Buying a luxury watch is a special occasion that you should thoroughly prepare for. It’s not something you do every day, and you should savor the full experience of acquiring a luxury timepiece, so don’t let anything get in the way of that. The challenge is in carefully selecting the object of your desire. That’s why I’ve used my own experience to create this checklist so that your next watch purchase goes a little more smoothly. As the saying goes, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” and this journey begins with the joy of searching for the right timepiece.
1. What will the new watch add to my current collection?
This step is the most difficult one for me. It can be tricky to strike the perfect balance of emotion and pragmatism. This might just be me, but it really is important that my new watch complement what I’ve already got in my collection, thus increasing the chance that I’m actually going to wear it. Here’s an example: For a long time, I had an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and a 1970s Rolex Datejust. Neither timepiece is a sporty, outdoor-type watch. The vintage Datejust is too old, and the Royal Oak, well, nearly everything about it makes it not your best choice in this case. So, before the summer started, I wanted to add a watch to my collection that I could wear any time I was at the beach or going for a hike. I ultimately decided on the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight.
Here’s another example: For years, I’ve been kicking around the idea of “needing” a dress watch. But every time I’m on the brink of buying a Cartier Tank Americaine or a JLC Reverso, there’s that voice in my head reminding me that I would probably only wear this piece only a few times a year. So, my advice is to think long-term about what to buy. Is the watch you want something that will match your look and lifestyle?
This will help you figure out what kind of watch you’d like. Perhaps it’s a dress watch, diver, chronograph, or pilot’s watch? You then need to its functions. Are you looking for something with a day-date display, chronograph, or GMT function? How much water resistance do you actually need?
2. What do I (really) want?
In other words: Which watch features am I going to enjoy the most for the longest amount of time?
Along with giving you a better idea of the kind of watch and features you want, this step is going to help narrow your search down by making clear what other purpose(s) the watch should serve. For me, this means finding a watch that I can wear at the office every day. In this case, my criteria would be:
- A case between 36 and 40 mm, and not some hefty 45-mm goliath
- A robust material (i.e., not gold)
- A practical automatic movement
The Rolex Datejust 1603 hits the mark for me here. But weren’t there some other important aspects to consider as well? Of course! I wanted a conversation starter, ideally one with a (hopefully) fascinating story behind it. It also had to be a watch that I could maybe pass down to one of my kids someday, so it should combine timeless style with a healthy dose of prestige. Some combination of those factors. To help put this into better focus: The NOMOS Club Campus in my collection is the watch I use to send a signal to real watch aficionados. One thing NOMOS does more than other traditional watch brands is take risks with their designs and color choices. This watch has a rebellious streak while still managing to be an understated timepiece through and through.
What I’m trying to say is: Explore the world of wristwatches for yourself; read about brands and their history. This will give you an impression of their personalities and what values they represent. You don’t have to look into every marketing campaign or “expert” opinion. Research should help you will narrow your search down even further and give you a better feel for the different brands.
3. What’s my actual budget?
There’s no doubt that budget is a major factor when making your selection. Take the time to consider what a watch is worth to you – and I don’t just mean monetarily. Maybe it’s the role it will play within your collection. Is this your first watch, meaning you’ll be wearing it every day for the foreseeable future? Perhaps it’s something for the summer months, so it has to be able to take some wear and tear? Or is it your dream watch you’ve been saving up for and are now ready to purchase? Be sure to factor in the costs that will arise in the medium and long-term, too. Here’s a good example: You can take any vintage Datejust to a good watchmaker for maintenance or repair. Rolex calibers easy to service, and the clasps are absolutely no problem to polish at an affordable price. It’s different, however, with a Royal Oak. One single link to lengthen the bracelet costs about $250, and a routine service can run you around $1,200. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to purchase a new or “pre-owned” watch. While a new watch’s first service or repair is a long way down the road, this can be an entirely different story with a vintage timepiece. Factor these costs into the price when acquiring used models.
4. What type of watch owner am I?
I touched on this a bit in the previous point. Are you the kind who’s working to build a comprehensive collection of timepieces from a specific category? Maybe you prefer to own all kinds of different watches without holding onto them for very long? I group myself with the latter, which is why it’s important for me to be able to easily sell my watches after a period of time. As a result, I tend to avoid the latest fads and watches from a very specific niche. If you’re looking for a luxury watch to commemorate one of life’s special moments, try to stay on the more mainstream side of things. Even if you do spend a bit more, you’ll feel better about acquiring a new, “low-risk” watch that won’t cost you an arm and a leg for maintenance and repair or be a hassle to sell down the road.
5. Which buying experience is right for me?
This final tip will also help you refine your search. Ask yourself early on where you’d like to purchase your watch. If you want the “classic” experience of buying a luxury watch, a brick-and-mortar shop is probably the way to go. A good authorized dealer would be happy to show you everything they have in stock. Their selection will typically be limited to never-worn watches from specific brands, which could help simplify the search for some. However, some collectors may find this experience disappointing. That’s where a marketplace like Chrono24 and its wide range of new, pre-owned, and rare vintage models come in. Depending on the model and its condition, this path can require more time spent researching watches, payment options, and the dealers themselves. Thanks to Chrono24’s Trusted Checkout and dealer vetting process, you can rest assured that your money is safe while you wait for your timepiece to arrive and take the time to thoroughly inspect it.
Your answers to these questions should have you ready to kick off the search for your next watch. Happy hunting!