day brings.

I have to admit, this is a satisfying pastime right up until you lose a part or screw something up. I don’t let it bother me. Right now I’m playing with cheap watches and the stakes aren’t all that high. I may never learn much beyond this, but for now it isn’t driving me nuts, it is mellowing me out. When that changes I’ll be doing some other hobby for a while.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.