Opinion: Watch Collecting in the Quantum Realm

Possibly against my better judgment, I saw Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania recently. While it’s not my least favorite Marvel movie, it was pretty bad, somehow finding a way to rob Paul Rudd of nearly all of his natural charm, and filled with special effects that look not very special at all. I found my mind drifting, wondering if any of these actors actually met each other during filming, or if production had them fly in separately to film in front of massive green screens. And, as it too frequently does, my thoughts turned to watches. Wondering, as my colleagues did a few weeks ago, if Rudd chose that Grand Seiko for himself at the Ant-Man premiere, and if there was a quantum reality where he might have chosen a different watch for himself altogether, and if maybe in that reality he plays Captain America instead, and the MCU movies weren’t in a state of perpetual decline. 

The premise of Quantumania is actually interesting. Without getting too deep into the weeds, everything in the movie hinges on the quantum physics inspired idea that every decision point you encounter has infinite possibilities, and those possibilities play out in the “quantum realm.” That means new versions of you, and everyone you encounter, are constantly splitting off of your own perceived reality. This type of multiverse enabling storytelling is core to comic book mythologies, and seems to be playing out more frequently in this phase of Marvel films. In Quantumania, it means that in one reality Rudd’s Scott Lang heroically saves the day, but in another, he’s stuck behind the counter working at Baskin-Robbins. This is a gross oversimplification (and not a spoiler for the movie itself) but you get the idea. Of course, the silliness of the movie is rooted in real science, and quantum theory is a fascinating rabbit hole to fall down if you’re at all inclined. This Ted Talk by theoretical physicist Briane Greene is as good a place to start as any.


This isn’t Time on Screen, and I’m certainly not qualified to give a physics lecture. But, this movie got me wondering about the watch collecting decision points in my own life, and what my collection (and my life) would look like if I had decided to take another path, buy another watch, sell or not sell something, and so on. Over the course of years in the hobby, there are probably hundreds (or more!) small and large watch related decisions that you make, and while not every one of those will have profound impacts on a future version of yourself, I think it’s probably fair to say that some of them do. 

The big one that comes to mind for me is the purchase of my first Grand Seiko. I wish I could remember the specific article or forum post that led me to search for a Grand Seiko to actually own for myself, but I’ll never forget the experience of actually pulling the trigger. It was the summer of 2018, which was just before the brand really began to take off in America, but after they had officially spun off from their parent company as an independent entity. My daily driver at the time was a Rolex Submariner, reference 114060, which now feels like a completely different era of my watch collecting history. 

I had messaged a WatchUSeek user about his listing for an SBGJ203, a Hi-Beat GMT with a black Mt. Iwate dial in a 44GS case. Kind of a perfect first Grand Seiko, now that I look back on it. It has one of their signature movements with a great complication, an iconic case shape, and a beautiful textured dial that, at least at the time, was a little off the beaten path (everyone was obsessed with the Snowflake in 2018). I hadn’t yet found a local watch meetup group, so had spent precious little time with Grand Seikos in the metal at this point, which made my experience of inspecting the SBGJ203 at a Starbucks (inside a Target) in Marlborough, MA something of an elevated experience.  

Once I got it out of the box and had it in hand, I couldn’t really believe that I was about to buy something for less than half the cost of the Rolex on my wrist that felt “better” in very tangible ways. The Submariner, by comparison, felt dull, more than a little boring, and I began to feel something approaching mad that a watch so expensive (it was by far the most valuable watch I had owned to that point) could be so pedestrian. 

Of course, I knew that about Rolex going in. Everyone does. It’s a Rolex, and not a little art piece for the wrist. But that’s what the Grand Seiko felt like to me, and I could feel my taste and perspective shifting in that decision to own it. Looking back, this is when I started to really prioritize aesthetics over everything in how I collect watches, and solidified my stance that watches are fundamentally beautiful objects, and that’s my preferred way to appreciate them. What I find beautiful would change, and continues to change (I still had a Tudor Pelagos in my future), but my days of laboring over specs or considering brand prestige as a factor in a purchase were (thankfully) behind me. 

Imagining a world where I didn’t seek out that Grand Seiko out of pure curiosity is an interesting thought experiment. It implies that in some alternate reality, I might still own that Submariner, and I might have been completely happy to just wear that and a rotation of affordable Seiko divers day in and day out. I also owned a Speedmaster Professional at the time, part of a collection that was far more “normal” than at any other time since. It’s not necessarily true that not buying the SBGJ203 at that particular moment would have meant never encountering more adventurous watches in my future – I think I would have gotten to the weird stuff eventually – but the timing was fortuitous, coming as it did right before a fairly significant boom in interest and coverage of both micro-brands and high end independents. I was primed and ready to go for that, and I think my experience with that particular Grand Seiko was a big reason why. 

Buying that SBGJ203 ultimately led to more Grand Seiko purchases down the line, as well as some periodic purging of watches that I picked up in its wake that were not quite what I was looking for, or just ill advised. I didn’t fully sour on Rolex, however, at least not yet. I eventually traded the Sub for what I thought at the time was something a bit more eccentric, a Sea-Dweller, reference 16600. I enjoyed that for the better part of a year, and then sold it to a local collector and friend in late 2019 for just about what I had into it financially. A good decision, I thought. Now I had a fully loaded watch fund, and was ready to add another Grand Seiko or two. 

Well, somewhere in the multiverse, a more hesitant or sentimental version of me hung on to that 16600. That obviously would have been the better play, but it was impossible to know at the time. I mean, who could have seen a pandemic and social media induced market propulsion that would send the value of my humble Sea-Dweller up by nearly 50% when everything peaked in the Spring of 2022? Even if I had held off for just a year, I’d have had plenty of extra cash in my pocket. What would this quantum version of myself have done with that money? I worry that it would have all gone right to Bitcoin. Maybe things worked out for the best. 

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.