Buying a luxury watch is one of life’s most exciting moments. But, it can also be an expensive purchase that you may regret later on. Here are seven tips to avoid the pitfalls and make sure your new timepiece is worth every penny.
Want to buy a luxury watch? Read these 7 pro tips first.
PERHAPS A new job, an anniversary, or your first pregnancy have all marked a turning point in your life. Perhaps you’ve come upon a watch enthusiast’s Instagram account and been drawn in. Maybe you’ve just glanced down at your bare wrist and thought to yourself, “Something’s missing.” You’ve decided to purchase a watch for whatever reason. It’s a good one. Not an Apple Watch or a Swatch—not that there’s anything wrong with either—but anything that requires a significant financial investment and a long-term commitment. But where do you start?
It’s more difficult than you would imagine to create a poor watch joke.
“Buying a watch has so many facets,” said Paul Boutros, Phillips auction house’s head of watches for the Americas. “Whether you pick antique or contemporary, it may seem that you must first figure out how to conquer Mount Everest.”
“ ‘Purchasing a watch has several aspects. When you first start climbing Everest, it feels like you have to find out how to do it.’
Mr. Boutros suggests settling on a brand first, then a model, both of which require extensive study. It’s important to know what each timepiece says, but it’s also important to know what it says. A luxury diving or sports watch may be for you if you portray an improbable combination of outdoorsiness and sophistication—or wish you did. A watch glittering in diamonds might prove most “useful” if you’re a gorgeous type who’s back on the gala circuit. The Cartier Tank series is just up your alley if your personal brand is timeless elegance. Even if it doesn’t have the cachet of a Rolex Daytona or Submariner, Omega’s Speedmaster “sort of identifies you as someone who loves watches,” according to Adam Craniotes, co-founder of RedBar, a watch-enthusiast platform. President Biden favors the Omega Speedmaster, which was worn on man’s first journey to the moon and immortalized in Ron Howard’s 1995 film “Apollo 13.” In the end, your watch will be a personal choice, and the website Hodinkee, a prominent watch-platform, lover’s is a wonderful location to start your search.
Even if you choose a timepiece from the top tier of historical Swiss watch companies, such as Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Omega, or Vacheron Constantin, you won’t always be able to continue without first learning about the insular horologic world. For example, the most popular models, such as the Rolex Submariner and Daytona, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, cannot be purchased simply by walking into any authorized dealer (AD). These stainless-steel sports watches have become the ultimate luxury item due to a mix of hype economics and Swiss supply manipulations, making them virtually difficult to get firsthand. The wait lists are long and reserved for individuals with connections to the house or the AD. “If you haven’t done business with them before, you’re simply putting your name down. Mr. Craniotes said, “They’re not putting you on the list.” On the secondary (resale) market, demand for these magnificent timepieces has skyrocketed.
THE MAJOR EVENT Five timeless timepieces that are well worth the investment. Reverso Tribute Nonantième, $40,500, jaeger-lecoultre.com; Datejust 36, $8,550, rolex.com; Tank Louis, $10,700, cartier.com; Calatrava, $40,810, patek.com; Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra-Thin, $105,400, audemarspiguet.com; Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra-Thin, $105,400, audemarspiguet.
Suzanne Saroff for The Wall Street Journal; Jessica Gibbs, Sittings Editor
The Nautilus 5711, a simple (but in-demand) three-hand watch with a date function and stainless steel case—no precious metals—has a list price of about $30,000, which Mr. Craniotes describes as “a lot of money.” “If you want to purchase one tomorrow, expect to spend about $100,000 on the secondary market…you won’t be able to acquire one via a dealer.”
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Outlets like eBay and Crown & Caliber, an online platform where consumers and dealers may buy and sell luxury timepieces, make up the secondary market. Then there’s the gray market, such as Manhattan’s Diamond District on 47th Street, which functions in some ways like an old-world bazaar with unwritten regulations (see “Uncut Gems”). Of course, it’s possible to discover a fantastic timepiece there, but it’s also difficult terrain for newcomers to traverse, so only watch experts should go there.
That’s just the beginning when it comes to watch-world advice. For example, major auction houses like Phillips; hot new watch brands like Ming, which debuted in 2017 out of Kuala Lumpur; and hot independent brands like F.P. Journe, named after creator François-Paul Journe, who has acquired a reputation as a mercurial master, are all essential to know.
There’s a lot to learn, so we’ve put up a cheat sheet to help. Here are seven pointers to help you locate your next great ticker.
Make Friends at the AD You’ve Picked
Despite having a name that conjures up images of duty-free shopping, Watches of Switzerland, along with Wempe, is one of the finest ADs available. These foreign shops’ salespeople are very educated, and they can point you in the direction of alternatives to the most sought-after models from the major companies, as well as educate you on fancy complexities like perpetual calendars. The watch industry is a relationship business, rooted in history and in-person transactions with champagne and other similar luxuries. Make friends with your salesmen at a major AD—it might be as easy as keeping in contact after you purchase your first watch or dropping in every now and again to check what’s new. They can assist you with wait lists (particularly the aforementioned epic ones) and other esoterica of the watch world.
Don’t Be Afraid of Watch Auctions
Mr. Boutros described any idea of auctions as an elite occasion for the wealthy as a “misconception.” Most Phillips auctions are accessible to the public and do not need tickets for in-person participation, according to him. Opening bids at certain auctions, he added, may start as low as $500. Phillips offers high-quality timepieces in a wide range of pricing ranges. Mr. Boutros said, “We frequently seek the finest of the best from those lower-priced products that we ourselves would purchase.” The first step in purchasing a watch at auction is to find out when the auctions will be held—information that can be found easily online. Phillips’ live auctions take place in two seasons: spring and autumn, with live events in Geneva and Hong Kong in May, June, and November, as well as a once-a-year special sale in New York in early December. In the run-up to the launch, the watches go on tour so that prospective customers may see them, touch them, assess their condition, and ask questions. Clients may be certain that all watches have been thoroughly verified.
How the’snob effect,’ an economic concept, enables watchmakers to charge exorbitant costs
You’ll Almost Certainly Get Screwed If You Go Bargain Hunting
Don’t bother looking for a bargain. Don’t go into the gray market. If you’re purchasing anything on eBay or from a secondary dealer, look up the model and reference number on Google to see what other people are charging. Fake watches are rare, however broken, serviced, or repaired with new components (which may degrade the value) are. Check out the vendor and make sure the watch is in their possession. Mr. Craniotes recommends requesting a photograph of the watch with today’s newspaper (extreme, but also effective). “Any reputable vendor will anticipate this and will not be offended if you ask them to jump through a few more hoops,” he added. “Walk away the second you get a strange sensation or the individual doesn’t react the way you desire. “I’ll get you a new watch.”
With Your Second Watch, Change Things Up
Congratulations. You’ve got your go-to staple, and now it’s time to expand out. Ms. Barrett said that the aim is to establish “various categories within your collection” while maintaining your style. Perhaps a dress watch, such as a Bulgari Serpenti or a Patek Philippe Twenty4 with diamonds, is in order. Perhaps it’s a gold watch with an alligator strap that can be replaced with a patent leather or calfskin strap to suit the occasion. Don’t be hesitant to have a little fun with your second-round selection.
It’s Never a Bad Idea to Consider Resale
Keep your choices open even if you want to hand your watch on to your grandchildren. Save in mind that you should keep the original authenticity papers and packaging. When reselling, they will add a lot of value. Watches like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Rolex, for example, may have resale values that considerably surpass their original list costs. You may sell a luxury watch on eBay, Crown & Caliber, or TheRealReal, as well as other famous online consignment shops. That website will provide you with a list price that you may accept or reject. If you’re selling on eBay, do some research to see what the typical resell price is. You may also trade in your watch at an AD, receive a new one, and pay the difference—sort of like a vehicle, but for less money.
Errata Carmona illustration
Be realistic when it comes to your Forever Watch.
Cara Barrett, a former editor at Hodinkee and the creator of Parchie, a business that manufactures children’s timepieces that she wants to launch this summer, said, “If you have any question, absolutely don’t purchase it.” “It’s like a pair of shoes that are just a smidgeon too small. You’re not going to put those on.”
Ms. Barrett recommends asking yourself a few questions before deciding on a watch, such as “What is your budget?” ”, “Would you want to put it on every day? “Are you active?” and “Are you active?” ” These questions seem straightforward, but careful responses can help you limit your search. Being able to properly communicate your requirements to salesmen will also assist them in guiding you.
Before you purchase, Ms. Barrett suggests thinking about your professional environment—do you work in an office, and if so, what is the atmosphere like? She said, “That will [dictate] how showy [or] not flashy you want to be.”
Other useful hints include choosing a watch from a Swiss historical house and purchasing it through a reputable dealer (rather than directly from the house) to guarantee you have recourse and servicing options. And always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always,
Errata Carmona illustration
Become a Watch Person to Impress Watch People. Alternatively, you might invest in a fashionable timepiece.
Get down on their level if you want to charm the watch crowd. Alice, you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. Investigate the matrix of difficulties, which are mind-boggling composites of microscopic gears that are the basis of timekeeping. Research watchmakers like as Aurel Bacs, who established Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo with his wife, Livia Russo. It will take some time to get fully brainwashed.
You may also take an alternative route. Mr. Craniotes suggests purchasing a timepiece from F.P. Journe, dubbed “the current darling of the indies,” has a starting price of $16,000. You may also look for limited editions on the resale market, particularly ones with interesting backstories that you can learn about through small chat. The 2015 Omega Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Apollo 13 45th Anniversary Edition is very attractive in this regard. It commemorates the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission and features Snoopy and a thinking bubble that reads, “Failure is not an option,” a quote credited to Gene Kranz, Apollo 13’s flight director.
The funny thing is, he never said anything like that. When Ed Harris portrayed Kranz in the 1995 film, he did just that. However, Kranz was so taken by it that he named his book “Failure Is Not an Option.” Snoopy’s appearance on the watch face is a nod to NASA’s Silver Snoopy award, which recognizes exceptional performance that contributes to flight safety and mission success. The Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph was given to all NASA astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission, and it was instrumental in saving the crew when an oxygen tank burst, jeopardizing their mission. The list price in 2015 was $7,350. If you can locate one today, it will set you back about $50,000. Only 1,970 were produced, a tribute to the mission’s year (and another fun tidbit for chitchat).
The Wall Street Journal is not paid by the stores mentioned as product sources in its stories. Listed stores aren’t always the only places to shop.
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The wsj review section is a great resource for those who want to buy luxury watches. It has 7 tips that will help you make the best decision possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best entry level luxury watch?
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust is a good entry-level luxury watch.
Is it worth it to buy a luxury watch?
It is worth it to buy a luxury watch, but you should be careful about the price.
What should I look for in a luxury watch?
The first thing you want to do is look at the watchs design. You want something that has a clean, modern design with a sleek profile. You also want to make sure that it has an automatic movement and that its materials are durable.
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