Man, His Clothes, Attire And His Watch !
Few things say more about a man than his watch. Its character, look and style can give others a peek into a man´s background (and priorities) without having to ask a single question. That is why purchasing a watch is such a personal -- and important -- decision.
Of course, there are men out there who only need a watch to tell time, and for those guys a watch whose price ends with .99 would suffice. But for the rest of us, a watch has a more prominent meaning (and for the select few who dabble in the Rolex territory, it can even be an investment opportunity).
We all understand the basic concept of a watch (it tells time, most work with quartz movement and are battery operated, etc.). A deeper understanding, though, can help you recognize the subtle differences between different timepieces. Comprehending these intricacies will not only help you make the best possible purchase according to your needs, but may even save you money.
So here are eight questions you need answered when it comes to watches. This crash course won´t necessarily make you an expert on the subject, but it will help you become a very well informed consumer.
1- Is a Rolex worth the high price?
There are two possible answers to this question, and I still haven´t figured out which one is right. Why do some people automatically say "no"? Because the Rolex corporation artificially inflates the price of its watches by limiting the yearly supply of some of its collections (the Daytona is notorious for being near impossible to find), leading to scarcity in the market. It is a strategy similar to the one employed by De Beers, the world´s largest diamond retailer, which limits the supply of diamonds on the market to keep prices high (even if De Beers has plenty stored in its safes).
Rolex also meticulously (and some say dictatorially) controls its authorized dealer system to make sure that all watches are sold at its suggested retail price. Any dealer that sells a Rolex at a discount is subject to having his dealer status revoked. So since it is nearly impossible to get a new real Rolex at a discount, you will always pay a premium for the name (thanks to smart marketing by Rolex execs) and not necessarily for the craftsmanship (though it is still very high). That is why many watch experts say that, for the cost of a Rolex, you can get a higher caliber mechanical watch from a different company.
On the other hand, some firmly believe that a Rolex is worth the price because it is still a premium watch made with the highest level of craftsmanship. The artificially inflated prices also help Rolexes maintain their extremely high resale value. And, of course, you can´t underestimate the cachet value of a Rolex. The status and prestige it projects can, in certain people´s eyes, justify its exorbitant price. More than any other regularly produced watch, owning a Rolex is an investment and a status symbol, more than it is a teller of time. If you want to buy a watch purely on its mechanical merits, nothing beats a Piaget or a Jaeger.
2- What do "chronometer" and "chronograph" mean?
Chronometer is a designation given to a watch that has the highest standard of precision. The designation is given to automatic and mechanical movement watches, not those that run with quartz movement. A watch carrying the chronometer certification has passed vigorous tests demanded by the Swiss Official Chronometer Control (COSC).
A chronometer´s mechanical movement is close to perfection, so the time it displays is almost always accurate (unlike other self-winding or automatic watches), and therefore carries a premium price over non-chronometer watches. The 15 days of rigorous tests conducted by the COSC include testing its performance under different temperatures, different positions, and even under water.
A chronograph designation is often confused with a chronometer one, though they are completely different. A chronograph is basically a watch with stopwatch capabilities. It displays different counters or mechanisms for measuring elapsed time. Counters can register seconds, minutes and hours. This gives its owner the ability to time anything he wants.
3- Are serial numbers important?
Most premium watches (and all luxury watches) have a serial number. A very important component, it identifies your watch and is one way of ensuring that your purchase is legitimate. All authorized dealers of premium watches have access to a database from their respective watch manufacturers, listing all the serial numbers of all their watches. If you spend a good amount of money on a timepiece, you should make sure that your watch is the real deal by contacting the manufacturer or visiting an authorized shop that can look up the serial number of any potential purchase.
4- Should I buy a watch on the Internet?
You can get deep discounts on brand-name watches on the Web that you simply can´t get in retail stores or through authorized dealers. The main reason is because most online watch retailers buy watches in bulk from authorized wholesalers. Wholesalers clear out their inventory at discounted prices, and the savings are passed on to you, the consumer. Authorized dealers must sell watches at their full retail value or risk losing their licenses (watch companies do this in order to maintain pricing levels and control brand distribution, and understandably so).
The drawback of buying a watch on the Net is that, more often than not, its serial number is polished off in order to protect the wholesaler (who is selling the watches to unauthorized retailers) from being identified by the watch manufacturer. Without a serial number, a watch cannot be serviced or repaired by an authorized repair shop or the manufacturer. Resale values will consequently be lower, and you might have a hard time getting your watch insured.
The worst part is that without a serial number your watch loses its warranty from the manufacturer. Luckily, most reputable e-tailers carry their own warranty that matches and often supersedes anything the manufacturer gives you. If you do decide to purchase a watch online, it is important that you do so from a well-established online retailer, like Ashford.com, to guarantee that your warranty is honored (and that the product is legitimate). If it makes you feel better, remember that most premium watches are built to last for years (if not decades), so neither the manufacturer´s nor the retailer´s warranty will extend as long as you´ll probably need it to.
5- How can I tell if I have a quality watch?
The classic definition of a "good" watch generally refers to a watch with mechanical movement. Most mechanical watches use an intricate system of gears and springs that rely on mechanical energy to operate. Because of their craftsmanship, these watches are given higher regard because they capture the fine art of watch-making. They command a higher premium as a result.
But mechanical watches, by their very nature, are often inaccurate (when there is no movement, such as your arm swinging, mechanical watches stop and require winding). In fact, a quartz watch (a simpler and less expensive movement, which uses a battery that sends electric currents to a small quartz crystal to ensure timing accuracy) is much more accurate than a mechanical watch, but is sold at a lower cost.
Quartz watches are cheaper because they are not perceived as "sophisticated" by connoisseurs. But who cares? At least they are reliable and accurate. If you are set on mechanical movement, know that most popular mechanical watches that are manufactured nowadays use automatic movement, which means they wind themselves thanks to the movement of the wearer.
Without getting too technical, I recommend you check out the offerings of Swiss watchmakers for a "good" watch. They are made with the highest standards in the world. With the consolidation that is occurring in the industry, most well-known brands are owned by a small group of companies. This means you can get the same level of craftsmanship of a higher priced watch by buying its lower priced cousin in the company product line.
For example, if you can´t afford a Movado, you can buy its less expensive counterpart by Esquire (it is made by the same company, but since Movado is the more prestigious brand, it carries a premium price). In fact, I would say that a $250 Esquire offers the quality of a watch priced at $1,000 or more. Similarly, you can purchase a Tissot (a trademark of the Swatch Group) at a much lower price than an Omega (also a Swatch Group brand) without compromising much quality.
Dos and don´ts of watch maintenance
6- How should I care for my watch?
A premium watch is an intricate instrument and should be treated as such. Too often, people assume that because they forked over $1,000 or more on a watch, they never have to take care of it. That´s like thinking that you never need to bring a Ferrari to a dealership for an oil change because you put down $200,000 to buy it.
The biggest misconception when it comes to watch care is assuming that watches can be waterproof. A watch is not waterproof, nor is the most advanced submarine in the world. It is water resistant. Every watch carries a designation on how much water the moisture seals can withstand. Quality watches will offer resistance from 100 meters to 1,000 meters. Humans can´t go beyond 100 meters anyway, so high-depth ratings are more of a status symbol than of usefulness. If your watch does not have a depth indicator, do not take it into a pool or shower.
In fact, unless you´re a professional diver, don´t bother taking a watch into a pool or sea. They contain more chlorine or salt than you ever want to expose your precious watch to. The elements can erode the lining of the case (consists of the essential parts of your watch, i.e. the dial, the face, etc.) and diminish the finish of your watch. If you must take your watch into water, make sure you rinse it with warm water immediately afterwards.
Some other tips:
· Wash your watch in warm soapy water occasionally, to maintain its luster. Use a toothbrush to clean the bracelet.
· Have your watch serviced every three to five years. Like any high-precision instrument, it needs a tune-up to work perfectly.
· Store your watch in a soft cloth to prevent it from getting scratched or chipped.
· Avoid extreme temperatures or extreme temperature changes that can cause condensation.
· No matter how shock resistant a watch claims to be, never drop it to test it. Shock resistant designations are given to timepieces that can remain intact when dropped three feet onto a wooden floor; take the manufacturer´s word for it.
7- Which watches are scratch resistant?
The cover of a watch´s face, known as the crystal, is designed to protect the dial. There are three main types of crystal found in watches: acrylic, mineral and sapphire.
Acrylic crystal is an inexpensive plastic that does not prevent scratches, but allows scratches to be buffed out.
Mineral crystal is glass, which is composed of several elements that aid in resisting scratches (it is seven times harder than acrylic crystal). It is generally found on more expensive watches.
Sapphire crystal is the cover of choice for premium watches. It is the most expensive type of crystal and is three times harder than mineral crystal. It is made of an extremely durable synthetic material that makes it shatterproof and scratch resistant (not scratchproof). Some have a non-reflective film to prevent glare.
8- What is the legal definition of a Swiss watch?
Like Champagne, Bordeaux or Port, certain products have stringent standards (based on location or quality) that must be met before carrying a particular designation. The Swiss have several organizations to ensure the integrity and reputation of Swiss watchmakers. The accepted standard for what constitutes a Swiss-made watch is a Swiss movement, set into its case in Switzerland, by a manufacturer of Swiss origin.
A Swiss movement is defined as a movement that was assembled in Switzerland (by a Swiss-based manufacturer), and whose Swiss movement parts constitute 50% or more of a movement´s total value. Movements that meet this requirement will carry a stamp (on the watch´s face or back of the case) with the words "Swiss," "Swiss Made," "Swiss Quartz," "Suisse," "Produit Suisse" or "Fabrique en Suisse." The former three are the most popular in North America.
If your watch says "Swiss Movement," it means that the inside parts of the watch are Swiss, but that the case is not, therefore it cannot carry the other stamps. If the case is Swiss, but the movement is not, it will say "Swiss Case."
Some other tidbits: If your watch has a "T" on its face, it means it has tritium, the greenish-white substance on the hands and numbers that glows in the dark. If the face has the letter "O," it means that the hourly markings on the dial are made of gold.
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