Today I have some free time in Philadelphia and am going to use it wisely. There are only a few things in the US that I desperately want to see and still have not - Philly happens to have one of them. Actually, I should say Merion, PA as what I'm referring to is not actually in Philadelphia. In the residential neighborhood of Merion, you will find the Barnes Collection. By all accounts, this is one of the most important collections of Impressionist, and Modern paintings in the world. They are hung salon style often with priceless master works next to unknowns.
Recently, there has been major controversy surrounding the collection. The very short summary, as I understand it: Dr. Barnes (now deceased) had a will that stated clearly that the paintings were to remain exactly how they are hung, in this exact location forever. The city of Philadelphia asserted that the collection is in danger due to the conditions of the building, the neighborhood cannot support the volume of tourists, and the collection should be moved into Philadelphia to the art museum. In the end, without Dr Barnes to defend himself, the city won out and are currently building an addition to the museum to house the collection in Philadelphia. The entire controversy was chronicled in a wonderful documentary called The Art of the Steal.
What does this have to do with watches? The idea of "Collecting" is always present in the watch world. Dr. Barnes had a terrific eye for fine art. He bought what at the time were fairly recent pieces, not established master works. Years later, his collection is priceless and his taste revered.
In the watch world, we often have our gaze focused too short. People collect based on resale value, current availability and trends, etc. The real test of value and worth will be 20, 50, or 100 years from now. Which watches will hold up to the test of time? How will a well curated collection of Contemporary Horology be viewed that far in the future? To me, these are the interesting questions. I am personally drawn to independent watches because they represent the current vision of living creators. In my mind, fifty years from now, those pieces will be considerably more interesting than very nice pieces which came out of a corporation. That is just my personal feeling though. What I do know is that if you start to look at watches and brands through this prism, you get a very different idea of who is providing real value.