'Shark Tank' star Kevin O'Leary talks about investing in the 'wearable art' of high-end watches

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- One of the world's most important watch trade shows started today following a pandemic hiatus. "Watches and Wonders" in Switzerland is where Rolex and other high-end makers announce new models and pricing. Few will be watching more closely than "Shark Tank" star, Kevin O'Leary.

Viewers may know Kevin O'Leary from the hit show, but they probably did not know that he's also a watch aficionado. O'Leary is a headliner at international watch shows, works with designers to make one-of-a-kind watches, and keeps close track of the business.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney sat down with the man known as Mr. Wonderful, and talked about his great passion. That's when he made this surprising admission.

"Watch collecting is a horrible disease," he said. "It's a virus. Once you're cursed with it, your life is miserable. The only reason you work is to buy more watches and that's exactly where I'm at right now."

The self-made billionaire businessman and TV star is like most in the watch community: shocked by how they have caught on, especially among young tech entrepreneurs.

"First of all, watch prices have appreciated remarkably in the last two years," he said. "We've never seen anything like this in the 200 year, 300 year history of watchmaking, and so, think about it pragmatically, no one needs a mechanical watch. Everybody gets perfect time off their cell phone and yet now watches... being treated like collectible art."

Nowadays, buying a high-end watch is a hard thing to do at a retail store, as they are often sold out. Waiting lists are long.

Those who don't want to wait shop at preowned dealers, like A & E Watches in San Francisco. There you can find the watch you want, but you will often have to pay many times over the retail price.

Mr. Wonderful offers sage advice to wannabe watch collectors.

"I tell young collectors when you start, go for value," he says. "I mean this is a horrible disease and it's going to take up a lot of your time and money, and so you have to be pragmatic. Start with a brand that gives you incredible value, something like a Grand Seiko."

O'Leary says during the pandemic many more got interested in high-end mechanical watches and he says that often begs this question.

"How do you tell the time with that?" he asks. "And I say, 'I don't use this to tell the time. I am wearing art.' I really look at it as supporting artists who dedicate their lives from the age of 14 to make these incredible pieces."

In Michael Finney's conversation with O'Leary, he explained why he is working hard on a standard allowing the convergence of blockchain and mechanical watches. NFTs are big in the art world. Now he wants to make them big in the watch world, too.

Watch below for a special online conversation with O'Leary about watch NFTs and how they could change how people think of watches. O'Leary wants to see a day in the not-so-distant future where watch buyers will get a physical watch and also an NFT of that exact watch when they make their purchase. Here he explains how this would all work and how it would work for the average consumer.

VIDEO: Michael Finney and Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary talk about investing in high-end watches
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