Rolex make the very best luxury watches, right? If you want the pinnacle of luxury and quality in a watch, just buy a Rolex and you will be set for life? Not so fast.
In fact, the world of luxury watches goes far beyond Rolex. Not that Rolex doesn’t make a fine product, but their popularity doesn’t stem purely from their watches. What Rolex have done better than any other luxury watchmaker is craft exceptional public awareness and prestige for themselves. This is why they are so popular! But they certainly aren’t the only maker of luxury watches.
When you begin to dig into the huge array of high-end, expensive watches available worldwide, it quickly becomes complex and even a bit overwhelming. Many of the best manufacturers are not well known and often, are very limited in how and where you can buy them. So, if many great brands are obscure and difficult to find, how do you know which is the best watch and the right one for you?
In this article, I will be touching on some of the finer points of watchmaking to feel out the what goes into and makes great luxury watches. Whether you are looking for a sports watch, diamond watch, vintage watch or rose gold watch, the options are almost endless. When it comes time to decide on which watch to buy, you will be happy you know what to look for.
Some of the details might seem minor, but if you are going to spend top dollar on a watch, sometimes it is the little things that make the difference.
By and large, most of the characteristics that luxury watches are known for are standards set by the Swiss watchmaking industry. Generally, Swiss watches are known worldwide as the best in quality and luxury. and most connoisseurs will agree that there are only a handful of other brands outside of Switzerland that can compete as the worlds best watches.
When it comes to a luxury watch for men or luxury watches for women, you are buying much more than an accurate clock. In fact, most basic watches you can find at local retailers keep time perfectly well. With a luxury watch, you are also buying the quality, the craftsmanship, the style, the added jewelry and even the prestige of the brand.
• We have all heard that the Swiss make the best luxury watches, but that isn’t just because of the cool mountain air. They have very high standards of quality and a tradition of assembling most, if not all the components of their watches in house. If you want the highest quality, look for a manufacturer that produces all the watch parts themselves. Not that parts bought elsewhere necessarily indicate a poor-quality watch. Many top of the line Swiss makers use mass manufactured Swatch ETA movements that are still excellent in quality. Citizen watches and Bulova watches are two examples of these.
• If you are looking for a non-Swiss watch, excellent quality can still be found but look for a producer that does most of the construction and manufacturing themselves. The more of the manufacturing and assembly that is done in one place, the better the watch should be. Interestingly, many quality watchmakers that began in other countries such as France or Italy, have relocated their manufacturing to Switzerland in order to use the label, Swiss Made. Cartier watches, for example, were originally produced in France but now are Swiss.
• Another large part of the quality is whether the brand is fully independent. Is the brand just a small watchmaker, or are they owned by a large corporation who might be more concerned with profits than quality? Overall material and build quality fit in here as well, as not all manufacturers use top grade materials all the time. Worth a brief mention, is that certain watches will boast expensive materials, such as 24 carat gold, or even precious gems, such as diamonds imbedded in them.
The heart of a watch, is its movement. This is literally the thing that makes the watch tick, moves the hands and keep the time accurate. So naturally, you want your movement to be of high quality.
These are the most common movements on the watch market. They are battery powered, so over time you either need to recharge or replace the battery. However, they generally keep time more accurately than other types, and are usually more affordable and more durable.
What generally sets Swiss watches above the rest these days is because they have maintained the tradition of high quality mechanical movements. These movements are a complex system of gears, powered by a hand wound spring rather than a battery. Because they are painstaking to create and done with utmost precision, the mechanical movement is known as the pinnacle of watchmaking and carries a price tag to match.
These watch movements are built with the same standards and precision of the mechanical, but instead of needing to be wound by hand, can wind themselves automatically or be placed in a winder when not being worn.
Let’s be honest, when most people think of a great watch, they are drawn to what it looks like first, and what it says about the wearer second. Wearing a $100,000 watch is a statement, especially in a crowd who appreciates watches. When it comes to a luxury watch, most brands have crafted a specific image about themselves, and of course, it is important to find the one that fits you.
Objectively, we can look at how long a watchmaker has been in business and how well respected they are in the industry. For example, Breguet has been making watches since the 1700’s, is credited for inventing the first wristwatch and boasts famous wearers such as Queen Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte. A long history of innovation and impact on the history of watchmaking is certainly important when considering your decision.
Of course, popular reputation plays a part. As I mentioned earlier, if you have a Rolex, just about everyone will understand what that means. So of course, keep that in mind as you select your watch. Other brands, such as Patek Phillipe, are very well known and respected among connoisseurs, though the average buyer will not appreciate the reputation or price tag of it. Researching a brands reputation may often be the deciding factor when selecting a luxury watch.
Factoring into both reputation and status is production size and rarity. Rolex is one of the largest single producers of watches in Switzerland, and though the watch is expensive, it certainly isn’t rare. On the other hand, a brand like Jaeger LeCoultre is very rare and limited in production. Smaller production doesn’t always equal better quality, but many productions are limited because the watches are done mostly or even completely by hand.
How much does it cost and how much are you willing to spend? Different watchmakers will offer watches in very different price ranges. Swiss Watchmaker IWC, for example, produces quality watches as low as $3,500 and up to $60,000 or more.
Many watch experts say that the minimum amount to spend on a luxury watch is a few thousand dollars, but if you can, start at $10,000 to ensure good quality. Consider these watches an investment. The highest quality ones, if taken care of, should last a lifetime and can be passed down from generation to generation.
When it comes to re-selling your watch, don’t expect to get a great value though. Few brands boast a re-sale value anywhere near the original price, and unless you happen to purchase a limited edition watch that becomes a collector item in the future, your used watch will never be worth as much as what you originally paid.
What your watch looks like is, in the end, the thing what will make you fall in love with it. Most luxury watch makers produce a wide range of style, but at the same time, some brands are known for a certain look or style. Omega, as seen on the wrist of James Bond for the last 10-15 years, does the large, men’s diver watch very well. Panerai, with their unique and bulky body styles are known as a bit of a “tough guy” watch.
In the end, how your watch looks says something about you as well. Are you interested in a cool watch, a chronograph watch or just a classy gold watch?
One final aspect of style are the materials in the watch, especially if they are expensive. Most luxury watch makers focus first on the craft and features of the watch, and then the style. Watches can be built with precious gems, and rare metals added to the base model. Diamond watches and rose-gold watches are always popular. When looking for these features, be sure to purchase from a reliable retailer to ensure quality.
So now you have all the tools you need to differentiate between the high end, luxury watches. It might take a bit of research to sort through all the information, but in the end, it will be worth your time and you will appreciate your watch that much more when you understand all that went into it.