Watches are more than just devices to tell time. They are a projection of personal style and taste; a symbol to mark an important event, an heirloom to be passed on or an addition to an existing collection. One can spend hours looking for the right timepiece and still end up perplexed, which can make buying a watch somewhat daunting.
The world of horlogerie is complex. There are many extensive factors that come into play when considering an investment in a watch. They go beyond the basics that one would consider when buying a regular watch. This article serves as a guide to help you make the right decision in acquiring a luxury timepiece.
The right movement is the most pivotal aspect of selecting a watch. The movement is the mechanism inside the watch that literally makes them ‘tick’. The main types of movements available are quartz, mechanical and automatic. Quartz watches are powered by batteries, are inexpensive to produce and hence, used majorly by high-street brands. They are, however, the most accurate in terms of time-keeping.
Mechanical watches are hand-wound and automatic watches rely on the motion of the wrist to wind the mainspring which powers the watch. Amongst serious collectors and watch lovers, mechanical or automatic movements are considered to be the most prestigious and the only acceptable way of powering a watch. Horology giants like Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet all use mechanical movements that have been produced in-house.
Once the movement of the watch has been decided on, the second most important thing to consider is the style. Every occasion demands wearing an appropriate timepiece and some of the most important styles to choose from are:
- The Diving Watch: Designed to withstand the pressure of the depths of the ocean, the diving watch is usually big, bold and rugged in construction. They are also characterised by their luminous dials and hands.
- The Dress Watch: Characterised by a simple face, roman numerals and discreet or no adornments, a dress watch is usually understated in appeal. A dress watch is not designed for too many functions but telling the time, is sleek in nature and rests on a leather strap.
- The Aviator Watch: Aviator watches were designed with a large range to complications to convey information to pilots in the days before electronic navigation was introduced. They are usually characterised by a big black face, luminous dials and numbers and large hands.
- The Traditional Watch: Refined looks and heirloom appeal define traditional watches. Usually featuring exotic skin bands, engraved dials and skeleton windows, these watches boast of a timeless appeal and added distinction.
- The Sports Watch: Casual, relaxed and durable, sports watches are perhaps the most popular watch style in the world today. Whether a round of golf, a game of squash, a mountain hike or surfboarding on the ocean, sports watches are packed with specialized feathers for such activities.
- The Modern Watch: Featuring sleek, unobtrusive designs, minimalist dials, a lack of complications and two or three hands and a universal appropriateness for varied occasions, modern watches are an increasingly popular choice amongst serious watch buyers.
A complication in a watch is any indication that exists in addition to telling the time. Complications can range from a simple date calendar to complex tourbillons that are used to counter the effects of gravity on the movements. Additional complications may include second time zones, chronographs and perpetual calendars. The more the number of complications in a watch the more difficult it is to design and produce due to the number of additional elements that need to be built into the standard mechanisms. Watches with complications are highly sought after because of their ingenious innovation in design and the precision and skills required to create such a complex timepiece.
A watch strap is a matter of personal taste. A great strap adds a lot of character to a watch. Whether one prefers a bracelet or a strap is entirely a reflection of one’s style. Stainless steel bracelets are amongst the most popular in the world and look good on masculine and chunky watches. A large number of luxury watch brands even use precious metal in crafting the straps on the watches thereby greatly increasing their value and prestige. Leather straps are more conventional in nature and are chosen for dressy and minimalist timepieces. However, exotic or rare leather such as crocodile or snake skin can be presented in a watch with more value. Certain contemporary and sports watches make use of rubber and silicone straps as they are impervious to water.
Watch buying is an experience which is why luxury timepieces almost always have a history or a unique story associated with them. One doesn’t just buy a watch; one invests in the brand as well. Even though two watches may have identical functions, the brand makes all the difference to the buying experience and pricing of a watch. When starting a watch collection, it is recommended to start with a classic. A timeless design that has been tried and tested so to speak. Classic watches do not go out of style and hold value as well. Brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Chopard, Bulgari and Tag Heuer make definitive additions to a watch collection. For more serious collectors, brands like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin are considered the epitome in horological ingenuity.