5 important questions to ask yourself before buying a luxury watch
Buying a luxury watch isn’t always easy. In fact, more often than not, it can be quite the opposite. It’s not just a question of budget - in many ways, it’s also a deeply personal decision, made on emotional connection and gut feeling just as much as price. For that reason alone, finding the perfect luxury watch to suit you can take a fair bit of time and energy, even if it’s far from your first time buying one. Happily, you can make the decision a lot easier by asking yourself a few key questions first - here are the ones we’d recommend!
1. Why do you want the watch? (And 2 – what’s your budget?)
OK, so we know they might sound like two separate questions, but your answer to the first will very strongly influence your answer to the second, so it makes sense to list them together. The very first place to start, then, is by asking yourself: what do you want the watch for?
So for example, would you wear it as a special accessory to wear for certain occasions, like social occasions or formal events? Or, are you planning on treating it as a future family heirloom, one that you can hand down to your children, and their children in turn? (It’s a fate often shared by luxury watches from some of the most prestigious Swiss watch manufacturers, such as TAG Heuer and Patek Philippe.)
Another way of phrasing this question is essentially: what will be its personal meaning to you? Are you buying it because some aspect of its history or provenance appeals to you, or because you think you may find it especially practical for indulging in certain activities, such as racing, or flying, or diving? Perhaps you simply like the design – which is an equally valid reason!
If you’re building a collection, then our post on the topic contains a useful mantra that it’s worth repeating here: start with the heart. In other words, it’s not a good idea to buy a watch purely based on the most exclusive price, or what you think its resale value would be. A luxury watch is as personal as a fingerprint, so for it to have value, it needs to have a certain significance for you. Once you know what that is, you’ll then be able to work out how much you’re willing to spend, and finalise your budget.
Actually, a quick note here: when you’re working out your budget, don’t forget to factor in the cost of servicing, as your watch will probably need some occasional TLC on an ongoing basis. That’s especially true if it’s a diving watch, as regular submersion subjects it to frequently changing water pressure. Those changes have a cumulative effect on its water resistant seal, which can eventually cause it damage if left unchecked for long enough.
2. What movement (and complications) do you want?
The movement of your watch is one of its most fundamental characteristics. In case you need a quick refresher, we’ve published a detailed guide to the various luxury watch movements elsewhere on the blog.
Automatic watch movements are generally viewed as the most prestigious watch movement, due to the level of technical brilliance and craftsmanship that goes into their creation. Essentially, they’re powered by kinetic energy drawn from the movement of your wrist, which means that as long as you’re wearing the watch, the hands will never stop moving.
Manual watches share a similar prestige, but this movement isn’t powered by the movement of your wrist. Instead, it needs to be re-wound on a daily basis, which you can do via the crown on the edge of the watch face. It’s not a prospect that everyone likes the thought of, but many manual watch owners often view it as a pleasant little ritual that strengthens and reaffirms that personal connection they have to their timepiece.
Quartz watches are the most accurate movement available. It’s powered by running an electric current through a quartz crystal, which vibrates at an almost perfect constant frequency of 32,768 times per second. It makes the watch accurate to within a few seconds every year. However, it doesn’t involve quite the same level of craftsmanship as those of manual or automatic watches, so quartz watches are generally available for lower buying prices than those of their counterparts.
Here, you’ll also have to decide what, if any, complications are the most important to you. Complications are essentially special extra features of the watch that serve a specific purpose. Many luxury watches have at least one or two, and the more complications a watch has, generally the more prestigious and costly it will be. If you’re a racer or athlete, you might find a chronograph complication appealing, whereas if you’re a frequent flier, a dual time-zone may well be more useful. Alternatively, you might favour something like a moon phase complication, if you’re more concerned about the style and aesthetics of the watch. It’s all up to you!
3. What size of watch is best for you?
On the surface this might sound like a bit of a silly question, because the first answer that probably springs to mind is: “well, one that fits, of course”. But the way the watch should fit on your wrist can be surprisingly subjective. Just as there’s no standard wrist size, there’s no typical size of watch either. The majority of luxury watches have a case somewhere between 34mm to 44mm, so you’ll probably find yourself looking at a watch somewhere within those measurements.
Exactly what size you’d like is mostly a matter of personal preference. Obviously though, you probably won’t want a watch that ends up looking too big and chunky on your wrist, and you won’t want one that’s too small either. As a general rule, the watch is too large when the face of it extends beyond the edge of your wrist, and too small when it gets nowhere near the edges of your wrist. Ideally, you’ll want a timepiece that’s somewhere in between the two.
Now, some people like chunkier watches to accessorise certain outfits, and it can certainly be an intriguing (and very stylish) way to go. A word of warning though – the size of a watch has a strong bearing on the types of settings you can wear it in. While chunkier timepieces like pilot’s watches can be stylish choices for social occasions or casual settings, they’re generally seen as inappropriate for business meetings and other formal settings, as they can disrupt the clean, measured lines of a business suit or tuxedo.
4. What is the provenance of the watch?
Provenance and heritage is one of the single most defining features of any luxury watch, and makes up a huge part of its overall character and personality. Luxury watch manufacturers are doing far more than just assembling these timepieces – they’re pouring every ounce of their creativity, ambition, and passion into these timepieces. The story of the manufacturer is, in essence, the story of the watch, and it’s a story that continues with you.
It’s therefore worth doing your own research beforehand into some of the most prestigious watch manufacturers, to see if their backgrounds, values, or visions align with yours. For example, TAG Heuer enjoy creating luxury watches with bold designs and innovative complications, whereas Patek Philippe craftsmen are world-renowned for producing timepieces that are the very pinnacle of understated elegance.
It’s an especially good idea if you’re looking at starting a collection, as you’ll find that many watchmakers tend to manufacture timepieces that follow a similar theme. For one good example of this you need look no further than Bremont, known for their peerless collections of pilots and military-themed watches.
The answers to all these questions will provide you with some solid starting points, but if you ever need some extra help or advice, don’t hesitate to ask us right here at Leonard Dews. Our friendly experts will be only too happy to provide you with as much or as little help as you need finding the next luxury watch, whether you’re browsing our website, or taking a look around our expansive Blackpool showroom, where you’ll find watches from a variety of prestigious manufacturers such as OMEGA, TISSOT and TAG Heuer.