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Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 2: Medium Range Luxury

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 2: Medium Range Luxury ABTW Editors' Lists

For $1,000 And Up Watches:

Once you have realized that getting a watch is a practice of passion and taste, you start to have higher expectations. Plus, your foray into the world of horology has led you to realize a few things. Among those things are that you want a mechanical movement over a mere quartz movement, and that names are beginning to have meaning to you when it comes to selecting favored watches. Not only that, but you also learn that just because fashion labels make nice clothes they aren’t always key players in the luxury watch world (e.g. Kenneth Cole), despite the fact that they do indeed have a watch line. You might also be the type of person that grew up around watches and simply have more sophisticated tastes. Whatever the reason is, if you are going to spend $1,000 or more on a watch, these are factors you’ll want to consider when getting a medium range luxury watch.

1. Mechanical Movement

Save for limited circumstances, if you are buying a men’s watch for over $1,000 it will most likely have a mechanical movement. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to make sure it is a pretty special type of quartz movement such as Superquartz (like Breitling’s thermoline quartz movement that is accurate to 5 seconds per year). Otherwise, the name of the luxury watch game is having the best possible mechanical movement. Why? This is not an easy question to answer, to be honest, because quartz watches are actually more reliable and accurate, for the most part. Still, a mechanical watch movement never needs a battery, represents the classic way of making watches, and offers a certain emotional value that the “tick, tick, ticking” of a quartz watch simply cannot offer.

2. Anti Reflective Coating

The enemy combatant here is “glare,” and you want as little as possible when trying to read the face of a watch. Compare the dial of a higher-end versus less expensive watch in the light, and you’ll see what I mean. Similar to the anti reflective (AR) coating on glasses, on watch crystals, the coating really can improve legibility dramatically. There are two places that AR coating is applied, being on the front and rear of a crystal. Preferably you want the coating on both sides, but you should at least want to have it on the bottom. One issue with AR coating is that it can wear or scratch off and may need to be reapplied, or a new sapphire crystal be required if you beat up your watch too much. Lastly, the more curved a sapphire crystal is, the more likely you are going to want full AR coating on it, which is often referred to as “double AR coating” (applied to both sides of the crystal).

3. Screwed Links In Bracelet

This is a pretty simple concept. Metal bracelets are made of links that are connected together. The two types of items used to hold the links together are screw bars or pins. Pins are small rods that come in various styles and qualities. They are pressure applied using a small hammer or device that inserts them in the bracelet. To adjust the bracelet, a small pressure tool must be used to remove pins and then reinsert them. Alternatively, you have small screw bars that go into a bracelet using a tiny screw driver. These are considered better, because they are higher quality, look nicer and will last longer. Both types of link bars can be adjusted by you, if you have the right tools. Sometimes a heat sensitive glue is used to hold screws in place which should be heated up to allow for unscrewing.

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 2: Medium Range Luxury ABTW Editors' Lists

4. Chronometer Certification

This is something that not all mid range (or high range) luxury watches have by any means, but can add value and reliability to your watch. In fact, only a very small percentage of Swiss watches are COSC Chronometer certified. Chronometer certification is a process where a watch movement is sent to the COSC and tested over a period of days. The movement is running and tested in various different positions. This testing is specific to each movement, so it is more than simply a test of the movement design. During the testing, a watch’s rate results are observed to determine overall how accurate it is. For a watch to be Chronometer certified, it must be accurate within -4/+6 seconds per day on average between all positions – meaning a movement cannot lose more than 4 seconds or gain more than 6 seconds a day. Just because a watch is not COSC certified does not mean it would fail the test, but rather that the movement hasn’t been sent to the COSC for testing. Learn more about Chronometer certification here. Having a movement that has been Chronometer certified helps you appreciate the reliable nature of the movement and add an additional part of the watch’s “life story.” Quartz watches can also be Chronometer certified, but have a different set of accuracy criteria.


5. Quality Case Finishes And Polishes

Do you remember what real chromed metal was? It was that super mirror polish on steel that was hard to achieve and needed to be constantly polished. It was hard, and it was beautiful. While the look of chrome was popular, its costliness was not. As at some point, fake chrome was invented. My memories of fake chrome were from the 80s, when you’d see it peeling and flaking off of cars. That was not real chrome, that was some cheap coating or surface over cheaper sheet metal. Take this concept and apply it to watches. Not all nice-looking watch surfaces are real, or even well done. At the highest level, you have milled steel blocks that are precision cut and then polished by hand. On the cheapest end, you have stamped or injection molded metal that is not as nice or durable. The better the metal underneath, the better the polish and finish can be on the surface. The reason I use two terms is because “polish” is often the term used for that mirrored high glossy look. While metal that is brushed or in a satin style is known as being “finished.” Just a slightly difference of terminology, but they are often used synonymously or together. Like “polished finish.” But it wouldn’t feel right saying “brushed polish.” Some of the best cases have different types of polish on them. And not all polishes result in the same look. Say the sides of the case are polished but the top is in a brushed metal finish. A lot of this comes into play on higher end watches, but in a mid range luxury watch, you want to closely inspect the metal to see how well done the edges are, and also make sure that whatever finish or polish that is on the metal is neatly and evenly applied, as well as directly on the metal, as opposed to some coating that will peel or wear off. Anyone who has had cheaper watches can attest to how this can occur inside of a metal bracelet. Overall, a good polish will preserve its look for a long time, while a cheaper polish will fade fast.

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 2: Medium Range Luxury ABTW Editors' Lists

6. SuperLumiNova Luminant

Just because a watch has a luminant compound applied to the hands or face, does not mean it will glow well in the dark. I’ve tested cheaper luminants that need to be directly placed in front of a very bright light source for 30 seconds to really shine at all. After that they glow in a dull manner for maybe 10 minutes at best. This is not how good luminant should work – and at $1,000 and up, you deserve a quality lume if you are getting a watch with applied luminant. Of the best luminants is SuperLumiNova. It is certainly the most popular quality luminant, but not the only one. Thus, if there is a luminant that is known to work well, but has a different name, they you are probably ok. Right underneath SuperLumiNova in terms of quality is just “LumiNova.” If the luminant has no special name like “SuperLumiNova” or something else that sounds fancy, it is probably cheap and won’t work too well. Having a good luminant compound is just step one. A watch should also have enough layers of the luminant and it should be on a large surface area. Testing a luminant is easy. It should not require bright lights to charge in, and simply cupping your hands over the watch should be enough to have the shine of the luminant pop out. So do yourself a favor and make sure you get a watch with a good luminant compound, if it has luminant at all.

7. Brand Pedigree

This is a bit of a though topic to explain, because you have all of those mainstream brands that people are familiar with, and then you have many lesser known brands that are sometimes much better than the mainstream brands. Because there are 100’s of watch companies out there, you can’t rely on name recognition alone to identify whether a brand is worth getting. Instead, if you aren’t familiar with a brand, see that it has at least some story behind it and perhaps has a story behind the designs as well. You may be thinking, “well if the price is right and the watch looks good, who cares?” You’d be surprised how important the “story” of a watch and its brand are. Just ask any collector about brand or their favorite watches. I promise you at least some of the lecture will go into discussing the history or unique construction of the watch or its design. So what I mean by brand pedigree is to look for either well-known brands known for making good watches or iconic designs (“this watch is the ‘Audi’ of the timepiece world”), or a brand with a special story or interesting founder that themselves engages in most of the watch making and design process. If you aren’t familiar with a brand and unsure about them. Ask someone who knows.

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 2: Medium Range Luxury ABTW Editors' Lists

8. Observable Dial And Movement Decoration

Mid-range luxury watches should all have at least some manner of decoration, even if it is hidden on or in the movement and you cannot see it. This can be as simple as a special polished finish on an automatic movement rotor or a textured dial on the face of the watch – perhaps just in the chronograph subdials (if there are any). These little features help make the watch feel more valuable, and are proof that effort went into the little touches. Consider this (even if you think Las Vegas is a joke). What makes Las Vegas hotels feel nicer than most standard luxury hotels? Because the Vegas hotels are much more lavishly decorated with many little details that other hotels either neglect or don’t consider. The best Vegas hotels have real character, not just up-scale genericism. That is what I am talking about here. Thus, look for things such as machine engravings on the dial, as well as a variety of potential polishes on the movement. Sometimes, you’ll even have decorations on the case of the watch. Even your basic Rolex Submariner watch has some decoration on the movement rotor even though you wouldn’t know it from just seeing the watch on the outside. These features will make a watch more memorable to you.

9. Unique Design

There are essentially three types of overall watch designs looking beyond the mere genre. First are totally original designs that aren’t based on any specific watches from the past. These types of designs are often a mix between classic watch genres and the designers’ own interpretations of watch making. Then you have “homage” watches that attempt to strictly replicate an iconic, emblematic, or specific watch (e.g. all the Rolex Submariner homage watches, or “aviator” style watches). Then you have a mix between to two where a designer takes one or more well-known looks or styles and adds their own twist or two to the design execution. Pretty much every watch out there falls in one of these three types. While there are plenty of homage watches in the entry-level luxury watch range, at the mid-range level, you want to see as much originality in the design as possible. Above that, every watch should be almost totally original. I mean, that is part of what you are paying for right? You don’t want people mistaking your $3,000 watch for a $300 watch because they are both homages of the same style, even though the $3,000 watch is of a higher quality. Determining a unique design can also take a level of skill because if you don’t know about a lot of the watches out there, you might not know if the design is original or not. You can either ask around, or use your gut and decide whether or not the watch looks unique enough for your tastes.

10. Value Retention

This principle will really only apply to a few key brands, but you can do a lot to ensure your watch holds as much value as possible. The key factors in value retention other than having a watch from one of the major collector’s brands, Rolex, Breitling, Omega, etc.. is to have a watch that satisfies as much as the previously mentioned items to look for in a luxury watch. Having a good movement, attractive and original design, and high level of craftsmanship using quality materials will all keep demand for a watch healthy. Most of the time, you are not going to be able and sell a watch for more than you purchased it, especially at this range, but you don’t want to be insulted at what the market will offer you if you plan to sell your watch at some point. Then again, if you are the type of person who will die with his or her watch collection, none of this value retention nonsense is at all important.

Read part 1: Things to look for in an entry level luxury watch.

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 3: High-End Luxury

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  • Frank

    Ariel, this is a great write up for sure. I agree with most of the comments. However, the AR coating thing is one that is hit or miss. I have a Breitling SOH and a Rolex Submariner. The Breitling uses the AR coating on both sides of the crystal (if I’m not mistaken). While it’s great when looking head on at the watch, it does leave my matte black finished dial on the SOH looking blue when at an angle, or even under certain lighting conditions, which I personally find a bit unattractive at times. The Rolex, on the other hand, only uses AR coating on the cyclops over the date (if I recall correctly). Rolex does this because they claim it gives you the best view of the simple, yet elegant dials on the watch. While I think AR coatings are great, they definitely are hit and miss in terms of their true benefits. I’ve never been in a situation in which I’ve had difficulty reading the time on any of my watches.

    I believe that the Rolex seems to not fit most of the requisite categories that you’ve mentioned, depending on the version. The non-sport Rolexes don’t hold their values quite as well as the sport watches do.

    I think the bottom line still remains that brand name in this category is the best indicator ultimately. Rolex, Breitling, Panerai and Omega are all some of the best in this category. I do believe, though, that Rolex is beginning to price itself out of this market and unjustifiably so. They don’t make the most elegant looking movements like some of the other brands, but they do make some of the best. I still find it hard to consider buying a 4k dollar watch with an ETA movement (think Panerai). While the ETA movement is rock solid, it is still a very generic movement that some watch makers improve to their own liking. I bought that MarcelloC which does use the ETA movement, but the watch was a sub-1k dollar watch, which was more justifiable with the ETA movement.

    • Hi Frank,
      Thanks for your thoughts. ETA movements have a lot fo be proud about, especially reliability and parts available. Not all in-house movements are made alike, and lower cost in-house movements are often not nearly as good at ETA ones. Rolex is an exception with simple, but good movements. It is true that Rolex watches are going up in price. But they are still under high range luxury limit for the most part.

  • Kenny

    Your last two were right on the money for what I wrote you about. Great basics which verbalize criteria which we lose trsck of. Thank you for your help.

  • thihamoezaw


  • john t

    over the years i have add a good dozen mind
    range, in some way i am a little down on rolex
    reason high end of the low end grade watch, with
    a steep repaid price to keep it running by a
    factor dealer 500.00 for a cleaning . but if you buy a mid or uper mid range dont for get what it will cost to maintain that watch.

  • John

    Ariel, Do you have a list of brands that would be good alternatives to Rolex in terms of similar cost and quality?

    • Kent Magnuson

      One does not need to buy ‘new’. Lots of options in pre-owned, but half the price of new. Many of them, one cannot tell the dif from new.

  • steadman bailey

    what the cost{omega seamaster aqua terra co axial chorometer}

  • I first purchased 2 Rolex watches while serving in the USAF in Turkey during the early 1970’s; the first a S/S Date-just for $138.00 and later a S/S GMT Master for the princly sum of $179.00 at the Incirlik Base (a military) store! Of course they were real: knock-offs were UNheard of yet. What in your estimation has taken place in this crazy world from 1971 for that affordable sum to have exploded to the current prices?

    • This is an excellent, excellent question. The price hikes are more than intentional – and represent a move the mechanical watch industry made to try and compete with lower-priced quartz watches. To not compete with them (as that would have been impossible from a price perspective), but rather to offer a higher-end item that was also art and a status symbol. It is more complicated than that, but you get the idea. It would have been amazing to live in those times and see prices much more reasonable.

    • Kent Magnuson

      You been doing it longer than myself. My first really nice watch was a Rolex GMT Master purchased in 1980 for $800 approx, new retail, from a Bailey, Banks & Biddle store in Springfield,MO. It was the all-stainless, Red/Blue, Oyster flip-lock…I was totally in awe of that first one and, to this day, remains my fav watch. Had a Rolex Explorer II, Black for a while also, and that is surely on my list of fav ones. I recently purchased a Bell & Ross BR01-93 GMT and do like it, near as well or better.

  • alex ioancio

    Hello guys!
    Interesting little stories!
    Look for this one!!
    After I made my first 4k of $ I was very very careful what to buy! And a very unpleasent event came by: one of my patients died after operation , but not because of that but because of a heart attack! Then I realised that life is sometimes something very delicate! so you have to squeeze out every drop of it! Then I decided that I will buy a watch! before those events i decided after many debates that the chosen one will be a Breitling! We wrote year 2001. And so it was the Old Navitimer! It coincides with my boy’s birth! So, summarized then was the moment when the watch bug got inside me!
    Since then my favourite piece is my Breitling!
    After came Omega , Hublot , TagHeuer, Baume Mercier , Blancpain and the list is very long! 32…… I read every magazine since and I think that in a theorethic way I know very much about watches!
    Returning to the subject: please guys, if you have the cash try the watch and if it is beautiful it is about taste ! It cannot be explained what is going on! It becomes a part of you and you will remember anytime with great pleasure the circumstances of the buying!!
    Do not worry about the value dropping! If you buy something from the great players, mentioned above, your watch will keep a certain price all the time!!!
    The other thing! If you want something different , something special then look after the calibers! Buy something that has an inhouse movement! For example is the similarity as when you buy a BMW with a 1.8litres engine and one with 3.0 litres ! You have to decide : you buy the design or the engine!! I say better the engine! If you look carefully after the price /quality/value ( you need many many textbooks and magazines) you will see that a very good quality watch has price that is a little bit higher! About 1k higher!
    Thank you for reading my comment , hope not very boring, and live with this : spoil yourself! It is contagious!!! I love you all because you love art and craftmanship!!Alex MD, PhD.

  • Jorge Loureiro

    I have always loved my father’s Omega Automatic, he bought it in the 1950’s. My mother got from my Grandfather’s estate a Patek Top Hat in platinum that he treasured. My mother gave me a gold Longines when I was a teenager that belonged to my brother. I do have to say that all these watches retained, not only their value through the years, but also their beauty. Style will always be forever. My first Cartier is and always will be my signature watch!!! To Alex’s point, I still remember the day I bought it and every time I use it I am grateful that I have it, it is a timepiece that it is timeless. These watches are like good wine, they get better with age. Jorge Loureiro

  • John Steppling

    great article.

    Watches are somehow very intimate…..hence the memories we have of buying them.
    I remember buying a watch on the way home from two years in Bangkok….bought it at the Franfurt Airport. A Baume and Mercier. It was a nice watch and I can recall my girlfriend at the time, and how much I liked wearing it. Same later with other watches. I have a fondness for 1960s Omega electronic that I have. It only cost $500. But I love this watch to this day. If you get a higher end watch, Rolex or Blancpain or Breguet or whatever….its somehow a part of your life after that. Its close to you, and you look at it how many times each day? Many. Its part of the pleasure of appreciating good watches.

  • BULOVA 63F80 Regulator limited edition Chronometer COSC certified.

    add in your list…

  • I have always had great value retention on the Rolex Submariner. The stainless steel Rolex Submainer has done the best for me as a watch excluding the price of gold for the other models. Plus, as Rolex discontinues different models the value of those models goes up almost instantly.

  • Konstantinos

    Hi everyone,

    I started to be a watch fan, 3 years ago. My first mechanical watch was a Breitling Chronomat Evolution, with beige ivory dial, in steel and yellow gold version and brown croco strap. That watch was GORGEOUS really. I didn’t have that quality in a watch before. I quickly became a Breitling fan and 1 year later, i bought another Breitling…, the Chronomat B01, steel polished, brown dial with brown croco strap. The performance of the B01 movement is incredible. The accuracy is less than 0,5 seconds/day! It’s just incredible. Really a Bentley on my wrist!

  • Kent Magnuson

    My fav watches are the Rolex GMT Master and Explorer 2, and the Bell & Ross GMT. They all in the $5-7k range. Function and beauty.

  • temnoff

    Glycine watches are junk and their customer service is non-existent or “Lack” of.  I purchased an Incursore manual watch.  Three days later the watch was 3 hours behind.  The 48hr power reserve clearly wasn’t working even though the watch was wound daily.  I sent the watch in for repair.  The service centre said the warranty was void due to it being secondhand, opened and tampered with.  I then contacted Stephan Lack at Glycine and told him the situation that this watch was purchased at an authorized dealer.  He basically said go back and return it for a new one or get your money back and that there was nothing he would do about it.  I explained that the watch was purchased in Asia and I was now in North America.  Again, Stephan Lack did not care.  I sent the watch back to Asia per Mr. Lack’s instructions.  The retailer would not exchange the watch nor give a refund.  I contacted Mr. Lack and he didn’t seem to care.  The Asian distributor claimed that the watch was a factory defect and not second hand and that I had to contact the head office where Mr. Stephan Lack was in order to have this matter dealt with.  Again, Mr. Stephan Lack simply ignores my emails, or passes blame on me telling me that it’s my fault and why should he be responsible for the watches that the company he is head of makes.  Mr. Stephan Lack’s name is very fitting since he lacks professionalism, integrity, and the watches that Glycine make lack quality.  I’m very thankful that I didn’t spend 4,000 or more to learn this lesson. Future buyers of Glycine beware and choose a more professional watch maker; Glycine “Lacks” in every way. If anyone would like to view copies of my discussions with Glycine, please leave a response and I will gladly forward all copies to you. 

  • village idiot

    Thanks. Lots of good information. 

  • Thank you!  I know when I buy a watch from the Ball Watch Company not only am I getting a very well built watch I am getting great value for what I pay.  If people have not taken the time to research Ball Watch Company, who they are and what they have to offer us, they are missing out on a great line of watches and a Company who’s best years are yet to come.  Ball Watch Company is making high value pieces for a very fair price.  Mr. Hess has built a company with excellent people who are providing excellent time pieces. It really is exciting to see them grow and provide watches that are some of the best in the world.  Spend time researching before you buy, you won’t regret it. Great topic, great write up.  Thank you!!

  • sam4

    temnoff  Hi can you post that correspondence from Glycine? Much interested, Thank you.

  • sam4

    @admin OH MY GOD!!! If we lived in those time we would all be retired!!!! Do you know the value of the Rolex Oysters of those days? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • sam4

    @Anthony RosalesIf we lived in those time we would all be retired!!!! Do you know the value of the Rolex Oysters of those days? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • jayceetee

    Thanks for your post, temnoff. I’ll be staying away from Glycine. Problems with after sales service are things that I would rather “Lack”.

  • michel buch

    ah i hope that you understand my english ,ok 
    michel buch

  • bombfactory

    omega olympic mens watch  what are their value

  • bombfactory

    omega olympic watch   ?value

  • sierrabc


    Does anyone know how to tell if a Eterna KonTiki Pro Diver Watch, ETA 2897, Limited Edition, 1594.44.40.1154 is a fake/replica? Also the one I’m considering would need to go in for repairs as the crown has seperated from the stem, has anyone heard of this happening before?

    Merry Christmas,


  • Mike Brown

    Has anything changed on the watch buying guide……my tastes sure have. Wondering if what we expect to get from price points have changed with firms like Tag, C.Ward, Tissot and other firms offering more for less? I would only thing this needs to be updated as well! I have purchase at most price points from an Invicta with a Val 7750, a Tissot with a ETA 2824-2, a Montblanc with a Val 7750 as well as a Rolex Date Just, Day Date and Daytona! I have not went too crazy but I do know the game is changing as to what to expect with what you pay. It seems like there are brand that will offer more for less……

  • If you’re buying a watch to make money, then you had better know your watches. The shortcut is to get on the list at your Rolex AD and get one of the popular GMT IIs and then resell it. I would never buy a watch strictly to make money on it. Buy what you want, for the features you want, and realize that you will lose no more than the purchase price!

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