Tag: luxury watches

The Appeal of Owning a Rolex

vintage rolexThere are many brands of luxury watches, but one of the most popular is Rolex.  They have been making watches for a long time, and they have many established models that have been available for decades.

The company is long on innovation, and they haven’t resorted to mass producing their timepieces over time.  They still make them by hand, and their classic models – the Submariner, the Sea Dweller, the Datejust and the Explorer, among them, have had little change over the decades.

But they do change from time to time, and those changes, no matter how minuscule, draw collector attention.  The change might be as simple as adding a magnification window for the date or changing the color of the watch face or hands, but collectors do notice, and when this happens, prices for older models can go through the roof.

A pre-owned Rolex can be a good value, too.  While new models are quite expensive, especially with cases made of anything but stainless steel, older models can be a relative bargain.   I say “relative,” because rock-bottom for any working and authentic Rolex these days is usually in the low thousands of dollars.

There was a time when you could find a used one for hundreds of dollars, but we’re several decades beyond that now.  You should take care when buying a pre-0wned Rolex, however, as there are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration before you buy:

  • Is the watch genuine?  There are many, many fake and reproduction Rolex watches on the market, and some of them are quite convincing.  If you’re unsure of what you’re buying or you don’t know your seller, you should exercise caution and avoid buying if you’re not receiving some sort of guarantee.
  • Is the watch all original?  There are companies that take genuine Rolex watches and then modify them – adding color to the case via a PVD technique or adding diamonds or other gemstones to the watch that weren’t originally intended to be there.   While adding bling to a watch might make it appealing to some buyers, such models are no longer completely original and are unlikely to increase in value over time.

vintage rolexThere are several ranges of Rolex watches to consider.  Vintage models are those that are more than 30 years old.  There are some bargains to be had there, but many older models sell for lots of money on the second hand market.  Newer models, of course, will come at a premium, especially if you buy from an authorized retailer.

New models can sometimes be purchased through “gray market” retailers, but again, you should be sure that you know whom you’re buying from to be sure you’re getting the real thing.  There are many legitimate retailers who sell new old stock models at reduced prices.

The best bargains are to be found in models that are no longer new but which aren’t yet vintage.  These are often referred to as “discontinued” models and those are the ones who are currently “bottoming out” when it comes to price.  Before long, they’ll be considered vintage, and then the price will go up again.

A Rolex watch is not only a good watch to own, but it could potentially be a good investment, too.

An Alternative to the Smart Watch

smart buckleThe smartwatch has been around for a few years now, and it has caused a bit of trembling within the watch industry.  Unlike the quartz revolution of some 50 years ago, watchmakers don’t seen overly concerned right now that the smartwatch will put them out of business.

It’s the smartwatch industry that seems to have a problem right now – finding buyers who like watches.  They’ve already established their credentials among the geeks and fanboys who already buy any “smart” gadget that comes along.  The problem is that they cannot persuade people who are actually fans of wristwatches, and more particularly, fans of mechanical wristwatches, to come aboard and join the parade.

The truth is that it’s unlikely to happen.  People who collect watches realize that they can get more accurate time from a $20 Chinese-made quartz watch than they can from their Audemars Piguet.  The fact is that the Audemars is going to keep time that is accurate enough, while showing off the creativity and engineering prowess that they admire and which cannot be found in a bargain-basement quartz watch.

Many watch collectors view smartwatches as nothing more than dressed-up cheap quartz watches, and they simply cannot get excited about them.

What the smartwatch community needs to do is find another way to reach those millions of potential customers, and an interesting article that we found the other day suggests an interesting alternative – the smart watch strap.

While many watches have metal bracelets that are fixed, a lot of watches have interchangeable straps that can be replaced to suit the owner.  If the strap is leather, you’re likely to have to replace it from time to time, anyway, as leather straps do wear out with repeated wear.

A smart strap could use many of the same features that a smartwatch does, but would instead incorporate them into a strap that could be added to nearly any brand of watch, including some very expensive mechanical models.

Obviously, some care would have to be taken in order to make the strap attractive and allow it to blend in with the watch itself.  You’re not going to put on your very expensive and elegant looking Oris with a bright green plastic smart strap.   Makers could likely make them look like leather straps so that they wouldn’t draw attention to themselves.

smart buckleSo far, there hasn’t been a lot of action in this field, but one company is already marketing a “smart buckle” that will allow you to keep track of fitness statistics while wearing the strap of your choice.  It’s a good start.

Eventually, some sort of standard will probably be developed so that the Android and iOS developers can come up with a functional and attractive solution that will allow anyone to turn any kind of watch into a smart one without having to give up their mechanical movement or elaborate complications.

These things take time, but money is a big motivator.  The smartwatch manufacturers know that there is a large group of potential buyers who are simply not going to buy a smartwatch, now or ever.  The sooner they figure out a way to tap into that market, the sooner they’ll start making big money.

What is a Tool Watch?

Breitling avvenger Blackbird
Breitling Avvenger Blackbird

People have all kinds of reasons for buying luxury watches, and for buying watches in general.  That’s especially true of collectors, who buy things for all manner of reasons that may or may not make sense to non-collectors.

Most people who buy watches, however, buy one, at least initially, in order to have a device that will provide them with the time when they need it.  There are other considerations, of course, such as fashion, and that’s how people end up owning entire display cases of timepieces so they can use watches to accessorize their wardrobe.

That’s fine, and there are lots of people for whom that’s a motivator when buying a luxury watch.  But then there’s something known as  a “tool watch.”

The term isn’t that well known, and likely isn’t well known among the general public, but the term “tool watch” doesn’t refer to a Swiss Army-style device that has knife blades, screwdrivers or corkscrews built in. (Interestingly enough, Swiss Army does make watches, but they don’t have those features, either.)

No, a tool watch is a watch that has likely been purchased by the owner in order to perform some function or specific task related to their job or perhaps a sideline.  If you’re an airplane pilot, for instance, you will likely want to own a watch that can offer some features above and beyond simply offering you the time.  You might want a rotating bezel so you can keep track of elapsed time or you might want a timepiece that displays the time in multiple time zones so that you’ll always be able to determine the time where you’re coming from as well as the time where you’re going.

Other popular tool watches would be certain chronographs that are useful for people who race cars (or anything else) for a living.  There are far too many such watches on the market to describe a specific one here as an ideal example of the niche, but most people are aware of a chronograph.

Perhaps the ultimate example of a a tool watch would be watches designed specifically for divers.   While dive watches have become a bit of a fashion item and are often worn by people who rarely, if ever, put a toe in the water, there are some pretty rugged diving watches on the market.  First and foremost among features, of course, would be water resistance that is far above and beyond that which is normally required from a wristwatch.  The Rolex Submariner, for instance, has a rated water resistance of some 300 meters or so, making it a watch that will be useful for nearly anyone who regularly gets in the water.

Rolex Submariner
Rolex Submariner

These watches will also have a rotating bezel and usually one that rotates only in one direction, so that the diver can keep track of elapsed time.  This allows them to keep track of how long they’ve been in the water and how much air they may have left remaining in their tank.  When you’re underwater, knowing the time of day may or may not be useful, but knowing the amount of air you have remaining is critical.

There are other examples of tool watches on the market, but it’s worth noting that there are many timepieces available that serve purposes other than the obvious one of showing the time of day to the wearer.

You Keep Paying for Luxury Watches

watch parts So, you’ve saved up your money to buy that Rolex you’ve always wanted.  Or perhaps it’s an Oris or a Tissot.  It doesn’t matter.  You’ve wanted it for years and it costs thousands and you’ve saved the money.

You buy it, and fork over that hard-earned cash.  Now you have it.  It’s paid for.  You’ve spent a fortune, but aside from perhaps a bit of additional insurance on it you don’t have any other ongoing expenses with it, right?

Wrong.  If you’ve purchased a high end luxury mechanical watch, you will be spending money on it regularly for the rest of your life.  Not only that, but the money you spend on that watch could work out to hundreds of dollars per year, depending on the brand.

“How is that?,” you ask.  Mechanical watches are mechanical devices.  Parts move.  Parts break.  Parts wear out.  Parts get dust and dirt and grime in them and on them, and those things can prevent the watch from keeping accurate time, or from being able to keep time at all.

Most luxury watchmakers recommend that you have your mechanical watches serviced at regular intervals.  “Serviced” means that you’re going to put the watch in a box, mail it back to the manufacturer so that they can work on it at their factory, and wait for them to send you a bill.

That bill could easily be $500 or more, and you might need to do that as often as every two years, depending on the model.

Why so expensive?  There are a number of reasons.  When you send a luxury watch in for service, a trained technician will disassemble it and carefully examine the movement to see if there are any worn or damaged parts.  If so, they will need to be replaced.

Those parts may or may not be on hand, depending on the make and model of the watch.  If they aren’t available, the company may have to fabricate new ones.  Regardless, there’s going to be a bill for the new parts.  After that, the movement will need to be thoroughly cleaned and adjusted for accuracy.  Finally, after the watch has been put back together, it will need to be cleaned and polished on the outside.

When you get it back, it will likely work and look like new.  Those are good things.  But you’ll have to repeat the process again in a couple of years.

Friction is the enemy, and mechanical watches have moving parts.  Some of them move millions of times in a year.  Jewels in the movement are intended to reduce friction, but physics is physics, and everything has friction.

A few companies are introducing new movements with composite parts that are intended to reduce friction.  But a watch that will never require regular service is just a dream.  If you want to own a mechanical watch, you’re going to have to accept that it will require regular maintenance.

On the plus side, a well-maintained high end watch will work well for decades.  On the downside, it comes with a recurring bill that you’re just going to have to pay as part of the price of owning an amazing piece of technology.

Getting the Most for Your Luxury Watch

sell your watchYou’ll find lots of articles online about buying luxury watches, and that makes sense – lots of people buy luxury watches all the time.  But sometimes, you want to sell a luxury watch.

The reasons can vary – perhaps you just don’t want the watch anymore.  Perhaps you want to use the money to buy something else.  Perhaps you simply need the money.  Whatever the reason, you’re going to have to address various issues when you want to sell a luxury watch.  After all, it’s a lot easier to buy a luxury watch than it is to sell one, especially if you’re trying to get top dollar.

Here are a few ways that you can sell a luxury watch.  Each has their pros and cons:

  • Private sale.  If you know someone personally who wants to buy your watch, obviously, that’s the way to go.  There is no middleman, you can quickly come to a price, and you can accept whatever payment terms you like.
  • Auction house.  This works best for ultra-rare items.  You can consign your watch through auction houses such as Christies, Phillips, or Sotheby’s. This isn’t for a run-of-the-mill Omega Speedmaster, but if you have an unusual Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe or an original Rolex Paul Newman Daytona, you might find that they’re interested.  They’ll add a fee on top of the sales price for the buyer to pay.
  • Auction it yourself.  You can sell it on eBay, for instance, for either a fixed price or an auction price.  Upside – you’ll get as much as the market is willing to bear.  Downsides – you’d best have a lot of provenance.  EBay will take a fee for the listing and a portion of the final value price.  There’s a lot of competition, even at the high end, so your watch may get lost in the shuffle unless it’s something really unusual.
  • Pawn shop.  Great for getting a quick sale.  The downside is that you’re not going to get top dollar.  Pawn shops aren’t the best places to buy high end watches, so pawnbrokers aren’t likely to pay top dollar to get yours, as it might end up sitting on their shelf for a long time before they can sell it.
  • Consignment.  Some jewelers and watch dealers will sell the item on consignment.  They will usually take a percentage of the sales price as a commission.  Downside – It might take a long time to sell, depending on the watch and the clientele of the seller.

selling a watchThere are also a few dealers of watches online who buy high end watches for resale.  You won’t get full retail price, but you might get a fair wholesale price for the watch.  Some of these retailers pay quickly, sometimes overnight and a few even offer to pay the shipping to get the watch to them.  A Web search will turn up a number of companies that regularly buy and sell second hand watches.

With anything collectible, it can be difficult to sell quickly while also getting a good return on your purchase price.  There is usually a tradeoff between getting a quick sale and getting the most money.

Still, if you have a worthwhile watch to sell, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a buyer for it.

Two-Tone Watches are Back!

New two-tone Audemars Piguet
New two-tone Audemars Piguet

They say that what goes around comes around and when it comes to anything related to fashion, that’s often the case.  No, we’re not expecting to see bell bottom trousers return anytime soon, though we can’t rule out their return at some point in the future.

Just as children’s names cycle every few generations, so do fashion designs.  Things become popular, people buy them, people grow tired of them, they go out of style and something else is “in” for a while.  Then, the cycle repeats, as people get tired of that, and want something new.

Eventually, you run out of new things to offer, so you dust off something old that they haven’t seen in a while, and you present it as new.  Then they get excited and buy it.  Of course, when this happens, the people who do remember them from the first time around will scold you and point out that the “new” thing you’re buying isn’t really new, but that’s how fashion works.

That’s why we’re seeing two-tone watches again.

Two-tone watches were introduced at this year’s Baselworld exhibition and a number of watchmakers are beginning to offer these models, which are seen by younger buyers as being edgy and more daring.

In recent years, makers have opted for a single color model, which might be all yellow gold, or all platinum, or all white gold, or all stainless steel.  New models are now combining one metal with another or one of various other materials (composite; carbon fiber, or ceramic) to give a busier look to their wares.

One advantage is that a watch that’s made of part steel and part yellow gold is more affordable than one that’s all gold, yet it has the distinction of offering a different look and one that’s now eye-catching, given that two-tone watches have been absent from the marketplace for quite a while.

Of course, they’re still available on the second hand market, and even in high end models, it’s not too hard to find, say, a two-tone Rolex from the 1980s.  They’re out there, but as the trend continues, even the second hand market is likely to dry up in the near future.  Plus, as styles change and more people start to embrace the two-tone look, those vintage models that have up until recently been bargains are going to start getting a bit more expensive.

A vintage two-tone Rolex
A vintage two-tone Rolex

Regardless of your taste, if you’re looking for something that’s a bit different today, you might want to look at a two tone watch.  We wouldn’t recommend waiting, however, as by this time next year, everyone is likely to be wearing two tone watches.  At that point, you’ll likely be starting to look for something new and different.

At that point, watchmakers will come up with something new.  Or they’ll dust off something old, give it a new name, and present it to you as something you haven’t seen before.  Or at least, haven’t seen since the 1990s.

That’s the way fashion works.  What’s here today is gone tomorrow…and back again in a couple of decades.  What goes around comes around, and it works that way with watches, too.