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The beginner’s guide to buying luxury watches

Taking your first step into the world of luxury watches can be a daunting experience. The decision on a particular brand, whether it should be Swiss or German, automatic or battery-powered, sports or dress and so on, can be overwhelming.

The hefty price tags can make the commitment even more unnerving as most would insist that purchasing such a high end timepiece is a considered investment. Fear not, as we have compiled a list to guide you through the threshold of haut de gamme horology. There is no right or wrong answer to many of the questions you will be faced with when it comes to your first purchase. The final decision should always suit your preference, personality and style.


Set your budget

The Tag Heuer Monaco

The financial aspect of purchasing a luxury watch should be at the forefront of the decision making process. A good luxury watch can begin anywhere as low as RM4,000 whilst watches above the RM50,000 mark are considered ultra luxury and their price has no ceiling.

Many enthusiasts begin their journey with luxury watches for the appeal of turning a profit as much as for the love of horology. For a long-term outlook, quality is key so quite frankly — buy the best that you can afford to part with. If you are feeling tentative then entry-level luxury watches like the TAG Heuer Monaco or the IWC Portofino  are solid starting blocks, classic timepieces that will not leave you feeling like you have burnt a hole in your pocket.

Keep in mind that the cost of your timepiece also includes the metals and gems that it is composed with. Most forget this simple evaluation when ascertaining the projected appreciation of a luxury watch.

Swiss Made

Omega Seamaster

The Mecca of luxury watchmaking is Switzerland and inevitably your gaze will be lured to brands proudly parading the ‘Swiss Made’ seal of approval. The Swiss have long been recognised as the standard of quality craftsmanship and innovative engineering. Many first time buyers feel comfortable browsing upon the all-too familiar names of Rolex, Omega or Patek Philippe.

Recognition value and heritage means that Swiss timepieces are usually the safe bet. They are great options for initiates as they will never go out of fashion but do not blindly throw yourself at any old model. Consider certain iconic lines that come with a proven longevity like the Omega Seamaster.

Consider British

Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon

The saturation in the luxury market of the ‘safe’ Swiss brands means there’s a lack of uniqueness for someone who wants to stand apart from the crowd. Other countries such as Great Britain and Germany offer equally great timekeeping instruments and should not be discounted when on the hunt for a virgin purchase.

Robert Loomes and Montblanc are no less revered in the industry than their Swiss counterparts. In fact, with historic British brands like Arnold & Son now under Swiss guardianship (La Joux-Perret) and Graham production facilities in La Chaux-de-Fonds, British horology is making massive comeback in luxury timekeeping. For first time buyers, products that have Swiss craftsmanship coupled with traditional British designs are not at all a bad bet.


Your style is your statement

The easiest and most enjoyable part of getting your watch is finding something that suits your own particular style. If you don’t feel comfortable with the way the watch looks and feels on you then it does not belong on your wrist. The more discerning buyer may want their highly prized timepieces to offer more than just telling time and a simple dress watch will not suffice.

Naturally sports watches contain useful added features you may want to consider. Breitling has long-been associated with aviation, whilst Omega’s the choice for hardened divers. If a fast car gets you revved up, then choose a luxury watch that states this enthusiasm. For example, the Rolex Daytona is a long running series in professional racing and a solid entry-level luxury timepiece.


Know your machine

Close up portrait of a watchmaker at work.

It will take time to get to grips with certain terminology like ‘tourbillon’ and ‘chronometer’ but they will become part of your lingo soon enough. Before making a purchase, however, be well-informed on what makes one tick. For instance, most luxury watches are mechanical as opposed to quartz (battery powered.) This is simply due to a prized appreciation of engineering and design.

Haute horology is sometimes measured by the number of complications within an individual timepiece — the more complications, the more difficult to construct. Complications can include, a perpetual calendar or a minute repeater. You should also be aware of the watches ‘movements’ (or calibre.)

Among many other variations, the two main ‘movements’ are either manual, which requires the user to wind the crown to create energy in the mainspring, or automatic, which simply winds the spring through the movement of the wearer’s wrist.

Tengku Muzhaffar Petra
Watches and Culture Editor
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