One of the most difficult questions to answer about buying a luxury watch is how much you should pay for it. One of the easiest answers is somewhat of a proverb: luxury is in the eye of the beholder. What someone with a smaller income considers luxury compared to a millionaire’s (or even a billionaire’s) take on luxury are obviously two different things. For some a quality/value proposition for a nice Swiss watch – to the tune of about $600 – is luxury. For others, the million-dollar watch is it.
Watches under $1,000
So how do you know what is considered luxury? The answer is simple: luxury is what you feel it is for your income level. One of the first things anyone buying a watch needs to consider is their budget. After that, their tastes. If buying a $600 watch seems like an indulgence to you, it most likely is. You have defined your luxury. And there are plenty of great watch brands out there in that price point – ranging from the well-known Movado to Certina, Hamilton, and even a good-looking Seiko or Citizen. If this range is your luxury, go for it. Don’t overspend because you are likely to experience buyer’s remorse, especially when your next bill comes in.
Watches Between $1,000 – $5,000
Moving to the over $1,000 price range – for those who have a little more discretionary income – one can expect, generally speaking, that a good Swiss- or German-made timepiece is going to set you back by anywhere from $1,000 to about $4,000 or $5,000. This can be a hefty sum to those on a limited budget. But this will buy you a nice timepiece that will have others ooh-ing and ahh-ing.
Timepieces in this range are often utilitarian or classic in looks. Consider a German-made Tutima Flieger watch or an Oris Aquis dive watch. For a classic look in this range, a Baume & Mercier or even a Longines fits the bill. Bauhaus your style? It can buy you a Nomos. In fact, the list is long in this realm. All of these brands make watches that have good movements inside, and that boasts a lot of attention to detail on the outside to offer great looks without great prices. Even Rolex’s sister brand Tudor has something to offer in this range, as does TAG Heuer whose watches are sought after even by collectors. These are the watches that often people with much deeper pockets will buy as casual weekend-wear pieces.
Watches Between $5,000 – $10,000
If you’re looking for one of the more popular brands known to be collector’s watches – even at the entry-level price – you’re most likely going to pay upwards of $5,000 and for that, you will get their entry-level watch. Still, this $5,000 to $10,000 price range is a key export category for Switzerland. You would be surprised by the brands that can be had in this price range. They include an entry-level Rolex Oyster Perpetual and even an Omega Seamaster.
Watches Between $10,000 – $20,000
Once you go over the $10,000 price range, a new world opens up. Not only can you hit a larger pool of brands, but also you can look forward to having some cool materials. For instance, an Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon with a black ceramic bezel will only set you back about $12,000. Maybe you prefer the all-new super-cool Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox alarm watch? This works, too. In fact, from $10,000 to $20,000, new choices abound. You can even touch a Vacheron Constantin Overseas watch if you kick in a few more thousand.
Watches Over $50,000
For those who want the cream-of-the-crop watches rather than the entry-level pieces, especially from the “Holy Grail” brands, you will have to venture upwards of $50,000. A Patek Philippe Nautilus, for instance, is typically more than $50,000 – if you can find one. Similarly, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak with a small complication falls in this realm. Even an A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk.
Watches Over $100,000
Once you turn your sites on high complications, such as tourbillons and minute repeaters, you’re in the over $100,000 category. This is the realm where a complex Greubel Forsey comes into play or a highly coveted MB&F. This is also the realm where diamonds and gemstones dazzle and delight and where Grand Complications show off their might. In this realm, too, the high-tech materials have a large role, as in many of the insane Richard Mille pieces. The sky is the limit if your luxury budget can range to the millions.
Some Things To Consider When it comes to How Much to Spend on a Luxury watch
While this guide gives some ranges and parameters, there are some things to consider if you are someone with a limited budget. For instance, if you have $10,000 to spend, maybe you buy a signature Rolex watch for $6,000, a classic watch for $2,000, and a sporty watch for $1,000. You end up with three great mechanical watch choices and are well on your way to creating a collection.
If you’ve got your mindset on a $7,000 watch but only have half of that, many retailers offer financing. In this manner, you put money down and pay the rest off monthly – much like a car loan. Be careful, though. This can put your monthly bills out of control.
Don’t forget that there could be some other costs involved in the purchase of a luxury watch. Of course, you have to consider taxes. Uncle Sam (or his counterpart around the world) always gets his share. Additionally, if the watch you are buying offers the choice of interchangeable or additional straps, that can be enticing. Just buy one initially. Be prepared, too, depending on the price of the watch you buy, servicing it every five years or so is an added expense, as is insurance coverage.
Don’t let anyone tell you that your watch is not a luxury timepiece because of the price tag. Remember, luxury is in the eye of the beholder.
About the Author
Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.
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