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Timeless Elegance: A Beginner’s Guide to Luxury Watches and How to Choose the Perfect Timepiece to Complement Your Lifestyle

If you're interested in buying luxury watches there are a few things to consider in order to make the perfect purchase to complement your lifestyle....

A luxury watch is perhaps the definitive statement of wealth or success barring maybe a high-performance sports car. The difference is that buying a luxury watch won’t immediately start people questioning if you’re going through a crisis. The hard part is where to start. There’s so much history associated with different brands, so many different types of watches, so many different price points, it can all be quite intimidating.

Let’s take the stress out of it and look at how to choose the perfect timepiece to complement your lifestyle. 

Why Are You Buying Luxury Watches?

If you are new to luxury watches you might be asking yourself why you would even bother if your smartphone can do the same thing? It has to be understood that luxury watches are not essential for their practical purposes, but rather are more akin to accessories and jewellery.

If that idea turns you off, understand that you are paying for more than just a timepiece. Due to a luxury watch’s superior quality, they can survive for decades, not just a few years like a smartphone. Perhaps it could be passed on to future generations? Or maybe it’s a long-lasting memento or reminder?

There’s a romantic quality to luxury watches that defies logic, and if that doesn’t appeal to you, you may want to reconsider your purchase.

If you were hoping to buy a watch as an investment, understand that it requires a substantial knowledge-base to get it right. Not all watch brands turn profits on the secondary market and knowing which models within those brands that are profitable requires time and effort. Luxury watches are not stocks and don’t behave the same way as investments.

Choosing Your Perfect Timepiece

Here are a few things to think about when picking your perfect timepiece. 

 

Your Budget

The first thing you have to do is find out how big your budget is. It doesn’t have to be huge as there are plenty of great watches available in a wide range of prices, but it does help you understand what brands and pieces are options for yourself.

 

Where Will You Wear the Watch?

Once you know your budget, consider where you plan on wearing the watch. Is it going to be an everyday watch or something for a specific purpose or occasion? There are dress protocols for different kinds of watches in various settings, however, these are not strict and many people disregard them entirely.

 

Durability vs Style

Are you after something that can take some damage or something that looks stylish? If you plan to use the watch everyday and pair it with most outfits, a stainless steel dive model (like a Rolex Submariner) might be appropriate. If you are looking for something to wear with a suit, you might look into a dress watch with a precious metal case and leather strap (like a IWC Portofino). Prices will also fluctuate quite a bit depending on the brand and materials used as gold will cost more than steel and so on.

Additional Complications

There are practical applications you may want to consider. Additional functions (or complications) on watches could be useful to you, like a world time function. These help you track the time in different time zones and can be useful for frequent travellers or those who do business in multiple countries.

 

Mechanical vs Quartz Movements

As a general rule, mechanical movements are the preference for luxury watches as opposed to quartz movements. The reason again ties back to the inherent romanticism of luxury watches. Quartz movements are battery powered, less complicated, and often made on an assembly line. Mechanical movements instead are usually hand-made, or mostly hand-made, and don’t require a power source apart from manual winding or your own kinetic energy. Automatic mechanical watches will wind themselves with the regular movements of your arms, whilst manual movements will require you to wind the watch regularly. 

That isn’t to discount quartz movements as Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive proves, but they do generally lower the price. If you are on a tighter budget, going for a quartz movement will generally save you money and require no effort on your part.

A quartz movement (left) and a mechanical movement (right)

Brand Awareness

If you are really unsure if a watch is quality, see how old the brand is. Watchmaking has a very storied history with some brands having made watches for over a hundred years (Blancpain has been making watches since 1735!). You can often take solace in the fact that these brands and watches wouldn’t have lasted so long without some level of quality assurance. Recognisable names like Rolex aren’t the only brands with history. If you like a watch, look into the brand, as it may be well-regarded within the industry despite not being as recognisable.

Brands like Daniel Wellington or MVMT are cheap alternatives, but they have no history and their build quality is lacking. A quick Google search is all you need to do, or if you want customer feedback, see if you can find a discussion about the brand on social media outlets like Reddit.

How to Spot a Quality Watch

We have a handy guide made highlighting what to look for in a quality watch so we will just summarise those points here.

The first thing to look at is the materials. At a minimum, a quality watch will be made from stainless steel. The next step up would be titanium and ceramic before heading to precious metals like platinum or gold.

The movement will also give you an indicator of quality. The best mechanical movements are Certified Mechanical Movements (COSC) which you can check on any brand’s website. If they are not COSC certified, check the accuracy of the movement. If it is at least +6/-4 seconds per day or better (lower the better), you’re good to go.

The final thing to look at is the strap or bracelet. For leather straps, the highest quality is labelled “full grain,” with “top grain” below that, and “genuine leather” being the lowest. Luxury brands often use exotic materials like alligator leather instead. For the bracelets, check to see if it is made from the same material as the case, if they have solid end links, tight tolerances (i.e. they don’t stretch out immediately), have unfinished surfaces, don’t have sharp edges, and finally, the quality of the finishing.

Complementing Your Lifestyle

The rest now is up to you and your own research. Will you be wearing a luxury watch to the office? Will you be wearing it at special events only? Will you buy more than one watch? What does this watch say about you? Ultimately, you must decide what your lifestyle demands from a watch.

Seiko Prospex

If you have a very active lifestyle and prefer not to wear a smartwatch, consider something in the Seiko Prospex collection with a rubber strap. While not quite a luxury watch, they are very durable whilst the rubber strap helps remove some of the weight.

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony

If you plan on wearing it to the office everyday you have plenty of options. If you regularly wear a suit in an executive role, perhaps consider a dress watch with a hefty price tag like a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony. Remember that the rules for watch etiquette are not strict and often not observed so don’t let the idea that wearing a steel bracelet watch with a suit is wrong, in fact, the Rolex two toned GMT was quite popular amongst stockbrokers in the 1980s and 90s. So pick the watch you like.

If you simply want to show off an expensive watch, you can’t go wrong with a Rolex. The brand is essentially shorthand for luxury despite its relatively modest price when compared to some other brands like Patek Philippe.

Ultimately, pick the watch you like the look of and do some research into it. It isn’t so much about function as it is about design. Find the watch you enjoy and look into alternatives. You may find something more affordable or something you like even more. Start with the recognisable brands and move on from there. Happy watch hunting!

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