Hey gents,

Over the past several months, I’ve been looking into acquiring my first luxury timepiece.

When I was 15 (maybe earlier, I can’t quite remember), I was given a titanium Seiko for Christmas, and I’ve worn it practically every day since. A true workhorse, this thing continues to tick without any problems.

But, there are a few reasons why I want to update.

One, my particular watch is a bit sportier (or at least has the appearance of being sporty) which makes it tough to wear when I want to dress up. Sure, you could argue, “It doesn’t really matter what you wear on your wrist,” to which I reply, “It’s all in the details, my friend.”

Two, I want to stare at something new. It’s nice to have a little variety. I’m sure I’d continue to wear this Seiko, but at least I’d have a second option.

Then I started to think about my Lean Wardrobe philosophy (buy fewer but better when possible, acquire only what you love and will use) and how I don’t want to simply buy another “fashion” watch.

I’m a bit older, getting married, and appreciative of more quality things, so I don’t want to slap a Michael Kors watch on my wrist and call it a day (no offense to Mr. Kors.)

Also, I want a watch with character… a classic, daily wearer, but also something I can pass down to my son or daughter once he or she is old enough to understand.

I’ve discovered there’s quite a lot to learn when you dive into the world of luxury timepieces. Not just about the brands, terminology, and general history, but also how and where to buy them, assuming you’re considering something vintage (like I am).

Because of this new exploration, I thought it’d be fun to include you and it’s probably a good idea to mention a few reasons why investing in a luxury timepiece is worth it, assuming you have the funds to do so.

Even if you don’t, it’s fun learning something new, in case you’re looking to one day upgrade.

Leo Parker, a fellow watch enthusiast and writer (who is far more educated on the subject than I am) touched on five points below. Needless to say, this is a guest article from him.

Enter Leo…

The argument of “What’s the point of buying a luxury watch? They all do the same thing…” is one that is common but there are plenty of reasons why you should, if your finances allow, opt for a $2000 watch instead of a $200 piece.

We’re going to take a look at some of the most compelling reasons that luxury watches cost more than their cheaper counterparts and, resultantly, why they are worthy of your investment.

Reason #1: Craftsmanship

One of the principal reasons that watches from the likes of Breitling, TAG Heuer and IWC cost more than those from the likes of Casio is the level of skill and craftsmanship that goes into the manufacture of these high-end timepieces.

It takes highly skilled watchmakers many hours to craft these luxury watches and the painstaking precision with which they are put together is highly evident with the finished article when compared to other watches of lesser value that have been massed produced in a factory rather than individually crafted.

Reason #2: There are Fewer Luxury Watches Manufactured

As mentioned, it takes skilled professionals many man hours to craft a single luxury watch and, for this reason, they are produced in significantly fewer numbers than their cheaper counterparts and this is another reason that luxury watches cost considerably more to both produce and to purchase.

For example, Casio will likely produce millions of a collection of watches at a time whereas someone like Baume and Mercier or Jaeger LeCoultre will more likely produce hundreds or possibly a few thousand.

The fact that luxury watches are made in lower quantities typically means that they are made of superior parts to less expensive watches and, in fact, many of the world’s leading watchmakers such as Zenith, Breitling and IWC manufacture their own watch movements which is, inevitably, another factor which increases the cost of their timepieces.

Reason #3: Innovation

Luxury watch brands tend to push the envelope when it comes to innovation and many of the most prestigious watchmakers like Hublot, Bell & Ross, IWC and Panerai spend a lot of time crafting new and innovative watch movements and designs and, obviously, this takes time and investment which, in turn, means that the timepieces that they produce as a result will prove to be more costly.

The designers, manufacturers and testers employed by the leading luxury watch brand are all united in their dedication to producing innovative timepieces and this level of uniqueness will make the watches cost more than the more mainstream offerings on the market.

Reason #4: Luxury is Appealing

Needless to say, the vast majority of watchmakers would like their timepieces to reside in the so-called “luxury” branch of the industry because it adds a level of prestige to their brand.

Historically speaking, in order to crack into the upper echelons of the watchmaking industry, you would require a rich history in crafting fine timepieces spanning back centuries in order to be considered a luxury brand.

An excellent example of a watch brand that has accrued this level of respect would be someone like Patek Phillipe who can boast a long and illustrious reputation of crafting some of the most breath taking and luxurious watches in the world.

However, in a world increasingly driven by advertising, it is possible to become known for luxury timepieces without having hundreds of years of watchmaking heritage behind you.

For example, Bell & Ross and Bremont watches were both founded in the last twenty years or so but both of these are now firmly established and sitting at the top table of the luxury watch industry.

Reason #5: Stand Out From The Crowd

Possibly the most compelling reason to own a luxury watch is to stand out from the crowd because there are few statement symbols that say more about the owner then their choice of timepiece.

So, if you have the finances to facilitate a purchase of a Breitling, TAG Heuer or IWC watch (to name but a few) then you should certainly do some research and find the right brand for you.

It is amazing how much of an ego boost it is to have a high-end timepiece strapped to your wrist and it’s definitely one of those scenarios whereby if it’s something that you can afford then you should definitely consider investing.

Let’s hear from you

Are you looking to invest in a luxury watch, either now or sometime in the future?

Have you started researching brands, models, or years you’d like to own? What draws you most to the watch you’re considering, or if you’re lucky, the watch you already own?

Edit 3/5: Here’s a nice slideshow via GQ, if you’re interested.

Author info: Leo is a luxury lifestyle blogger who has an affinity for fine timepieces from the likes of Breitling, Baume & Mercier and IWC but, alas, cannot afford the timepieces which he so often writes about. He writes for a number of men’s lifestyle and luxury living blogs and magazines.

Find an excellent selection of luxury watches from The Watch Gallery.



[photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo]

If you found this article useful, make sure to check out our Lean Wardrobe resources page.


55 Responses

  1. Grammarfellow on

    It should be “There Are Fewer Luxury Watches Manufactured,” not “There Are Less Luxury Watches Manufactured.” Things that can be counted (e.g., watches) use “fewer”; things that can’t be counted (e.g., “stress”) use “less.” Otherwise, a nice post.

    • Barron on

      Are you the same guy that used the phrase “unreasonably slovenly” in the layering article a few days ago? haha

      I didn’t write this one, so I think I’m off the hook this time. 🙂

  2. Farhan on

    It’s sad to say, but Omegas advertising strategy paid off since they had me wanting the Bond watch. I had an SMP300 and a PO2500 at one point. I still own the Omega PO2500 and a bunch of $200 watches like Orient, Christopher Ward, and VSA for variety purposes.

    They all tell time accurately, but the difference in details and quality is evident between the Omega and the other less expensive watches.

  3. Douglas Ferreira on

    I was in the same boat you are in just a fee weeks ago. I wanted a piece that would be dressy, timeless and that I could pass on to a son one day. I spent several weeks looking at watches and researching. I stuck to looking at watches under the $1000 mark since my current finances do not warrant a watch in the luxury market. Finally I came across the Orient Bambino, an automatic piece under $200. My favorite feature of this watch is the fact that it is an automatic and has the look of a timeless piece. The face is not large and resembles a timepiece crafted in the 60-70’s. The craftsmanship may not be like an IWC (not that I can tell the difference) but it sure feels luxurious. Even better was the fact that during my checkout process online they offered me a beautiful free quartz watch that is just as timeless. For those that want a timeless automatic piece and cannot spend over $500 on a watch, look at the Orient Bambino. I love it!

  4. Derrick on

    2012 was my watch year! I never realized what goes into making a watch until recently. I owned an Omega SMP and a JLC Dualtime, but this year I stepped up my collection with a PAM 112 and a Rolex Exp II Polar. I can’t say enough good things. I now have a nice timepiece for every occasion. It’s my one accessory where I can show my character and personality.

  5. Taylor on

    Grammar Police suck, good write up. Every self-respecting man should own at least one nice watch that can be passed down.
    Right now I have a Tag Heuer Aquaracer, newer model only a couple of years old, and an all black Luminox that I wear on weekends and during yard work. Very depressing though, I had a very nice box storing my other watches. Great piece of decoration and great way to care for the watches you weren’t wearing. In that box I had two Victorinox, two other Tags (one of which was given to me by my dad and was given to him by my mom on their 25th anniv), and a Wittnauer. Also mixed in were probably 4-5 cheaper watches. Anyway, I just moved and the box never made it out of hiding. Don’t know if it got swiped by movers or what, but no where to be found.
    This article has prompted me to restart my collection, although the more sentimental items will never be able to be replaced.

  6. Andy on

    Really I think only two of these items are good arguments: 1) Craftsmanship and 2) Innovation. And those are great arguments! I can understand paying much more for craftsmanship, quality, and innovation (and I want to), but the others seem to be fluff to me. I generally appreciate that EG doesn’t push high nosed, ‘better-than-the-other-guy’ attitudes and arguments for dressing well. I hope not to see too many more departures from that, like I think this is.

    • Barron on

      Yeah, I can see where you’re coming from. I think #5 might be the closest to exhibiting that holier-than-thou attitude, though the article in general wasn’t meant to be perceived that way. You have to admit though, strapping on a nice watch does feel good.

      #4, I think the subtitle throws it off a bit. If you refer to the content, it’s more about how watch manufacturers want to be considered “luxury” model makers, and how historically it took hundreds of years to achieve that level. Nowadays w/ advertising, it’s easier to be perceived as a luxury maker without all that history.

      If you read the subtitle on its own, it just looks like that section is saying “oh yeah man, buying luxury is totally cool and awesome and you’ll be the envy of all your friends.”

      • Andy on

        You make a great point, the history of a brand really can come into play in a tangible and exciting way. Or the history of a particular watch. My go-to is a slim, minimalist Pulsar from the early 1970s that I inherited from my dad.

        My comment wasn’t intended to be overly critical, which I believe you picked up on. A luxury watch may be in my future, but you can bet I’ll buy on the less expensive side of luxury so that I pay for quality and craftsmanship and not several thousand dollars worth of brand hype.

      • Dan J. on

        I’m sorry but I still have a hard time seeing this as anything other than prestige. Looking at all of the reasons above, what practical effect do any one of them have? Why does it matter if the movement is new and innovative? Barron’s Seiko’s movement is old and dated but still works just fine. Even if the new movement is phenomenally accurate, how does that actually affect you? How many times do you need to know the time down to the nano-second? If your watch lasts for years, and tells you the time, extraordinary accuracy and craftsmanship don’t buy you anything practical. Why does it matter if there are fewer watches produced? If you’re buying it as an investment, then it should be packed away and not being worn where it could be damaged by bumping into your desk corner, etc. If it’s not an investment, then why does it matter that fewer are made? The only reason to spend 2K on a watch is prestige. Everything above is just different ways of saying that word. The only question I have is: What’s wrong with prestige? The article is spot-on that luxury is appealing. Standing out from the crowd makes you feel special, above the norm. Like dressing a cut above the average guys around you, it makes you feel good about yourself. If you can afford it, then by all means buy yourself a Tag or an Omega. There’s no reason to be ashamed of pampering yourself unless you’re spending your baby’s diaper money to do it.

        • Barron on

          Well said, and honest. For a normal guy, owning a nice timepiece has a lot to do with prestige, appeal, and pleasure, even if he does appreciate the unseen things such as innovation, a brand’s history, etc. Some people are scared to admit so, however.

          On the other hand, it’s a lot like how Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor geeked out over the newest, shiniest, brightest tools from Binford, or how #menswear nerds nerd out over the newest releases from brands every season. Some guys are watch guys, and find pleasure in knowing, understanding, and owning really nice watches.

          Also, it’s a lot like art, at least in my opinion. The ultra rich buy a painting for $5 million and put it on their wall. There’s no real practicality, other than the pleasure he/she gets from looking at it. Nice watches, to me, are like mini works of art you get to wear every day.

          • Scott_B on

            I second you Dan. Men’s watches are jewelry. You don’t need one – if you want to know the correct time, look at your cell phone. But of course, uppity watches are cool. They’re status symbols. You want to be the alpha dog – get a Rolex. Innovation? Um – I was around when quartz was was introduced and that my friends, was innovation. I mean – a twitching chunk of quartz that could tell perfect time? Cool! My Dad had a bitchin’ 70’s quartz pulsar with the glowing digits. He wore it as a nerd status symbol.
            But I have to tell you. You can have a cool looking watch for a lot less. When you buy an uppity watch you’re paying a lot simply for the brand, aka pure profit for the seller. Which is fine I guess, but I prefer value. Like my Orient Bambino :). Good luck Barron, you watch nerd. Don’t go too nuts.

          • Marshall Lilly on

            Jewelry is purely ornamental and serves no function. Watches still perform a function despite the fact that you can constantly dig into your pocket and pull your phone out to tell time. Not only is it not always appropriate to pull your phone out, it will always be faster (not to mention classier and more polite) to casually glance at your wrist.

        • DH in Canada on

          I agree with Dan J. Leo’s 5 points are really nothing more than barriers of entry, a requirement of competitive consumption, and therefore, prestige.

          The problem is the snobbery that comes when you’re holding yourself out as the elegant, educated, sophisticated one, and those not part of your club are vulgar, uneducated, and uncouth. It’s typified by “Watch Snob” on Askmen’s website, a jerk by any other name.

          Modern values of mass production, disruptive innovation, connectivity, mobility, ergonomics, experiences, and efficiency usually conflict with the old values of craftsmenship, pedigree, tradition, ownership, and power. The nice thing about consumerism is you get to decide which attributes to adopt and discard.

  7. auronblue on

    I agree with Andy that craftsmanship and innovation are the best arguments for a ‘luxury’ timepiece. I would also caution that a couple of the brands listed do not produce their own movements, but rather use off the shelf ETA or similar movements and put them in their own branded cases. While the movements may be solid, I personally think a worthwhile brand will produce and use their own.

  8. Andrew Cazalet on

    The only way to go surely is to buy something second hand. I picked up a great Omega & Lemania very modestly that way. Does anyone know anywhere good to buy these in the UK?

  9. Martin on

    I purchased an “in great condition” second hand Omega Chronograph a few years ago, I’m still amazed and surprised by how many people comment on it day to day, apparently there are a lot of people out there into nice watches

  10. J.W. Browning on

    “Possibly the most compelling reason to own a luxury watch is to stand
    out from the crowd because there are few statement symbols that say more
    about the owner [then] their choice of timepiece.”

    than; conjunction…then; adverb

  11. G.Tee on

    I got my husband an “engagement” watch from Longines. His previous watch was from an ex and was no longer running on time (go figure!). Understated elegance in my opinion, and exactly how watches should be. He still get compliments on it. Best dressed guy in his office by a long shot!

  12. Mark on

    The intrinsic value of watch in terms of history or movement is highly personal. I’d love to invest in a luxury watch at least once in my lifetime when finances permit, something that represents who I am and can hand down to my future son. While I mainly agree with most of the sentiments in reasons 1 to 3, I agree with reason 5 in a different way. In my experience, expensive watches are a bit like fast and expensive cars: many guys get them “just because they can” without knowing anything other than it’s an expensive status symbol and shows that they can piss further than the next guy. I’m sure most readers have had an experience with “that guy”, the one who will take any opportunity to flash his luxury watch and talk about it, which really does say a lot about its owner. While I am sure Barron is by no means encouraging buying a luxury watch for those reasons, sadly that is often the case. It’s also encouraging to see that EG readers are by and large not like that!

  13. jose stucco on

    I was recently in the market for a watch and remember it was suggested to avoid the $1000-$3000 price range. I cant find that web page. It wasn’t suggesting that they are bad watches. The reason is many of those watches use a generic swiss movement (eta 7632?) and you are paying for a lot of advertising hype. The article suggested if you did your homework you could get similar quality just under $1000 or something truly unique if you went above $3000. I ended up getting a 40 year old Rado Manhattan Automatic and putting it on a brown leather cuff.

    • Barron on

      Depends. In the second-hand market, you can get vintage Rolexes in that price range, still great pieces. Also I can think of one brand off the top of my head, Hamilton, that makes a highly-respected model in that price range new (Khaki Field).

      In any case, your Rado sounds pretty awesome.

  14. Freidas Boss on

    You are doing yourself a disservice if you are dismissing a timepiece purely because the manufacturer uses an ETA or Valjoux, not to mention showing your ignorance. These are manufacturers of very well respected mechanical Swiss movements. Most watch companies don’t produce in-house movements but instead will alter or upgrade a base piece from a company like ETA.

  15. ERobertson on

    I actually recently invested in several vintage wristwatches- one gold-toned, one silver- with the intention of giving them new bands and polishing them up a bit. They’re nice enough that they could be worn with a suit, and yet sleek enough to seem casualish. So I guess you could say I’m moving backwards through the wristwatch world. Also, what if you go all 1900’s and use a pocketwatch? Opinion?

  16. Chris on

    I have to agree with Scott and Dan. A mechanical watch (awesome as they can be) is an inferior, anachronistic product. Your kid’s Dora the Explorer toy with the embedded digital clock that was free in her Happy Meal will keep better time than your $15,000 Breitling. You can find really, really distinctive and sophisticated watches that will keep time just as well in the $200 range.

    While it’s not cool to judge others for what they like, I do wonder about guys who have the psychological need to get an ego boost from their analog wristwatch that costs as much as a lower-end car.

    And dudes get into collecting things all the time, which is okay. It just seems weird to have a discussion about what are essentially very high-end horse buggies in a blog that is so tightly focused on simplifying into a leaner lifestyle and letting your style flow from inside of you.

    • Barron on

      Hey Chris, buying a watch such as the ones we’re discussing isn’t about mere utility. If that were the case, this article would be about how to check the time on your iPhone.

      Much like buying quality clothing (again, when it’s within your means), it’s about preference and taste. It’s not NECESSARY if all we look at is functionality (telling time). But art isn’t necessary either. Nor is a $1000 suit when they have suits at Target.

      I believe there’s room in a lean wardrobe for one nice watch that I love owning, looking at, and wearing on a daily basis, instead of 3-4 meh watches that I feel lukewarm about.

  17. PubliusandFriends on

    My take: I know more about watches than I know about style and fit. Style and fit are more important.

    Example: Wearing a watch with a tuxedo–traditionally declasse. Suggests you can’t wait for the event to end.

    My point: You can get away without wearing a watch and still look great. You can then channel the thousands of dollars saved into quality clothes.

  18. Gordey Natalenko on

    Though I’m a fan of high quality, I also consider diminishing returns in whatever I buy. At a certain price point, the incremental quality gets smaller and smaller and not worth the price. Watches are probably one of those things I don’t know if I could spend that much money on. I think I’d rather have a small collection of cheaper priced but still nice watches.

    ~ theprometheanman.blogspot.com

    • Tachycardius on

      Mechanical watches are clever but ultimately pointless bits of man fluff, like diamond earings for men. If youre too far from civilization to get an accurate time check then it simply does not matter. If you re then you’re pea cocking (like a girl)

  19. Jan Grossman on

    Reason #5, last few words of the paragraph/sentence: ” . . . that say more about the owner then their choice of timepiece”??? How about “THAN” their timepice? Geeze man; how about back to elementary school!

  20. Lew Jones on

    I would argue that the best reason for a luxury watch purchase would be the statement it makes about one’s attention to detail, similar to buying the nicer dress shirt or the nicer suit. I don’t believe that just because something is expensive makes it flashy or calling something luxury even makes it better, but I do find myself gravitating towards buying fewer items now. I’m in my 30s, and I like to think that I buy less stuff, but when I do buy something, I want to buy something nice.

  21. Uhr Welt on

    People like to wear designer clothes but if they will add a designer luxury watch with their attire they will look professional and sophisticated.

  22. Sebastian on

    What’s your take on a wind-up pocket watch? I find wearing a wrist watch uncomfortable and enjoy the classic look of the pocket watch chain across my vest. I’d be curious to hear your opinion on the subject (I apologize if you’ve already covered this else where).

  23. Jonathan Hall on

    I hate to be a grammar nazi, but your heading for #2 just drives me nuts. I actually had to read it about 5 times to even understand what it meant… It *should* say “There are Fewer Luxury Watches Manufactured.” And the paragraph actually says it correctly. As it’s worded, I thought it was saying “There are manufactured luxury watches that are of a lesser quality than the hand-crafted luxury watches.”

  24. Mattias on

    Just my two cents:

    Bought a breitling timepiece about ten years ago with the first bonus I got at work. A smaller colt-type. Still wearing it, but now considering to add an additional watch, a bit les sporty though (another breitling, or raidillon).

    One of the things that I found surprising/annoying:
    – automatic watches are not really accurate: mine looses about a minute per month (and this considered normal)! You start taking this into account, but it is still not what I had expected. Perhaps I should have done better research…

    – service cost: automatic watches have mechanical components that require servicing. My experience is that every three years you to bring it in for a checkup. Regular checks cost about €100-200, if there is nothing major. For more expensive watches, servicing is also more expensive. Take this into account when you consider affordability.

    – wrist straps: if leather, these need to be replaced about every two/three years. Depending on type of leather (or rubber), these can cost up to €200. In steel or titanium, they can go over €1000.

  25. Friedrice on

    Tag Heuer, Bretling and IWC uses stock ETA movements with very little modifications and calls them ‘manufacture’ movements with exotic sounding calibers. Instead of buying them, get the newer Omega’s (caliber 8xxx and 9xxx series) and/or Rolexes instead. But if you prefer low key watches, JLC’s make fantastic movements.

  26. Guillermo Escobar on

    Hi. I’m starting to create my small collection of vintage 1920-1970 wristwatch. But is hard to get the real value of some pieces. I got a 1957 bulova 23 jewel, a 1950’S Baylor era (hard to get info) and a 17 jewel benrus 3 stars. Is there a book I can get to know more info about old automatic watches? I’m trying to build it a all automatic collection. Thanks my email is [email protected]

  27. j238 on

    Over time, most luxury watches tend to depreciate. Unlike real estate, more are made every day.

    So, buy the watch that’s right for you at the right price, and enjoy wearing it. But, don’t consider it an investment.

  28. Seth Ashford on

    This makes me want to get my grandfather’s watch repaired so that I can wear one! I have to agree that watched can be a very nice part of your look if you wear a nice watch. Plus, it would be fun to see what all of the most high class watches look like. http://www.bajewelers.com/repairs/

  29. Gerardo Gonzalez on

    My casio 3240 is probably cheap, but I can do whatever with it. For 11 dollars, with shipping included I have a rugged watch that can withstand anything I can toss at it. It’s pretty hard to beat quartz movement.

  30. TruNYC on

    When you deal with contracts in seven figures, you want to represent that you are in that league.. So “Investments” means a nice pair of shoes, suit and of course a good watch for the occasion. I wont take anyone serious at a signing that comes wearing a Casio and Aldo shoes. Unless he is very very googlable.

    Sorry, but this is business.. on a personal level, put on those Casios and lets grab a beer..

  31. Len on

    What a piss poor article. you didn’t even talk about the difference in innovation, movement and physics of a watch. All you did was name drop expensive and overprice watches and prop them as the holy grail of watches and that wearing luxury watch will actually give someone character. . Did you cut and paste your article from wikipedia? . there is nothing more pathetic and common than someone wearing a $20k watch to boost his ego. And Rolex is one of the worst in accuracy and Tag are crapand breaks down easily.