Ever get this question? Does it annoy you? It does me, mildly. But, because the asker usually has no idea what collecting is all about for some people. (if they are collectors themselves, it REALLY ticks me off - the question implies their collection is superior to mine, and mine is a waste of time and money) The question is usually followed by the comment "you can only wear one at a time". Not true - although wearing 50 watches on one's person at once would look a tad ridiculous.
So, here is my answer, and I'd be interested in hearing yours as well.
Why do I have so many? Because they are time machines - in more ways than one.
First, I am amazed by the intricate workings of a microscopic machine that fits on my wrist. The more complicated, the better. I am a machinist, and truly appreciate the precision and patience it takes to make something so small work at all, to say nothing of work WELL.
I tend to buy these tiny machines if they also are cool to look at. Not just sheer beauty, but interesting designs are intriguing to me as well as just a classy face and case. I like watches that say something about my sense of style and aesthetics, even if (or maybe BECAUSE, sometimes) those preferences fly in the face of popular styles.
But, more importantly, I keep them because they are more time machine in the science-fiction kind of way. Anyone can tire of looking at the same things over and over. But, I don't sell them because they are bookmarks.
I cannot remember what I had for dinner two nights ago, but these watches (and for some reason, watches in particular) can bring me back 28 years ago, like it was last night. I can still smell the scent of the tree on Christmas morning at 10 years old, when I got my first watch. I can remember the feeling of pride and awe when Dad gave me one of his watches. I can remember how long I drooled in a Brand Names catalog before I decided on the watch I first bought for myself. I can remember every flea market, yard sale, and clearance rack where I bought every one, and I remeber the price. I can tell you where every nick and scratch on my watches came from.
I think, if not for these watches in a shoebox, I wouldn't remember much of anything once those memories faded. But, ironically enough - a watch for me is a dual purpose possession - and both purposes are time related.
So, as i get older - my collection gets bigger - and I'm not likely to sell any of them, lest I forget the time.