A guest article by Konstantin Startsev
Buying a watch is easy! As long as you’re a long-time fan, know the market situation, follow current trends, and are familiar with reputable sellers. But what if this is your first time buying a luxury watch?
Some people simply never wear a watch and others prefer the functionality of a smartwatch, but I’m convinced that a lot of people will toy with the idea of buying a mechanical watch at some point in their lives. There are several motives behind the impulse to buy:
- As a status symbol that says “all is well in my life”
- As a sign of corporate solidarity (most often among bankers, lawyers, and doctors)
- As a way to save or invest your money (there is a lot written about investing in watches)
- For the pure love of the art of watchmaking (some covet a dream collection)
- As a networking tool to attract friends and partners (more on this later)
Beginners in the world of luxury watches are typically driven by a combination of these motives. They want a watch that meets as many criteria as possible and don’t want to regret the purchase later. Here are five tried and true tips that have helped many first-time buyers make purchases they are happy with. In the end, that’s what it’s all about, right?
1. You Need to Like Your Watch
Step one is to browse the various watch buying/selling platforms and sites out there. You need to decide on the general aesthetics of your ideal watch, i.e., the size and shape of the case, case material, Roman or Arabic numerals, time display, functionality, and strap or bracelet. Generally speaking, for someone’s first luxury purchase, I would recommend a round, steel watch with two or three hands on a metal bracelet. Why? Well, round cases are the most popular shape, steel cases and metal bracelets are practical and durable, and you really only need basic functionality for your first timepiece, i.e., hours, minutes, seconds, maybe the date.
Step two is to go to a boutique and try on models you like. I think it’s very important to assess a watch’s ergonomics, design, and feel in person, but for a first impression, you can definitely use digital tools like the Chrono24 Virtual Showroom. Occasionally, you’ll find that your “dream watch” doesn’t sit comfortably on your wrist. If that’s the case, it’s time to try something else. The perfect watch for you definitely exists, it’s just a matter of finding it. Appearance and wearing comfort are very important factors. After all, you’ll be wearing this every day and should feel pleased looking down at your wrist. Okay, let’s pretend that you’ve found your perfect watch and move on to the next step.
2. Price Matters
I deliberately put money second. Someone who is considering buying a luxury watch obviously has the means to do so, but still, budget is important! You should spend a sensible amount on your first timepiece. That means no loans from friends to buy a model outside your price range. If your watch accidentally falls on the floor a day after you buy it, costly repairs that you can’t afford will likely be required. You’ll feel pretty foolish if you paid all that money, but can’t wear the watch. A better tactic would be to spend “unexpected” funds on your first purchase – think annual bonus, large commission fee, cash from a special occasion or holiday.
And remember to avoid looking at those around you or being too influenced by advertising: Your first watch purchase is an opportunity to express yourself and demonstrate your taste and values. That brings us to our next point.
3. Find Shared Values With Your Brand of Choice
Almost every brand looks for customers in concentrated places. By this I mean by sponsoring sports competitions, cultural and social events, and environmental initiatives. This is a good place to start looking at which brands resonate with your own opinions and passions. Maybe you love yachting? In that case, the choice between Panerai and Ulysse Nardin is an obvious one. Dream of flying high? Take a look at Longines or Breitling. Passionate about racing? Hublot, TAG Heuer, and Rolex have you covered. Fascinated by outer space? Major James Bond fan? Then an Omega watch is the right watch for you! Watches are everywhere, and if you look hard enough, you’ll likely find a brand that shares your passions and values.
Many brands also support environmental initiatives. Oris, for instance, produces watches using recycled plastic, supports saving Lake Baikal in Russia, and is committed to sustainable practices. Breitling recently launched an eco-friendly watch box made from recycled plastic, and Panerai has introduced the Submersible eLAB-ID™, which is made from 98.6% recycled materials.
4. Where to Buy
If you really want to celebrate your first purchase, you might want to go with a boutique for the atmosphere. Plus, if you’re planning to buy more watches, it’s a good idea to establish a friendship with an official boutique from the very start. If you do, you’re more likely to receive event invitations, gifts, and special offers in the future.
If you don’t plan on developing a relationship with a boutique, however, you can buy watches anywhere, from secondhand shops to online platforms. After all, buying an expensive watch from the comfort of your own living room can be luxurious as well. Any of these options will give you a similar level of service and guarantee, but in my opinion, it’s better to choose a big and trusted player. Your first watch may well end up being pre-owned, which is totally normal. It’s kind of like buying a pre-owned first car: you have to get a feel for the road, practice parking, pay a couple of fines, and then buy your dream car in the future.
5. Where to Service
Watches, like cars, need regular maintenance. Depending on how often you wear your watch, you’ll need to take it in for servicing every 3–4 years. If you bought your watch in a boutique, they will likely take care of the maintenance. Another option is a brand-certified workshop, where prices will likely be lower. The third option is finding a skilled watchmaker. The latter is a good choice if you don’t plan on selling your watch down the line. In that case, you won’t need papers from an official service, and can concentrate on your interest in accuracy and overall appearance. Plus, you’ll probably save some money. Moreover, it gives you a chance to get to know the master watchmaker and the industry more deeply, because every watchmaker I know has a lot of interesting stories to share!
OK, my final tip is actually a warning: Beware – it’s easy to get addicted to watches! After you buy your first everyday watch, you’ll probably start looking for a sports and dress watch, too. Then, you’ll start to discover your favorite brands and models and will want to add even more timepieces to your collection. Eventually, your absolute dream watch will appear out of nowhere, the holy grail that seems indispensable to your collection. At that point, you may realize that you have officially transitioned from a novice to a bona fide watch collector. Congratulations!