Why The Armory’s Mark Cho is selling his vast watch collection

Back in 2006 young Mark got his first paycheck, was there something about a watch that you thought was really important to style, or for the uniform you made for yourself?

No, I don’t think I understood the context of everything as well. I think for me at the time the thoughts were more like a good deal. I get to feel like an adult, buy an adult thing, but I pay a child’s price for it. And there were aspects of color and design that appealed to me, but in a very instinctive way.

How do you feel about selling during what appears to be a downturn in the watch market?

The recent negative headlines about watch price drops are a bit sensational. They focus narrowly on price changes in the last six months. If we were to look at the prices today vs 2019, we are still way above them. They also focus on the hype watches of 2021-2022, such as certain Rolex sports watches, which were overdue for a hard correction.

I will never get the timing perfect. There will always be “a better time to sell.”

What is your personal auction strategy?

When I bid on things myself at auctions – I’ve been going to auctions for 15 years now – I don’t hang around to bid. I think of the number I’m willing to pay for it, I leave an absentee bid, and I leave. I only look at the next day. So I’m never sucked into, “Oh, I can just pay $100 more.” I never do that.

Do you have a favorite piece that you got from an auction or a favorite auction story?

i bought one [Rolex] Oyster quartz from auction cheap – condition was terrible. But I paid what I thought was a fair price for it given the condition. Then I was curious: If I take this to Rolex [for servicing], how much will they do? So I took it to Rolex and they serviced it and said, “It’s four grand to service. We’ll change the dial, we’ll change the hands, and we’ll waterproof it.”

What they meant was that they wanted to replace the entire watch head. So you keep the motion, but everything else around it has changed. And what if I wanted to say a new bracelet, how much would that be? And they say, “Oh, that’s another one like it [$4,500].”

So I got a factory fresh oyster quartz. The only part of the original clock was a fragment of the movement. But you would literally have to go back in time and buy a brand new Oyster Quartz to get one in a condition like this. And then I thought it was pretty cool – I just liked that I was able to do all that.

There are many people who turn their noses up at quartz watches, but you have an affinity for them. Why are you a fan?

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