April 5, 2014
by Ariel Adams
Nevertheless, we understand that as watch experts people are going to ask us for buying advice. On a daily basis aBlogtoWatch gets e-mails from people (many of which are extremely amusing) asking for advice on what watch to buy in general, to help choose between a few options, to actually sell them a watch, or sometimes a plea for something free. The latter really does confuse us. We sometimes get long e-mails with sob stories on how the sender deserves a free watch – and it is usually rather expensive watches they are asking for. I don’t recall being on the list of “Make A Wish Foundation” suppliers, but the last time I checked we never offered that type of service. I guess it is a good thing that demand for timepieces is that high.
It is important to note that because we understand how personal watch taste is, we do not simply recommend which specific watch one should buy. We want everyone to own a nice watch that appeals to their taste and lifestyle, and a watch that is something they can comfortably afford. We don’t believe in offering a definitive list of “must own” watches because we feel who are we to tell you what you need to own? Learn what watches are important, historical, unique, complicated, and of interest to other collectors – then make your own decisions.
What aBlogtoWatch does do, is share the passion and interest of our writers (who also happen to be really into watches) while also explaining our motivations and reasons for liking or disliking a particular watch or style. We hope that people will then incorporate the advice and lessons we offer into all the new watches we share, so you will make your own decisions about what to invest in. That strategy feels the most appropriate to us, but if you feel we have the wrong way of looking at it, then please do let us know in the comments section below.
Having said all of that, we know not everyone can be a serious watch nerd like us and we want to make it easy for those interested in getting a good watch to make the right decision. So, our goal is to help point you in the right direction.
It might sound like a silly question, but why is it that you want a watch? Do you want to know what time it is? Perhaps you want to impress your friends or ladies? Perhaps you love history and want a timepiece that is indicative of an era or person. People who consider themselves watch collectors have no shortage of motivations and interests in the watches they buy. Perhaps you simply feel like you’ve reached a point in your life that merits rewarding yourself? These are all common (and good reasons) for getting a watch.
In 2013, I wrote what turned out to be a popular article on Forbes called “The Top Watches For Social Peacocking.” It was a layperson’s guide to understanding various brands or styles that merit particular situations. It will help you understand what your primary motivations are, because they make a big difference in what watch you are going to get next – irrespective of your budget. For example, let’s say you work in an office and wear a suit on a daily basis. You are probably going to want a watch that goes with more formal attire. If you spend most of your time outdoors, then a sportier watch makes more sense. Have kids and play with them a lot? You probably don’t want to remind your young ones to “mind the watch” all the time. You also need to consider if this next watch is going to be something you are going to wear daily or just once in a while. Different watches have different “wear tolerances” so a daily wear timepiece will need to be less fragile and put up with more abuse.
You also need to ask yourself what type of person you are. As in, “What do you most value?” There are no right answers, but it is important to know if a watch brand name is of the utmost importance to you. Perhaps it is the design you are looking for that is paramount to a “big name.” Alternatively, there are those who are drawn to more boutique brand watches whose name or style is uncommon. If you are looking to show off to people, then perhaps it is wise to go with a watch made by a known brand. Buying a watch strictly for personal pleasure? Then the unique elements of the brands’ values, as well as how much the design speaks to you, will outweigh all other considerations.
There are so many brands and types of watches out there, knowing the role your new watch is going to serve, is the best place to start. This can help narrow your focus and help you in searching for the type of watch that will suit your next purchase decision best.
Sport watches are the most popular segment of watch out there and have the widest spread in price going from $10 – $20 on the low-end to the millions of dollars for extremely exotic creations (that you probably don’t want to be sporty with). The term “sport watch” does not mean it is necessarily made to be active with, but it’s rather a descriptor of the design and style theme. Having said that, most sport watches should put up with more abuse that a traditional dress watch. That is because they tend to have thicker cases, more robust crystals, and sometimes movements with added protection.Sport watches are often put into a few key categories that include dive-style watch, aviation (pilot) watches, racing chronograph watches, and more. Though, the listed styles are going to be the most popular genres of sport watch. Sport watches are also pretty versatile. Depending upon the watch, they can be dressed up or down. The most versatile models tend to have vintage-style or traditional designs. Perhaps the best example is the Rolex Submariner. Originally a stalwart diving watch, it has transcended that role and can today be just as easily worn with a suit and tie. We prefer a nice mechanical sports watch, but strictly speaking, if you want something durable that will last for years, and with lots of features, your best bet is a Casio G-Shock or ProTrek. They aren’t in the “fine watch” category, but it shouldn’t be a headache to get one if you just want a good camping or hiking watch. It is also possible to describe “complicated” watches as a category. These can be formal or sporty in nature, but what makes these watches different in their focus on highly complicated (ideally mechanical movements). These are the real watch aficionado pieces and act to perpetuate the tradition of fine watchmaking that is currently mostly out of Switzerland. These watches tell the time and have additional complications. You can get into the many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (and up) with these watches when looking at “Grand Complication” timepieces. This is what collectors seek today and are among the pinnacle pieces of modern horology. Lastly, I would like to add a category for “art” or “design” watches. It is difficult to define this category because by nature they are all different. The idea here is that these are timepieces which emphasize a designer’s aesthetic values mixed with functionality. It is true that many watches emphasize art and aesthetic design over the functionality of the watch as a tool, but art watches focus on the concept that a watch is used as an artistic palette. Timepieces in this category can be both traditional or extremely modern, and often have the effect of being extremely polarizing. That means people tend to love them or hate them. If you are the type of person who like to “wear design,” then art or design watches might be right for you.
You’ll notice that there has been no mention of vintage watches. We don’t really consider them a separate category because at one point they too feel into one of these categories when they were new. While we generally tend to advice against the purchase of most vintage watches for most people, they can be an enjoyable and emotionally pleasing investment for many people. Our main reasons against getting old watches is because (depending on how old they are) they are more fragile, less mechanically sound, and often too small for modern tastes. That means more care and money into their upkeep. But again, it really depends on the specific watch as well as the owner.
Where To Discover New WatchesYou’ve noticed that this guide isn’t about suggesting a lot of specific watches. We really want you to discover them on your own. Having said that, there are well over 3,000 articles on aBlogtoWatch at the time this was published and most of those articles are on specific watches you may find interesting. So given that you are right here, right now, aBlogtoWatch is the type of place that many people search in order to find timepieces they are interested in. You can first search our watch reviews, or check out our watch buying guides (separated by budget) to learn more. We also have a growing section of aBlogtoWatch editor “top 10” and other such lists to help point you in the right direction. The largest source of news is actually in our hands-on articles were we preview newly released watches on a regular basis.
You knew we were going to suggest you spend more time with aBlogtoWatch – that is only natural. And frankly speaking, we are a good place to learn about watches of all types and price ranges – we also tend to list prices as much as possible. But by all means don’t stop your search here. Different watch websites and forums have their own tastes and types of products they prefer to cover. aBlogtoWatch editors make it a habit to keep up with the “watch word” online, and if you have the time you should as well.
Below, we will talk more about where to buy a watch, but there are a lot of online watch retailers. Whether you feel comfortable buying watches online is another story, but watch retailers online can be a quick and efficient way to learn about new brands as well as the products they produce. It will also help you determine what you can get for your money. Just as you would window show in real life, you should do that online as well. Which leads us to actual window shopping. Watch retailers aren’t always the most friendly places to shop due to a reputation for sometimes aggressive sales tactics, but that is easy enough to ignore. Go to the stores near where you live to see things first hand and put watches on your wrist. This becomes less important as you become familiar with watches and sizes, but it is important to create a foundation of knowledge so that you understand the styles, materials, and sizes that feel best on your wrist.
How Much You Should SpendLet me share with you a few things that major watch collectors have known for years. First, watches should not be thought of as financial investments. While it is possible to purchase watches that will retain or even possibly increase in value… those instances are the exception and not the rule. Timepieces are like cars, and in most instances they depreciate after you buy them. The amount of depreciation depends on a huge number of factors, and the best way to know how much a specific watch may depreciation is to look for pre-owned ones online and see what they are selling for versus the new ones. If a watch is priced at within 20% of its retail price when lightly used, we’d say that it holds value pretty well.
Collectors also know that they buy watches for emotional purposes. Watches are a hobby and a source of enjoyment. If you are the type of person who is interested in owning watches that you can later sell for a profit then in most instances you have to initially invest a huge amount of money in the first place. This is really important to express because in the commercial universe most things aren’t going to increase in value after you purchase them, and the same applies to most timepieces.
Having said that, you should not spend more than you can afford on a watch. If you can afford a lot for a new watch that is all the better, but if you are pushing yourself only to think you can later resell your watch and recoup your investment, it might be worth managing your exceptions a bit. They don’t call them “luxury watches” for nothing.
What you should be looking for is value for your money. You want to get a lot for your money, and if you aren’t familiar with what to expect then again we recommend our watch buying guides that specifically cover the topic of what features to look for in watches of various price points. Nice watches are expensive. If you want a decent mechanical Swiss watch it is going to cost you about $500 on the very lowest-end. You should expect to spend $1,000 – $3,000 for most “entry-level mechanical Swiss watches, and mid-range mechanical Swiss watches can go from $5,000 – $10,000 (or a bit more) these days. The sky is really the limit from there.
Please be mindful of the fact that not all $5,000 watches are created equally. At the $15,000 – $30,000 range you see this fact even more as watches in this range tend to wildly range in the features and materials they offer. $20,000 can get you a solid gold watch from one make or another brands’ entry-level steel watch. One isn’t necessarily better than the other and one needs to take a closer look at the overall features, movement, and personality of the brand. There is a tool I developed some time ago that I call the “Rolex Submariner test” (that I further explained here). It is a way of measuring the relative industry value of a watch based on a gold standard (the Rolex Submariner).
How To Make A Final Buying DecisionMarketing plays a huge role in the watch industry and overall luxury industry at large. Sometimes you are just paying for a name, and to many people that name is very much worth it. In any event, if you are looking for your first “nice” Swiss watch expect to spend a few thousand dollars at least.
This is my favorite part because it involves a weighing of values and time (no pun intended). What happens when you are hunting for a new watch? You tend to find a few potential targets. Often times you are able to boil it down to just two or three pieces which are similar or of a similar price range and then you feel stuck. This is actually when a lot of people end up e-mailing aBlogtoWatch and asking us for advice. We feel their pain, but we aren’t in a position to help them pull the trigger. Here is what we do say, and I’ll explain it in more detail for your benefit. I’ve discuss this before.
The method I am about to explain is one that I’ve used myself and recommend to friends. It does help when trying to make that final decision. It is intended to test your gut feelings as well as what watch designs your eyes can actually live with. You begin by taking your list of finalist watches and giving them a nice long, hard look. Really make sure you check out each detail and understand what the watch is all about. The image of the watch should be engrained in your brain. Then, force yourself not to look at the watches of pictures of them for one to two weeks.
During that time you need look at other watches. Lots of other watches. Go over watches that didn’t make the cut and just keep searching around. The point isn’t to necessarily find other options, but to once again explore the other watches you considered and then some. What you are doing is measuring for lasting quality and not just novel appeal. There are going to be many watches that at first glance appear amazing. Only to look terrible or less than exciting a few days or months later. They simply have merely ephemeral designs. What you are looking for is the type of watch you’ll enjoy for a long time.
Not everyone takes this step and it results in watch returns, re-sales, or buyers remorse. To combat that many watch lovers actually spend months if not years making a purchase design. They slowly develop a relationship with the watch until they are ready to commit. They may even “date” other watches in the process. Not that one has to be monogamous with a single watch, but the point is that these decisions can take years. Some watches are impulsive acquisitions, and others involve a desire which has been slowly simmering for years.
So, after you’ve neglected your finalist watches for a week or two and checked out the competition you are ready to revisit what you originally wanted. A few things will happen. The first, and don’t be afraid to admit it to yourself, is that at least one of the pieces will have lost its luster. Either it isn’t as nice as you recalled after looking at other watches, or your love affair with it wore off with haste. It happens, get over it. What should also happen when you return to your finalists is that one seems to dominate. It was probably the one you wanted from the start, but merely needed a good reason to pull the trigger. Perhaps you felt that it was just hair too expensive or maybe too ordinary. Nevertheless, you wanted it and whatever reservations you have you’ve been able to put aside.
What they say about love is really true; if you abandon it then it will return if it is true love. It sounds cheesy, but it applies in situations such as this when someone is having trouble making a final decision. It you still need advice after that, then simply head online and ask people who are owners. Don’t flat out ask them if you should buy it or not – because that is a bad question. Simply gauge how excited they are or if they would buy it again. People tend to be protective of their purchase decisions, so asking someone who has already put money into something if they like it is going to result in pretty much the same response all the time. Get creative with your questions to see just how happy they are with it and how often they wear it. Watch lovers tend to enjoy chatting about their collection so they will likely be open to the conversation.
The question at the end of your journey will be where to make the final purchase decision. Who will be lucky enough to earn your business? We get questions about this as well. My favorite queries are geographic. Someone in Jakarta or Estonia will ask us about the best place to get a watch in their area. I’m flattered they asked, but we unfortunately don’t have a recommendation engine of retailers all over the globe. There are three elements to consider when selecting a retailer or seller. They are trust, price, and service.
You must trust the person you are buying your watch from. That is crucial. No matter if it is from a large department store, small dealer, or individual person selling a pre-owned watch, you need to trust them. We are talking not only about high-value goods, but also about items that can be very costly to repair. Getting a broken watch is a hassle you don’t want to deal with. So in the event you get a damaged or defective timepiece you need to trust that the retailer or seller will fix the problem either by repairing the watch or by returning your money.
How do you check these things? Well first you need actually ask what their policy is on the matter. If a watch is defective what is the warranty? Does the store choose their own person to fix the watch or does it go back to the manufacturer? Is it paid for? How long does it usually take? The answers can sometimes surprise you, and honestly depending on the situation you want a different response. Sometimes you want the watch to go back to the manufacturer because they are going to be the only ones qualified to fix it. Though it will take a long time. If the issue is minor or can be easily fixed by an independent watchmaker, then it is sometimes a better idea to have a local watchmaker repair the piece. In those instances brands can sometimes refuse to repair or not repair properly. These are all question to ask in advance if you are concerned about it.
Trust means that the seller will do the right thing if there is a problem, and that you are getting a real watch. The chances of buying a fake watch from an authorized dealer are very low. Though it does happen from time to time when dealing with gray market retailers as well as individual sellers.
Price is going to be the biggest factor on most people’s minds when looking for a new watch. That is just simple and plain economics. If you aren’t the type of consumer who is looking for a good price, then you aren’t looking out for your best interests – and they defies many economic rules. What the best price is can depend. If the watch is used then the price must be weighed with the condition of the watch. I shady looking site is 20% cheaper than a legitimate looking shop it might be worth investigating a bit.
Getting the best price is also a matter of research. Watch brands don’t like it when we suggest non-official ways to buy watches, but it only takes a mere Google search to determine that many watches are available online at prices under their standard retail price. It is a good idea to also know how much discounting is going on. Steep discounting can mean that a watch isn’t in demand, that it is no longer in production, or that there is a very high availability of inventory. That doesn’t mean it is a bad watch, but it is good information to know. Buying from brand boutiques or authorized third-party retailers is probably the safest way to get a watch, but it certainly isn’t the only way.
You should also check eBay. The world’s most popular auction site is also the world’s most popular place to buy watches. That’s just a fact. There is a huge inventory there and people sell both new and used watches on eBay everyday. eBay most certainly doesn’t have everything, and sometimes not even the best price, but it would be ignorant for a guide on buying your next watch to ignore the importance of the eBay watch marketplace.
All this being equal between price and trust, you should look to award your business to the retailer who offers the best service. Were they nice on the phone? Did they actually pick up the phone? Did they even have a phone number? If you wanted into their store did they treat you with respect and act as though you could come back for more business or if you had trouble with your watch? People rarely think about this but int he luxury industry service is sort of a big deal. The more expensive a watch you are getting, the more service you may find yourself getting. When purchasing extremely expensive watches it is not uncommon to be treated with wine or champagne and food while shopping, and purchases often come with free gifts or other services.
We like to consider watches as often being “celebratory purchases.” That means the experience choosing and buying the watch is often just as important as owning and wearing it. If a watch brand or retailers doesn’t value how important the purchase is to you, then you shouldn’t honor them with your business. When you do find a good retailer, in a sense it is like finding a new friend. A friend you’ll want in the future when you are ready to purchase again.
If you’ve taken the time to read this article then it means you are serious about your watch purchases – so are we. There are perhaps no more finicky watch consumers than people like us who are exposed to pretty much all the new watches available. So when we put our money into something, it is sort of a big deal. Resolving to buy a high-end watch is a simple and quicky decision for some and for others it is a decision and investment years in the making. I recall recently hearing a story about a gentlemen who purchased their first $10,000 watch. That person was a waiter and had been saving up to buy the watch for about a decade. Almost 10 years of waiting, saving, and lusting for a single timepiece. This story isn’t that uncommon actually and for him it was one of the most serious purchase decisions of their life. You can damn bet that he wanted to make sure it was perfect and the right decision.
Sure having a lot more disposable income means affording a high-end watch is easier, but wealthy people don’t get (or stay) wealthy because they freely spend their money. No matter how much money you have, a watch is an item meant to be worn on your wrist and is a very personal thing. So please, read this guide before e-mailing us to ask what watch you should buy. If this guide doesn’t help you then you can hire us to make a decision for you.