The second interview on WahaWatches again. This time, it’s my honor to interview Geert Schoots. A watch collector, tinkerer and flipper, motor sports fan, fountain pen geek, polishing specialist and most importantly…one of the good guys!
How did your love for vintage watches come to be?
“Actually it wasn’t love at first sight, I wanted a Breitling watch for years without taking serious action, I didn’t even wear a watch. A few years back I met someone who owned a vintage Breitling Navitimer and from that moment onward I started to search more actively. To cut a long story short, because of budget considerations I bought a watch with a movement that had also been used by Breitling and I ended up paying more for the service of the movement than I did for the watch itself. I then realized this had to change.
I started scouring flea markets for mechanical watches to restore them cosmetically and sell them. This way I could get my wife aboard and acquire the budget necessary to buy nice timepieces. In the meantime, I was able to find someone who taught me the basics of watchmaking and since then I’ve been able to give quite a few watches a second life. To me, that’s the most beautiful thing in the world. To be able to turn something that has been casually thrown in some drawer into a precious piece again”.
How is your collection made up?
“I like variation and for me a watch has to be something special and really add something. An extraordinary story about the brand or model, an interesting history or provenance or a rare complication. Also I still have a weak spot for Breitling and I also love to wear my 1970 Heuer Carrera with calibre 11”.
Currently, what is the watch you love to wear the most?
“I love to wear all my watches but at the moment the Sinn 356 “40 Jahre Sinn” I recently bought, is one of the favourites”.
What is your vintage watch top 3?
“That is actually quite a tricky question. I’ve held many watches in my hands and they often had the wow-factor but they don’t always give me the urge to actually have to own them. For example, The Omega Speedmaster Professional, a great watch, a fantastic story, but for me there is just no click (yet). I do spend more and more time on thinking about a Patek Philippe Calatrava. The finishing of a Patek is so extraordinary, every closeup of the movement wouldn’t look out of place as a poster. I believe the Breitling Navitimer design is one of the most successful designs ever. As far as I’m concerned, these three watches can be my top 3, in no particular order”.
What is your grail watch?
“At the moment that would be the LeCoultre Ultra-thin Moon, but I’d very much like to add an IWC DaVinci (perpetual calendar) to my collection as well. In vintage terms, I’m thinking of a Breitling Duograph, a rattrapante with very few made”.
What is the watch that is now on the wishlist but you’ll eventually own it?
“Every now and then, I still keep an eye on some Casio G-Shocks. But every time I seriously look into it I get lost in a jungle of model designations and codes. Then I realize that the perfect G-Shock for me hasn’t been created yet”.
If you’d start over, what would you do differently?
“I would only change minor things. Of course you’ll make some mistakes like buying a fake Omega on the flea market. But sometimes you need mistakes like these to be able to grow and learn. Maybe I should test a watch a little longer and really investigate it before I buy it to discover at home that the calendar isn’t working. That sort of things happened to me a little too often”.
What is the next brand that will go through the roof price wise?
“I suspect people will start to look for something extraordinary and rare complications in particular. I had to pinch myself when I recently found a watch in good condition with a dead-seconds (mechanical movement that ticks like a quartz) movement on Ebay. Or that Pontiac mono-rattrapante I found last year. But there have been many more watches made with rare complications that are completely forgotten, like the Mondia Top-Second. Personally, I’m still searching for a Certina Biostar and a Gruen Airflight. Not every complication is useful. Some are even pretty useless but they’re always nice conversation starters and to be able to talk about watches is perhaps more fun than the watches itself”.
Do you have any tips for starting collectors?
“You have to do your homework. That sounds easy but it’s certainly not. If you don’t want to waste your money you’ll need to know how a watch is supposed to look, what numbers are supposed to be visible etc. Try to find out as much as possible, do some reading, investigate and compare. I don’t believe it’s possible to become an expert on every brand, but if you inspect enough watches you’ll start to recognize quality and then some sort of expertise will develop naturally. Start active conversations with other fans and after a while you’ll know who to turn to for information. Personally, I get questions or requests for some advice on a regular basis. I also have a network of people who I can turn to myself if I’m in need of some advice. Give yourself time, that’s perhaps the best advice I can give.
If I may be so bold, try and find your luck in some smaller brands for a change. Bargains of the likes of Rolex and Omega are very hard to come by but there have been so many great brands with a beautiful selection and a significant history. Who knows, it may be tomorrow’s hype as well”.