A luxury watch isn’t just a thing of beauty - it’s the ultimate expression of the very best engineering, design and tradition. When you invest in craftsmanship and quality, you’re buying into something that’s elevated above the transience of fashion.
In other words, this is no impulse buy - so you need to get it right. No pressure, then.
It’s your choice, of course. But sometimes, a little help from someone who’s been there, done that, can help you point you in the right direction. The following five steps have proved really useful for us. Hopefully they will for you too.
Define your style, do your research, consider the watch’s inherent value and look at vintage models before finally setting your budget and narrowing down your search.
Then again, you might just see a watch and fall in love with it immediately. And that works, too…
1. Define your style
Know what your style is, and the search becomes easier. A mechanical watch is a living thing. And, just like their owners, each brand has its own unique character. Why are some brands more cherished than others? It’s the culmination of heritage, vision and craftsmanship they’ve honed over generations. It’s something built in to every model.
But choosing a watch goes much deeper than simply pledging your allegiance to a brand. It’s about finding a model, design and functionality that aligns perfectly with who you are. Remember, you need to own the watch, not the other way around. Actually, the relationship is a little more nuanced than that - find the perfect watch, and it’s more of a symbiotic thing. But let’s not get too carried away just yet...
- If you’re an active, on-the-go type - take inspiration from the split-second chronographs of the world’s best Action watches. Examples include Longines Conquest 41 Automatic GMT and Blancpain L-Evolution Chronographe Flyback Grande Date.
- If crossing time zones is your thing the split bezels and sturdy reliability of an Aviator might be for you. Examples include Breitling Navitimer 01 and the Montblanc Timewalker Chronograph Automatic.
- Bit of a dandy on the quiet? If so, the sleek designs of Dress watches will make an elegantly understated impression. Examples include the Bremont America’s Cup 1 and the Montblanc Star Date Automatic.
- Do adventures and new challenges fire you up? – look no further than the ever-reliable features and stylings of a Diver’s watch. Examples include the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial and the Tag Heuer Men’s Aquaracer 300M Calibre 45.
The more you look, the more you'll see that there are as many styles, complications and features as there are collectors and connoisseurs. And the more you’ll be glad that you’ve taken your time to narrow down the search.
2. Do your research
As a considered purchase, you’ll want to spend time exploring the world of luxury watches before you settle on the perfect model. Fortunately, there’s a lot of help out there. If you’ve already started your search, chances are you’ll have your favourite commentators – if not, we’d recommend a few for starters:
- www.hodinkee.com - opinionated and always entertaining site, with good vintage section
- www.ablogtowatch.com - one of the longest-running blogs, often first with the news
- www.watchtryst - a lively forum, whose members are always ready to offer advice
- www.watchprosite.com – a Pinterest-style showcase of handsome new and pre-owned models
Away from the blogs, men’s style bible, GQ, collates a well-respected annual watch guide, which is available online too. It’s a good shop-window to the world’s most desirable brands.
Another source to consult is Baselworld, the world’s biggest watch fair. Iit’s industry-only, but they produce a great online magazine. If new developments excite you, this is the place to look first.
To get knowledgeable fast, we recommend you focus in on a particular brand, era, or style. That way, you don’t spread your research too thinly (and trust us, that’s easy to do). Discover what you like, then do all you can to be as informed as you can about it. Watch experts are always happy to talk about watches. Just try telling them to stop...
3. Consider a watch’s value
What price can you put on the thousands of hours’ worth of artisan skill that goes into creating a luxury watch? Let’s be frank, this is a luxury item. You’re paying for a finely made mechanical marvel, not a tech gadget that will be redundant in a couple of years.
Buying a luxury watch is unlike most other transactions. If you choose wisely, it’s one of those rare purchases that can stay with you for life. But some models hold their value more than others. Does that matter to you? If it does, consider the following:
- Investigate limited edition models, but remember, the most common watches are made in larger numbers because they do sell, and tend to hold their value.
- Consider models that have stood the test of time, such as Breitling’s Navitimer, Omega’s Sea (or Speed-)master and the Rolex Submariner or Daytona.
- Invest (if you can) in ultra-luxe brands such as Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Breguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin.
- Buy with your head, rather than your heart: look at how well your brand has performed in the resale market. If in doubt, ask an expert.
- Resist the urge to personalise it – this usually diminishes its value. If you absolutely have to, get an inscription added to the box, never the watch.
4. Buying Pre-owned
Vintage and pre-owned watches can be an enjoyable and rewarding investment. Like the best vintage cars they come complete with a lot of character, and a little romance too. But, like any pre-owned item, it pays to do your homework, or trust in an expert who already has.
The lines are blurry, but generally, watches are considered ‘vintage’ after about 20 or 30 years of careful ownership. But being ‘pre-owned’ doesn’t always mean ‘pre-loved’. So look for:
- Watches that subtly show their age, but not too much. Watches are designed to be worn, and last longer if they have been.
- Look for small production numbers, quirks, or limited edition models.
- Check that the service history, and the paperwork is all present and correct.
- Always buy from a trusted and secure source. If it looks too good to be true, chances are – it is.
- Do your research – look at the watch forums, see which models hold their value, and have good reliability over time.
- If the watch has been refurbished – has it been done sympathetically? If in doubt, get a second (impartial) opinion. A trusted seller won’t object to this.
When deciding on a ballpark figure for a new watch, try to consider its overall ‘value’ rather than merely its ‘price’ and it might help you arrive at a budget you’re happy with.
The more you can afford to spend, the more the price tag will reflect the brand’s heritage, and the amount of meticulous time it took to create your watch. When it comes to luxury watches, one caveat generally holds true above all others: you get what you pay for.
Other things to consider:
- Factor in the cost of service and insurance when you buy the watch. A service (usually costing around 10% of the watch’s RRP) every three years is about right.
- It’s essential that your watch is insured. You can take out a stand-alone policy, or itemise it specifically on your home contents insurance policy.
- Finance deals may bring your perfect watch closer to your perfect budget. For this reason, Burrells offers customers the option of interest free finance that spreads the cost, with up to 60 months 0% APR (representative), depending on the value of your order.
Expert advice: we’re here for you
To answer any additional questions you might have about how to buy a luxury watch, we’ve produced a handy guide that talks you through every step of the way. You can download it for free, here: