It’s a great question.
And the answer depends partly on why you are buying a watch. If all you need is to tell time, then go buy a nice Timex. Casio makes inexpensive, reliable, accurate quartz watches. This is a very functional and rational approach. In the world of transportation, this person just needs to get from point A to point B, and they would take public transportation or the cheapest most fuel efficient car available. A Casio F28W-1 is a Chevy Aveo.
But maybe you like a little style, a little panache. Maybe you want some additional features. With words such as “like” and “want”starting to enter into the equation, it’s pretty clear that we are starting to leave the functional and rational arguments behind. We are now talking about what you want versus what you need. The transportation reference still holds up here. There are watch designs that make a statement about the owner. There are features that are unique and only offered on select watches. There is performance to be considered. A Rolex DateJust might be a Mercedes-Benz S Class. A Brietling Navitimer might be a BMW 3 Series. A Tag Heuer Monaco might be a Ford Shelby GT 500 Mustang.
For the most part, that is all crap. Some folks want a nice watch. Why? A couple of reasons, and there could be more…
· They appreciate outstanding design, construction, workmanship, materials, etc.
· They want something different that makes a unique statement about who they are and what they are all about.
· They just have a ton of money and have found a new way of getting rid of some of it.
And even in the world of “expensive” watches, there is a huge price range. Where does “expensive” start? That’s subjective, but I think you are in that category when you are above $1,000. What can you get in the $1,000 range? These watches usually have quartz movements, but it is possible to get a mechanical, possibly automatic movement in the price range. Oris makes some nice watches that are not too expensive.
Above $2,500, you get in to the real watch brands. Omega and Tag Heuer are good examples. High quality movements and cases. Nice materials and finish.
There are a lot of what I call “fashion” watches which are typically nicely designed, trendy watches with a designer brand (that you’re likely to find in sportswear or leather goods like Coach, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Bahama). I believe that a watch made by a watch company is going to be less prone to falling in and out of fashion as is a non-watch brand. There are some brands that seem to skirt the line between what is and isn’t a watch brand. To me, Cartier is a real watch brand, and Tiffany is not. Cartier and Tiffany are both jewelers, but Cartier makes watches with a true history of innovation. The Santos is one of the first men’s wrist watches, and in some ways, the first pilot’s watch. The Pasha is one of the first dive watches. I feel that Tiffany is basically making jewelry when they are making watches.
Omega and Tag are like gateway watches. They often lead to more expensive and exotic pieces.
Why do watches cost more than $2,500? Because of the movements. It matters whether the movment is made in-house, or built from a blank made by a third party like ETA. An in-house movement speaks to a company that is committed to the mechanical watch market and has designed and engineered their own “engines” instead of buying one of the shelf. It also has to do wtih complications. Complicated functionality like a chronograph (stopwatch), second time zone or perpetual calendar increase the cost and value of a watch.
And, of course, precious metals. Good old fashoned bling. A gold Rolex may not be your thing, but it cannot be disputed that there is a lot of gold in that case and bracelet, and gold is worth it’s weight in…
Or becuase the watch brand can command a premium price, such as Patek Philippe who makes beautiful, precise watches that are very sought after and actually increase in value.
If you want to see some nice watches, check out Bell & Ross, IWC, Panerai, Vacheron Constantin and Cartier. But be warned, watches are a disease and it’s very easy to get infected.
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