A Guide to Investing in a Luxury Watch

April 10th, 2015

I’m not a watch expert, but Ariel Adams from A Blog to Watch is. I recently picked his brain (and combed his website) about investing in quality watches (he has a lot to say on the subject) and tried to summarize it in a simple “Guide to Investing in a Timepiece”. If you’re in the market for an “investment watch”, here are some things you should know:


The proportion on your wrist is key.  If you have a big clunky wrist/hand, you’ll want to look at bigger, stronger watch faces. Too small (or too slim) and it can look dainty, delicate, and too formal for casual wear. Too large (or complex) and it can look overly utilitarian and too casual for a sharp suit.


Ideally you can find a watch that is versatile enough for just about any outfit or situation, similar to the Montblanc Timewalker that I’ve been wearing on the site for years. I suggest looking for something that is minimal and classic. Something that won’t clash with your outfits and something that you won’t get sick of looking at every day. Think about a neutral colored face that is easy to read with limited complications (or “functions” like sport timers and chronographs), one simple crown (the dial you use to change the time), and a sharp metal or leather (or crocodile) band that you can replace with other straps (like grosgrain for the summer, suede for the Fall, etc). It felt like a lot of money when I first bought my watch, but five years later I’m still wearing it almost every day – that’s a good investment in my mind.


There are three basic ways that watches tell time:

“Digital watches are powered by an ultra-small watch battery (the kind you usually see by the checkout counter in electronic stores).

Quartz watches are analog timepieces that run on a tiny, vibrating, electrified quartz crystal. They keep extremely accurate time (within a minute each year).

Finally, mechanical watches are powered by a complex array of gears and springs. These watches can command a hefty price as a result of their superior craftsmanship. Unfortunately, the ancient art of hand-wound watchmaking remains imperfect. Mechanical watches lose about an hour a year and must be wound regularly… The name of the luxury watch game is having the best possible mechanical movement. Why? This is not an easy question to answer, to be honest, because quartz watches are actually more reliable and accurate, for the most part. Still, a mechanical watch movement never needs a battery, represents the classic way of making watches, and offers a certain emotional value that the “tick, tick, ticking” of a quartz watch simply cannot offer.”

Value Retention

“First, watches should not be thought of as financial investments. While it is possible to purchase watches that will retain or even possibly increase in value… those instances are the exception and not the rule. Timepieces are like cars, and in most instances they depreciate after you buy them. The amount of depreciation depends on a huge number of factors, and the best way to know how much a specific watch may depreciation is to look for pre-owned ones online and see what they are selling for versus the new ones. If a watch is priced at within 20% of its retail price when lightly used, we’d say that it holds value pretty well… Get a steel Rolex sports watch and you’ll know the meaning of how a watch can retain value.”

How Much to Spend

“You should not spend more than you can afford on a watch. If you can afford a lot for a new watch that is all the better, but if you are pushing yourself only to think you can later resell your watch and recoup your investment, it might be worth managing your exceptions a bit. They don’t call them luxury watches for nothing.

What you should be looking for is value for your money. You want to get a lot for your money, and if you aren’t familiar with what to expect then I recommend our watch buying guides that specifically cover the topic of what features to look for in watches of various price points. Nice watches are expensive. If you want a decent mechanical Swiss watch it is going to cost you about $500 on the very lowest-end. You should expect to spend $1,000 – $3,000 for most ‘entry-level mechanical Swiss watches’, and mid-range mechanical Swiss watches can go from $5,000 – $10,000 (or a bit more) these days. The sky is really the limit from there.”

Buying with Trust

“You must trust the person you are buying your watch from. That is crucial. No matter if it is from a large department store, small dealer, or individual person selling a pre-owned watch, you need to trust them. We are talking not only about high-value goods, but also about items that can be very costly to repair. Getting a broken watch is a hassle you don’t want to deal with. So in the event you get a damaged or defective timepiece you need to trust that the retailer or seller will fix the problem either by repairing the watch or by returning your money… Trust means that the seller will do the right thing if there is a problem, and that you are getting a real watch.

This leads into something called the gray market where people sell new watches outside of the authorized dealer work. New or newer watches can be had for discounts. Sometimes great discounts. However, buying this way is not with out risks and buyers who are new to this should stick to more traditional sales channels. Deals too good to be true often are but modest discounts even at authorized dealers aren’t totally uncommon. The best way to get the best price is to approach a respected dealer and have a real intent to buy. Ask for their best price and that if you are satisfied you’ll buy then and now. ”

Finding a Discount

“Watch brands don’t like it when we suggest non-official ways to buy watches, but it only takes a mere Google search to determine that many watches are available online at prices under their standard retail price. It is a good idea to also know how much discounting is going on. Steep discounting can mean that a watch isn’t in demand, that it is no longer in production, or that there is a very high availability of inventory. That doesn’t mean it is a bad watch, but it is good information to know. Buying from brand boutiques or authorized third-party retailers is probably the safest way to get a watch, but it certainly isn’t the only way.

You should also check eBay. The world’s most popular auction site is also the world’s most popular place to buy watches. That’s just a fact. There is a huge inventory there and people sell both new and used watches on eBay everyday. eBay most certainly doesn’t have everything, and sometimes not even the best price, but it would be ignorant for a guide on buying your next watch to ignore the importance of the eBay watch marketplace.”

On a Budget? Go Japanese

“When people ask me about getting new mechanical watches for under $500, the first thing out of my mouth is always “get something from a Japanese watch maker like Seiko, Orient, or Citizen.” I say this because for the most part, these companies produce the best quality “cheap” mechanical watches. I suppose that also goes for quartz watches, if you are into that. When I talk of quality, I don’t just mean the movements, but also the cases, dials, straps, etc… Japanese watches are often the first “real” watches most watch lovers end up getting, and many people (even though seriously into luxury Swiss watches) find themselves buying Japanese watches for years.”

Buying Vintage

“While we generally tend to advice against the purchase of most vintage watches for most people, they can be an enjoyable and emotionally pleasing investment for many people. Our main reasons against getting old watches is because (depending on how old they are) they are more fragile, less mechanically sound, and often too small for modern tastes. That means more care and money into their upkeep. But again, it really depends on the specific watch as well as the owner… Many vintage watches are like vintage cars – and with that comes all the servicing and maintenance headaches… Depending on how old or rare a vintage watch is, it might not be something that can be serviced at all.”


“Don’t abuse the little machine with moving parts that is on your wrist. Buy a “beater watch” like a Casio G-Shock that you’ll wear when you know your watch might get beat up. Think of watches like shoes. Different shoes are used for different situations. Would you go hiking in your dress shoes? Also be sure to have a professional watch maker service your watch when it breaks or starts to tel time inaccurately.”

Make It Personal

“The pleasure of owning a fine watch (or many watches) is immeasurable for those who love history, design, engineering, mechanics, and art. Though like many “toys for big boys” watches aren’t always cheap so carefully consider each purpose. The best advice I can say is to buy watches that you yourself want and like. At the end of the day you need to wear it. Make sure the dial is easy to read and that it wears comfortably on your wrist. Don’t buy a watch just because you see it on other people’s wrists or because someone tells you it is popular. It’s a very personal decision so consider it an extension of your good taste, lifestyle, and maybe a sign of your success.”


Thanks for reading and special thanks to Ariel Adams for dropping some knowledge on us today! For more info on all things timepieces, including in-depth reviews and buying guides, check out A Blog To Watch

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford.

  • sam smith

    I have worn a Rolex Watch for 10 years and love it. It is durable and has
    never given me any trouble. I wear it constantly no matter if I am in
    my office or helping my dad on the farm. I wear one because it
    fulfills my needs. I do not wear one because of what others think or to
    impress others. I could care less what they think.

  • Kirsty Paterson

    I’d love to invest in a timepiece for my husband but it’s hard to trust a watch retailer that puts this offensive tat in its shop window. This is their brand values? Grow up Breitling. It’s 2016. Ugh.

  • j238

    Most watches depreciate over time. The most expensive brands may be an exception.
    This article should have made that clear. A respectable mutual fund is almost always a better investment than a watch.

  • http://chapesjpl.com Chapes JPL

    I can attest that when cared for a luxury watch is a financial asset should the need arise. A luxury watch will hold its value and can even increase over time. http://chapesjpl.com/watch-loans/

  • Douglas Brown

    My wife has been wanting to get me a nice, luxurious watch as either an upcoming anniversary or birthday gift. I have insisted that it is not necessary, and she does not need to spend that kind of money, but she really wants to. I appreciate the advice about making sure that whomever you buy from should be trustworthy, and have the ability to repair it if damaged or refund our money. That will be crucial to whichever one she picks. http://www.jewelryclinicrochester.com/services

  • Sid

    That’s a great article, amalgamating the best sources of knowledge available from respective genres, ABlogToWatch and ArticlesOfStyle. Would be happy to see more of such collaborations.

  • AdamE

    Thanks for the suggestion. That’s very similar to the one I had that died… I’ve got the Movado which is great for now, and will eventually look for an addition to the arsenal. I’m not a fan of the gold or faux gold detailing on watches, my back-up watch right now has that on both the bracelet and the case, and that’s part of the reason I rarely wear it. stainless or silver/white gold tend to go with everything, but I find the yellow gold harder to incorporate with as many looks…

  • Witherspoon

    Please tell me who made that beautiful jacket.

  • Frank

    Love the pants in that photo…could we have more info on them?

  • Shawn

    Dan, it still amazes me that you’ve been all of those years wearing the same Montblanc Timewalker, days in and days out! I mean, being knee-deep in the fashion and luxury game for so long, I’d never thought it’d took you this long to fall in the watch world! Now beware, because it’s a steep fall and next thing you know, you’ll be buying a new timepiece every other week and trying to justify it to yourself!

    On a side note, just bought myself my first Omega – it was a big chunk of money but well worth it, I lusted after a Bond SMP for a while now!

  • AdamE

    Eventually i’d love to grab an investment piece… I recently got my first nicer watch, a Movado Museum (was looking at some other watches, but then ended up getting this as an award from work, so the price couldn’t be beat, and what had been planned to be spent on the watch turned into a suit…). I love it since it’s super minimal (no numbers on the dial, just a black face, silver hour and minute hands, and a crystal marking the 12 o’clock position), so it goes with virtually everything, but I also know it’s one of those polarizing pieces that people either love or hate…

    I’d love to add a diver watch or something military inspired (I’m still kicking myself for not jumping on a crazy deal I saw at a shop on a Bell & Ross in St. Maarten a few years back) eventually when I can justify the price…

  • AFH

    Fast forward 10 years, almost everyone under 50 will be wearing a smartwatch.

    • AdamE

      Who doesn’t need a watch who’s battery lasts less than 18hours…

      • AFH

        Hence the timeline; the tech will improve – prototype aluminium battery technology emerged this week and points a way forward. I won’t be buying one yet, but I see the writing on the wall.

        • AdamE

          Maybe. I’m not sure your timeline is correct either, the various versions of the iPhone have been around for how many years, and they still struggle to last longer than 24hrs… (if used sparingly…) I like the idea of an analog watch, and not doing anything to make myself more accessible than I already am. The appeal of the smartwatch is for those who are either too nerdy or too lazy to reach into their pocket for their smartphone… I’ll wait until the lapel pin communicators come out a la star trek for something less gawdy…

    • Greg Lee

      That’s true. If you want to be like everyone else…

      • AFH

        That’s cute (if a little churlish), but the watches will have a ton of useful functionality and it will likely be a big sacrifice to do without at least most of the time.

    • d4nimal

      Mechanical watches have been outdated as a timekeeping piece since the quartz crisis 40 years ago and yet we still are fascinating by them.

    • David

      I know I won’t be. I may own one but nothing will replace the feel of a mechanical piece for me. They have more of a soul, being that they are handmade (for the most part).

  • Miguel

    The watch game has gotten my interest lately, like the article said, I have a few watches and bands, nothing more than the $300 mark but I’ve been thinking of investing in a $700-800 watch, I’ll visit the watch blog to see what information and models I can find,

    Thank you for the article.

  • http://ledebonnaire.tumblr.com/ Juan Zara

    That is truly one beautiful vintage Rolex, Dan. Is it an Oyster Perpetual, by any chance? I’ve been saving up for one just like that myself, but I still have a long way to go, as they can indeed get pretty expensive. Might have to settle for a gold Seamaster DeVille.

    Personally, I think going vintage is a great option. I love small(er) watches (40 mm is the biggest I’d wear), and most vintage pieces (those from respected makers, anyway) are truly beautiful. I’m currently wearing a manual wind 1960 Tissot Stylist my grandfather left me and, while it isn’t an expensive watch, it has never failed me, goes with pretty much everything in my wardrobe, and is still going strong after 55 years of use.

    • http://tsbmen.com/ Alex Crawford

      Hey Juan, the Rolex pictures is an Oyster Perpetual!

      • http://ledebonnaire.tumblr.com/ Juan Zara

        Thanks for the info, Alex!

  • David

    Great article as usual! I’m glad to see two of my favourite “bloggers” come together. I personally wear an Oris TT1 Diver as my sportier watch and a Tissot Le Locle as my dress watch. Both are swiss made mechanical watches and while neither was particularly cheap (or expensive in the watch realm) I wear them just about every day so I’ve gotten my moneys worth.

    I think the biggest thing to take away from this is to not look at a watch as a financial investment. Like you mentioned there are some that hold value (or even gain) more than others but that’s the exception to the rule in most cases.

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