Four Questions To Ask Before Buying Your First WatchWritten by Alvin Wong
You are down to that special one – the one you loved at first sight; the one that feels so right. You’ve also covered every ground and your resolve is steeled – until a wanker, usually in the form of a friend who has been buying watches for quite a bit – tells you that you’ve got it all wrong.
The journey to your first big ticket ticker can be bittersweet and fraught with anxiety. But it really isn’t that difficult. There are many things in life that can’t be defined in black and white, but buying your first watch isn’t one of them. So without further ado, here are four essential questions to ask before swiping your card.
BRAND NEW OR SECOND HAND?
Brand new. There are many factors that lean towards second hand purchases, price being the primary reason. Our advice is to, pardon the pun, resist at all cost. There are simply too many unknowns to navigate. Issues with provenance, authenticity and most crucially, warranty, are negated with a brand new purchase from authorised retailers. So why keep yourself awake at night with niggling doubts?
But if you absolutely have to go pre-loved, “buy the seller”, as they say in this trade. Not all second hand watches come with proper documentation. You need to purchase from a dealer who ensures the watches’ authenticity and functionality. Trust is paramount. And never ever rush into a deal.
WHAT KIND OF WATCH?
Mechanical. Self-winding or hand-winding, it doesn’t matter – just not a watch with quartz movement. If you were spending good money on, say, an Italian dinner, would you rather feast on handmade pasta tossed in white truffle, or a Hawaiian from Domino’s?
Mechanical watches are driven entirely by mechanical components, which give more bang for your buck than battery operated quartz ones. Sure, you will need to send them in for servicing every couple of years, but they don’t melt on the inside and die on you like quartz watches do if you leave them unattended. Even entry-level watches with mass-produced mechanical movements will leave high-end branded ones with quartz movements in the dust where authenticity is concerned.
Rolex, without a doubt. There are many of you who will accuse us of being biased, but this recommendation is based on reasoned deduction. Just look at how sales of Rolex watches in Singapore spiked sharply in January 2015, after the Swiss franc surged after the country’s national bank announced that it was scrapping its currency value cap against the euro. Why Rolex and not another brand? Because people see value in its timepieces; it is perceived to be horological bullion that can even hedge against uncertainties.
Now, we are not saying that Rolex makes the most expensive, rarest, or best timepieces. There are many contenders for these categories, which are open for debate. But as a first expensive watch, you can do no wrong with a brand that has been ranked the world’s most valuable Swiss watch brand for decades.
HOW MUCH TO SPEND?
An entry-level, no frills stainless steel Rolex watch would set one back about S$7,000. Now, that might be too much to spend for some. If that’s so for you, it is possible to shave off a few Gs and still get something decent.
Still, one has to be prepared to spend in the region of S$2,000 to S$5,000 for a branded mechanical watch. You might be surprised at the number of brands that offer good value-for-money options at this price bracket, though. Oris, Baume & Mercier, Rado, Montblanc and Tudor are among the brands you can pursue. And if you are prepared to up the stakes a little, you will be moving to Omega and Cartier territories.
If you noticed, we have been recommending well-recognised marques. There are more exotic independent brands that you will find in this category, but like what we said about Rolex – brand equity counts, so better to park your money with a brand with reasonable renown and lineage.
Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.