Read this before buying your next watch

Dear reader,

The watch offering is polluted by fashion (just like with clothing).

As a smart buyer, you’ll need to ignore trends so you don’t end up wasting your hard-earned cash.

If you fall for a trend, you won’t want to wear that watch in 12 months. And no one else will either… So you’ll have lost money when you come to sell.

Follow carefully and I’ll show you how to avoid the mistakes I’ve made.

With smartphones, no one needs a watch any longer.

Finding the sweet spot

So, the first question you’ll need to ask yourself is “even though time is displayed everywhere (and more accurately than on mechanical watches), do we still need a watch?”

If the answer is “no”. Don’t bother reading further.

If you still want a watch, ask yourself this :

“How symbolic is a watch for me?”

“Is it as important as a toothbrush?” (i.e. you don’t care how it looks)

If yes, don’t spend more than $50 on your next watch.

“Is a watch as symbolic as your beloved pocket knife or even your wedding ring?”

If yes, don’t ever spend less than $350 on one. (i.e. don’t ever buy a fashion watch) Why? Because unconsciously you’ll never value it, you won’t take care of it, and no one else will when you’ll want to sell it. In the end, you will have wasted your money.

Whereas if you buy a watch that is symbolically significant : a Rolex, a Longines, a Patek Philippe, or even a vintage watch for $350, you’ll treat it completely differently.

Either because you’ll be emotionally attached to it. Or because it will hold its value (i.e. others will be happy to buy it from you for a similar price if you kept it in good condition).

That means you’ve spent your money in a meaningful way. And you should be proud of it.

And how do you choose a watch that will remain fashionable?

We have two criteria :

  1. long-lasting design
  2. understatement

The safest thing to do is to choose enduring design from the 1980 and everything before that, going back to old-style Breguet. That includes a wide variety of styles, from Cartier, to Bauhaus, to WWI cushion-case military watches, to WWII pilot’s watches, to Rolex Submariner, to Oyster Perpetual, to Gerald Genta designs (Royal Oak, Nautilus, …). We don’t think you can go wrong any of these.

And understatement means simple color schemes (avoid two-tone, and crazy colors). It also means simple size. Mechanical watches are thicker due to the movement. So you should go for a smaller case size to keep it discreet. Men… keep it as small as possible. Stick to sizes 34 mm to 40 mm. If you go above, make sure that the lugs are small, like on the 45 mm Panerai Radiomir.

You’ll notice that a 35 mm watch is more comfortable and easier to protect from shocks than a prominent 40 mm watch.

There will be times when you want to show your watch, and others when you’ll want to show a low-key appearance. Only a smaller watch allows you to play both fields.

On top of this, smaller watches are currently less desirable, so they’ll be more kind to your wallet.

Speaking of price, I’ve said no less than $350 for a watch… but what’s the upper limit?

It’s a great question. If you go online, you’ll probably think it’s $30 000. But that’s completely wrong. It’s because Internet forums, youtube videos and Instagram are freak shows. People over there are insanely beautiful, rich, have great taste and are passionate about high-end and collectible watches. This is a niche… and as a modest man, we don’t follow their lead.

No that there’s anything wrong with these freaks. Quite the contrary, they are great people who push us further. But, you shouldn’t feel compelled to follow them.

Our upper limit is $10 000. But we don’t think we will ever buy a watch for that much.

What we feel comfortable wearing everyday is a watch that cost between $350 and $1500. Above that, we are becoming self-conscious and worried :

  • We are worried we will damage the watch when we hit a door
  • We worried that it will break if we happen to be soaked (are we the only one who’s afraid of being thrown in a swimming pool?)
  • We are worried that it will get stolen when we leave in a locker at the gym, and when we fall asleep on a train
  • We are worried it will disappear if we end up unconscious in an ambulance

All these situations when “the watch owns you” should be avoided at all cost. It’s a trap of luxury items. And what you want it to ENJOY life surrounded by beautiful objects, beautiful people and beautiful places.

And what you want is a watch you’ll be comfortable wearing EVERYDAY, so that you make the most use out of it.

For $350-$1500, we would buy a “recognised brand”. We don’t think obscure expensive brands are worth the money.

Then, we would buy either second-hand or vintage (i.e. more than 30 years old). Preferably second-hand, as vintage watches tend to have worse build quality and have lost their water-resistance.



PS: We don’t think this $1500 upper limit depends on your income. Wealthy people value money similarly to poor people. More so, people who remain wealthy (over generations) are people who value even a penny. Losing a $1500 watch is easier for them, but it still hurts.

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Jamie Larson