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HOW TO BUY A WATCH

Being a watch expert is in many ways very similar to being a subject matter expert in any other field. For example, if you are working in IT, you will get tons of questions about which laptop or computer is the best one around for X amount of pounds. With watches it is no different….

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Being a watch expert is in many ways very similar to being a subject matter expert in any other field. For example, if you are working in IT, you will get tons of questions about which laptop or computer is the best one around for X amount of pounds. With watches it is no different. The majority of emails that we receive are from people asking us to recommend a watch in keeping with their budget. Because a watch is a luxury product, it should fit your personality, taste and style. You may wear it every day, for a long period of time and you probably don’t want it to depreciate if you are planning to resell it again in the future.

Asking The Impossible

The emails we receive from people seeking advice are very difficult to answer because we don’t know them personally. It almost like asking us the impossible! However, we can give a couple of pointers and guidelines on your journey to buying a watch. The whole process of buying a watch can be seen as a ‘customer journey’, a term common with marketers.  This being the path you will follow before you completing your purchase. This journey can have different starting points, but the first question you should always ask yourself is, “why you do you want to buy a watch?” Is it because you appreciate the often complex micro engineering or do you want to celebrate a certain event with a nice luxury watch? Two completely different reasons, but both very valid. Often, there may be no reason other than you just want to buy a new watch, which is of course, also, a very valid reason.

There are a couple of things we can assist you with though. So without further ado, let’s zoom in on some of the most important aspects when buying a watch.

Your Budget

An open door, but your budget is very important of course. There is no rule of thumb when considering how much money you should spend on a watch. It really is all up to you. The good thing is, that there’s a lot to choose from in any price category! You can go crazy on minute repeaters and tourbillon watches, but it is just as much fun to select the timepiece that offers the most bang for your buck under £2000.

While many people see a watch as an investment, it is our advice not to look at them like this. Only a few watches will actually increase in value over time, while most watches will have a certain amount of depreciation. Fortunately not as bad as with cars or electronics though. A stainless steel Rolex is bound to increase in price over the years.  The main reason for this is that the watch brands increase their prices just about every year, often by 6% or more. After a couple of years, the price of a pre-owned stainless steel Rolex GMT-Master II will be as high as today’s full retail price. However, this doesn’t apply for all Rolex models and it requires quite a bit of research to make an estimated guess on the future value of a watch.

 

It is at least wise to ‘shop around’ for the best price and value. But also keep in mind that discount isn’t everything, always take note of the warranty policy and how the seller deals with returns and repairs for example.

Our own rule of thumb would be: don’t buy a luxury watch with your last few thousand pounds. Don’t get yourself into trouble or awkward situations over anything materialistic like a watch. Save up for one, or at least make sure you can live without that amount of money. Having that said, there may come a time when you could use the value of the watch for something more important or necessary. Then it would be wise to do your homework and look at the resale value of the watch. This can be done quite easily, just look up the pre-owned prices of the watch you are interested in. If they are they not too far off (<25%) the retail price, you should be able to turn your watch into money again within a short period of time and without losing too much money.

The Swiss consider everything over 500 Swiss Francs a luxury watch, which is, if you think about it, very true. A timepiece that sells for 50 pounds will also tell you the time, so everything over that amount could already be seen as luxury. However, the Swiss probably want to exclude certain designer brands as well from their definition of a luxury watch. Whether you spend 3000 pounds or 50000 pounds on a timepiece, you should feel good about it and before making the purchase, ask yourself a couple of questions.

Image, Style, Functionality

Do you care about status? If you do, that’s not a bad thing per se. A certain brand name on the dial can open doors for you. Often the benefit is twofold and it can mean that the watch has a certain market value in the event that you want to resell it in the future. If this is the case, the process of buying is relatively simple. Just focus on the brands that represents a specific image and pick the one you like best.

If you don’t care about status, it means your customer journey will be a bit longer. With over 450 luxury brands there’s a lot to investigate, unless you tailor it down on style (pilot’s watch, divers watch, dress watches) or functionality (chronographs, moon phases indicator, perpetual calendar etc.).

Try to determine what style suits you best. This isn’t carved in stone of course, as most divers watches will not see water other than that from the tap or shower. However, if you are someone that wants to buy a watch for everyday wear and you’re in construction work for example, a dress watch might not be the best option. Rather go for a divers watch instead, because in most cases these have a rugged case and bracelet and are built to handle some abuse. In some cases, it can be very confusing, as some brands tend to equip sports watches with ‘fragile’ complications like a perpetual calendar or tourbillon. This doesn’t always make sense, but does fit a certain category of buyers who enjoy the looks of a sporty watch, but probably will never see much action in the flesh and rather enjoy a nice mechanical complication instead.

 

Some watches combine all of the aspects mentioned: image, style and functionality. In a lot of cases, these are indeed the ‘iconic’ watches that everyone knows about and are high in demand. The Rolex GMT-Master for example, has the name, the functionality and a style that fits most people as this watch is very versatile. It will look good with a business attire, but will also suit your weekend sports outfit. The function of the watch will fit most people as well, the 24-hour indicator and extra time zone. Very useful if you are a regular traveller to different time zones or you perhaps have family or business in other time zones.

Another icon that fits the bill is the Omega Speedmaster. A chronograph that is rugged and useful for those who need to time events, but also a great looker on a leather strap during formal occasions. The fact that it was on the Moon in 1969, is also a great conversation starter. Then, there is the opposite, like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin, that is often considered a sports watch, but isn’t. It is a dress watch with a sporty look, the functionality is limited to a minute hand and hour hand (and a date), so not even running seconds. A watch that can be seen as a sophisticated understatement (luxury sports watch in stainless steel with limited functionality), while the price of the watch equals that of a gold watch with some mechanical complications.

Try to decide what type of watch fits you best, what complications you would like to have (and have use for) and if there are brands you feel attracted to (or those you don’t want to be caught dead with). Remember, there is always room for an additional watch in the future.

 

Education

One of the next important steps is to educate yourself on the subject. There is so much out there on the topic, both online and in print. Besides absorbing watch reviews, buyer’s guides and other articles, you can check with your friends and colleagues what they are wearing and why they chose a specific brand. Some of them have done their own research, others perhaps just bought what they liked best at the jeweller. It is up to you how to process all this information and whether you want to validate some of the responses and articles you come across. Studying a certain watch brand, model or specific complications can be a joy to do, but it can also be very time-consuming. However, in the end you will know all about it, and there’s little a sales guy can do about it except offering you the best price possible (as he will see that you are an expert and not to be fooled with). Also keep an eye out on social media, like Facebook and Instagram, where a lot of people share their watches and knowledge on the subject. Be careful though, as with all things internet related, anyone with a connection can write something that isn’t necessarily true. Try to identify the trustworthy sources and learn from them. Call up dealers, call up other collectors and verify your choice. A dealers stock also helps identify which items stick around and which are the top popular items. The more popular, or famous, watches are the more liquid items therefore seem to hold a better price on the second-hand market.

 

 

Where to Buy

Once you have decided on the watch you want to buy, you have to ask yourself where you want to buy it. Basically, there are only a few options here. You can buy your watch at an authorised dealer, a mono-brand boutique (if any) or via a non-authorized dealer. The latter one sounds more dubious than it actually is. It concerns legit and authentic watches, with warranty papers but just not purchasing direct from the dealers. Non authorised dealers also are vendor independent, they sell all watches and therefore can offer honest comparisons. Most especially iconicwatches.co.uk who also handle second-hand items – old for new. Due to this they can advise on residual values for items. A concern with non-authorised dealers lies with the validity of the warranty. But because the watches originate with an authorised dealer and because the warranty is tied to the watch itself, it is not a problem. When it comes to repair or servicing most non-authorized dealers will direct you to an official service centre where you can make use of your warranty. It’s up to you; you can pay the full retail price and have no questions regarding warranty issues, or you can do a bit of homework on which reputable non-authorised dealer to buy from and save some (often a fair amount!) of money. A good start would be to check websites like Trustpilot which rate online merchants here is our review where you can see we have over 2000 customers who have had a happy experience.

The majority of watch brands do not offer their watches direct to the public via an  online website. There are only a few brands offering their watches via an e-boutique, but unfortunately many still don’t. Some even have a disclaimer on their website that watches that are being offered on-line, are not authentic. That, as you probably know, is nonsense. Just make sure you buy from a trustworthy source, on-line with a bricks and mortar shop such as iconicwatches.co.uk.