How Do Watch Lovers Afford Their Watches?

Evandro Menezes from Austin, TX, USA asks:

For many years, since I was a teenager, when strolling at malls, I've always make a point of stopping by the watches section of jewelries in order to admire fine timepieces. Over time, I've come to know the characteristic style of a handful of brands and track some fads as they came and went. All along, I just considered myself a watch aficionado much like car aficionados, who admire certain cars from afar, either because they cannot afford them or have other priorities, but never really meaning to buy the objects of their affection.

However, in the last few months, I've found myself particularly fond of some watches but, whatever it means, they all seem to cost each a few thousands of dollars. My question is of a personal matter, but which I believe that many watch admirers struggled with too. How to go about putting so many hard-earned dollars in an expensive timepiece? What then after the first timepiece, the second and the third ones?

Thank you kindly.

Socioeconomic inequality is one of the most frustrating things in existence. The advent of television made more people than ever aware of what they didn't have and couldn't afford, as well as showing these things to those who could afford them. It just got worse with the Internet. In the 1990s, when mechanical watches became luxury items, more than ever the ability for the "average Joe" to afford the same watch as the decade earlier, changed. Timepieces became status items more then necessary tools and the value-to-price ratio changed in what many argue was the "wrong direction."

Not all of that is pure greed on behalf of those making watches. A major reason why so many watches are so expensive is that watchmakers, for the most part, do not have the benefit of an economy of scale. Lower production numbers means that they need to make more money off each unit sold. Casio would charge many more times what they do if they only made a few thousand watches per year. So, this might explain why timepieces are so expensive, but how do normal people go about affording what is a very democratic and non-classicist watch addiction?

What some people do, is invest in one timepiece and then sell it when they are "done," then take that money and buy something else. Sure money is lost as you go, and you need to keep pumping money into the hobby, but it allows people to enjoy a watch for a while, and then flip for something else. Other people have a "watch fund," where they pool money from a specific source that is only used for watches. They only spend from that fund so their watch love doesn't end up taking from more necessary expenses.

Of course, it is wise to get a good price as well. Savvy watch lovers quickly learn online about some of the smaller brands that offer pretty good values, and even more people purchase second-hand watches that are pretty easy to find on eBay, and other sites such as Chrono24 (along with sales corners on popular watch forums).

Other people remain voyeurs for much of their life because many of the greatest watches aren't designed to be affordable for anyone who needs to ask the price. Reading sites like aBlogtoWatch can keep you frustratingly informed of many great timepieces that are out of your hands, but it also keeps your interest alive for when we cover a piece that is more affordable - it may be what you need to get a fix. When it comes down to it, there are good watches for most any budget, and there are always going to be timepieces out of your reach (my reach, sigh). Some consolation? Even the most wealthy watch lovers have one-of-a-kind or historic timepieces that they lust for which aren't available anywhere, for any price.

[UPDATE: We published a full article on this topic 7 Ways To Survive As A Watch Lover On A Budget - February 8, 2015]

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  • marbstiu

    clean look.

    Reminds me of the Roger Dubuis La Monegasque.

  • Ulysses31

    Lovely watch; nice case design and dial.

  • LapYoda

    JeanRichard has had a renaissance of design the past few years with distinctive, bold cases and hands. Unfortunately, they seem sized for guys with Popeye wrists.  I wish they would come out with a ~40mm design; that would be perfect.

  • MID

    LapYodaThe round cased 1681 watches are 41 mm.

  • Kris C

    Very handsome, but I wouldn’t pay that for it, even with the manufacture movement. I would certainly enjoy having and wearing it, but this price bracket is way too crowded, including tons and tons of really cool stuff I would put before this.

  • Ayreonaut

    For me, the design elements do not gel.

    A 15,000 premium for the gold is Ridiculous.

    Can’t we get a better photo of the  movement  side?

  • LapYoda

    MIDLapYodaYeah, but they’re not as distinctive as the large cushion cases.  I think the Terrascope is a great looking watch, but at 44mm (or 46mm depending on who you read), it’s too large for my slender girly wrists.  The round 1681 watches are nice, but look like every other round dress watch.

  • LapYodaMIDPlus a cushion case looks (and in terms of heft is) larger than a similarly sized round case. So yeah, this is not a petite watch.

  • I sort of like it, but I’m not sold on it. The cushion case works fine with the sportier Terrascopes but for a dress watch the boldness of the cushion part of the case does not work with the dressier looking bold bezel and dial/hands. There is nothing really wrong with this watch (aside from the price) but is is less compelling than either the sporty “Scope” lines or the dressier 1681 Ronde watches from JR.

  • socabaptist

    Well I think most people try to look for watches that are in their price range. Now while I may admire A. Lange and Sohne for their workmanship and innovation, I don’t think I would pay 100k for a watch even if I could. I know too many people who I could help for that kind of money. So I stick to the micro brands. One of my favorites at the moment is Crepas Watches from Malaga, Spain. Every year they make a limited edition and when that run is over they make a different watch for the next year. Top notch finishing and a great movement for about 1000 dollars. I would suggest Seiko Tunas and monsters for good watches at a great price. 

    I am also looking at Schaumburg watches in Germany but that may take me about 2 years of saving. For about 3k you get a watch with modified movement and hand decorated finishing. Most people admire the finishing and innovation of watch movements and that is what they pay for.

    I tend to stay away from Swiss watches which are in general in my opinion over-priced and an exercise in vanity. Most people save for a watch they really want over several years, but as they say they could not sell watches for so much money if no one bought them. right? So the fault is with ourselves.

  • Jonah76

    It is amazing how much you can save to buy a watch you really want if you cut out the non-essential spending that most of us do on a day-to-day basis. In any event do my kids really need to go to college? (just kidding).
    I agree there does seem to be a trend at the mo towards really quiet silly watches in terms of look & price and whilst it could be considered as ‘vanity’ I would suggest this is perhaps artistic expression.
    My starting point is ‘who makes their own movement’ followed by ‘do I really need to buy new’. These two questions have saved me a small fortune & I have some nice watches to boot.

  • ryanpmcau

    It’s a matter of priorities and responsibilities, I think. My recommendation would be to find what you like and save up for it. 
    I own five watches; a Tag Heuer, two Rolexes, an Omega and a JS Watch
    Company.  I inherited one, two were gifts and two I purchased myself. Of the two I purchased, one I put on a credit card and paid off over the course of two years (I don’t recommend this method), the other I saved up for over 18 months.  I purchased mine when I was young(er) and single.  Trying to justify spending several thousand dollars on a time piece now would be tough to justify to myself and even tougher to explain to my wife.

  • weasraf

    what watches do you actually own??

  • Jonah76

    Although the question wasn’t directed at me I have several inconsequential watches but I do have an Omega Seamaster Pro, Panerai 388 & Zenith EP 36k vph. Currently trying to decide on a Moonphase either the Frederique Constant or the new Montblanc both about the same price & both look similar. Would love the GO Pan. Lunar but pricey & I do think of it as a cut price Lange which may detract from it. Oh and. JLC reverso duo which is a must & will be coming soon.

  • I thank the editor for responding to my question, but I’d like to pose another to those commenting.

    I agree that in-house movements bring more innovation to the fine watches market and extends the brand’s personality to their innards as well, making the designs more than skin-deep, so to say.

    However, as any machinery, there are tricks of the trade that take years and even decades to learn, and such houses, still green at making their own movements, might create timepieces whose long-term accuracy, reliability and service could be inferior to what consumers are used to.  Even those houses which used to make movements in the past might be considered novices in this aspect, since a generation or more has passed since using outsourced movements became the norm.

    In your experience, are in-house movements bringing challenges to the ownership experience and, possibly, to the after-market value?

  • Jonah76

    Before I try to add my two penneth worth to your actual question I would say that reliability is not a pre-requisite to cost or indeed to value. There are many cheap quartz watches that will outperform an ‘expensive’ mechanical watch. Taking status out of the equation (as we all know some will buy a mechanical watch for) a watch or timepiece is an item of beauty such as any item of jewellery (if I can align with this) that is an expression of you or some aspect of you. I think as soon as you worry about someone else’s perception on that watch or look to buy for an investment you lose sight of the true beauty.
    Whether a watch has an in-house movement does not necessarily reflect cost or value either. Consider Frederique Constant and IWC where it could be argued that the latter charge excessively for modifying a bought in movement. As for ownership experience an in-house movement I just find it more satisfying knowing (or at least believing) that my watches were not just a comment on current fashion with the movement as a after thought.
    As they say fashion changes but style endures.

  • sfbaydawg221

    I am new to the whole watch fad.Until last year I went my entire adult life without a watch. I didn’t care about watch commercials on TV and I didn’t bat an eyelid when I walked past a watch boutique in a mall. But suddenly something changed and now I have made it a mission to save up for a grail, maybe in 10 years.
    Having said that, is buying a grail the only way? Luxury watches cost as much as a car in many instances. Why can’t people just lease a Lange, Patek or VC for a year or two and then just return it? One will still have to take measures to guard against depreciation, but it’s the same with a car.