6 Things to Look for in a Luxury Watch

Against all odds, business is booming for luxury watchmakers.

“The time displayed on our mobile phones and other digital devices will always be more accurate than the time displayed on even the most skillfully engineered mechanical watch,” writes The Guardian’s Simon Garfield, “yet the industry has a visual presence in our lives like few others.”

For many, the appeal of a fine watch is intangible: timeless, perhaps. But that doesn’t stop watch buyers from evaluating timepieces on the merits. Like any other big purchase, buying a luxury watch requires careful consideration and planning.

If you’re in the market for a luxury watch, use these six standards — and any others as needed — to guide you.

  1. Look and Feel

It sounds corny, but you have to ask: How does the watch make you feel?

Every luxury watch has a personality — or, at least, a personality type. Some watches are minimalist, others are baroque, some are funky; the list goes on.

Ultimately, you want to choose a watch that matches up with your personality. If you have a problem with the idea of minimalism, for instance, you probably don’t want to purchase an understated luxury watch.

Keep in mind that you might not be the best judge of luxury watch personalities. Don’t be afraid to bring along a trusted friend or family member to confirm or check your judgment, just as you would with a new outfit.

  1. Value-Add

Everything seems to be commoditized these days — even upscale luxury goods, like high-end watches.

Buyers who truly want to stand out from the crowd need to look for watches that offer measurable value adds. For instance, Filippo Loreti watches come with a lacquered wood collector’s box with a sumptuous leather interior big enough to hold eight timepieces. Valued at $200, it’s an impressive addition to any luxury watch purchase.

Other watchmakers offer even more attractive value adds, like complimentary repair and tuning services. In the end, it’s up to you to look past the headline sale price and ask what you’re really getting for your money.

  1. The Right Price Point

Not too long ago, high-end timepieces were all but out of reach of the average middle-class consumer. They still aren’t cheap, and the cream of the crop remains staggeringly expensive by everyday standards. This is intentional: Everyone “in the know” knows how much they cost, and the mere fact of ownership is an important social marker that carries great weight in certain circles.

All that aside, the fastest-growing luxury watch segments crowd the lower end of the market. Technological advances have dramatically reduced the cost of high-precision mass manufacturing, enabling mass-market producers to create truly extraordinary timepieces for the rest of us. Always keep an eye on the bottom line, but don’t automatically assume the watch of your dreams is out of your financial reach.

  1. Ease of Use

Are you looking for a timepiece that makes a statement, toes a more pragmatic line, or winds up somewhere in the middle?

If you’re in the pragmatic camp, a high-end digital timepiece might be your speed. You won’t ever have to wind it, and it goes without saying that you’ll be able to read it at a glance in any light.

If you’re seeking a statement piece, a mechanical watch is probably a better choice. Though they’re not quite as accurate, they’re plenty reliable for everyday use.

  1. Durability

Where do you expect to take your watch? And what do you plan to do while wearing it?

These aren’t idle questions. If you’re an avid scuba diver, for instance, you’ll want a watch that’s water-resistant to substantial depths — at least three atmospheres. If you’re a distance runner, you’ll want a watch with reinforced casing that can stand up to regular jostling. If you’re a climber, you’ll want something that’s all but indestructible — perhaps a titanium timepiece that can survive a fall from a cliff ledge (if you ever find it again at the bottom).

  1. Functionality

Functionality and durability are interrelated: form follows function. Your lifestyle and planned uses for your watch will have a determinative impact on your ultimate selection.

Say you’re a sprinter or time-trial cyclist. You’ll surely want a digital watch accurate to the hundredth or thousandth of a second, or a mechanical piece with a chronograph capable of similar measurements.

That’s just one example: Only you know what your lifestyle demands.