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Category: Features

Why Do Luxury Watches Cost So Much?

Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Moon Phases Equation of Time GMT Titanio cost

Ever wondered why luxury watches are so expensive? After all, they’re just… watches.

The thing is, though, they’re more than just instruments that tell time; they’re feats of engineering you can wear on your wrist. In fact, there are several reasons why they’re so pricey, and we’re here to explain what some of those reasons are.

Aesthetics, Design, and All the Beautiful Details

We can start from the outside. From polished chamfers to Geneva-striped bridges, luxury watchmakers pride themselves on the seals that guarantee the superior quality of their timepieces. Everything you see on a watch is a choice, from the immaculate placement of the numbers, hands, and faces, to the colors and the mix of materials. The case is shaped and polished to perfection and the movement so fine tuned that it operates (ideally) flawlessly all throughout its lifetime.

Impeccable Craftsmanship, and The People Behind It

When a watch company is obsessed with quality, you can bet that they’re going to take all the time and effort they need—no matter the cost—to make their watches perfect. Sure, it may be time-consuming and, consequently, more expensive to produce each piece by hand. Sure, more cost-effective methods have been developed. But that craftsmanship and dedication to detail is the very essence of a luxury watch. To maintain the quality promised, a brand monitors each and every process of building the watch. Considering the average luxury watch movement has 130 tiny little parts, one can only imagine how much time and manpower it takes to build a whole watch, from start to finish.

The Use of Precious Materials

Whether it’s natural substances or man-made synthetics, the materials used in watchmaking are either getting scarcer, or more difficult and more expensive to produce. As if the engineering that goes into the creation of a watch wasn’t enough of a reason to justify a luxury watch’s expensive price tag, the use of rare materials makes a timepiece even more valuable.

The Cost of Becoming Even Greater

Some might think the only way to improve a watch is by using quartz technology, but that’s taking the easy way out. Luxury watchmakers are taking on the challenge to further improve the performance of mechanical timepieces, bit by bit, with painstaking research and development into methodology, developing new materials, and learning new techniques. It might take years of research just to come up with a solution that inches milliseconds towards accuracy, a few millimeters off the thickness of the movement, or a few milligrams off the overall weight of the watch. But in the end, brands generally believe all that work is worth it.

Simple Supply and Demand

Luxury watches are some of the most desirable things you can purchase. More and more people are considering starting watch collections for one purpose or another—as future investments, heirlooms, or for the sheer love or thrill of it. And as much as watch companies would love to produce enough watches to cater to this ever-growing desire for timepieces, the time (and effort… and materials…) required to build a top-notch watch is simply too great that they cannot keep up with the demand.

Less is More: Watches for the Minimalist

Nothing in the world is more divisive than an internet trend, and right now, nothing is trendier than minimalism.

Between capsule wardrobes and the Konmari method, there’s a lot to be said about the minimalism movement. Is it an aesthetic? Is it all about material things (or the lack thereof)? Is it a lifestyle choice that transcends the physical?

Of course, we had to jump in, but it wasn’t easy. We mean, we’re known for our love of something called “complications,” so going in the opposite direction was nothing if not a challenge. We soon discovered, though, that even some brands notorious for releasing intricate pieces have a minimalist side.

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  • Panerai Luminor 1950
    It’s big, it’s bold, and, like the name suggests, glows. But it also has clean, sporty lines and barely any embellishment.
  • Breguet Classique 7147
    We love Breguet’s choice to simply sink the subdial into the face, keeping the look of this watch clean and simple—with a twist.
  • Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle
    How it manages to make an alligator strap look subdued is beyond us, but even with gold hands (contrasting against either a black or white dial), the Traditionelle stays true to its name as the definition of a wristwatch.
  • Patek Philippe Ellipse D’Or
    Inspired by mathematical principles and proportion, the watch house translated literally millenia-old ideas of beauty to create one of the brand’s most elegant pieces.
  • A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin
    Juxtaposing the impeccable engineering of its movement with a bare-bones, albeit elegant, exterior, this is the flattest Lange watch to date.
  • Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Thin
    A true minimalist would hold off on personalization because, really, the watch doesn’t need any more embellishment to look good.
  • Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1
    Negative space is an integral part of minimalist design and this niche brand plays with the idea of it unlike any other watch house.
  • Longines Record
    A low-contrast choice for the person who wants something that goes with literally every single piece in their capsule wardrobe.
  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual
    Clean, simple, sophisticated: it’s one of the brand’s best-selling pieces for a reason.
  • Omega Seamaster Edizione Venezia
    Hear us out: While many of the Seamaster collection are dripping in jewels or decked out in the colors of the rainbow or showcasing hardware of the highest degree, the Edizione Venezia is a throwback to a simpler time—and available exclusively in, you guessed it, Venice.
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The World’s Watch Houses

While each watch house boasts of its own lineage, many brands are actually under one of the few powerhouse watch and luxury goods conglomerate. So who owns who? And which watch houses remain staunchly independent? Here’s a crib sheet that covers the major brands.

Roger Dubuis Richemont watch house

Photo courtesy of Richemont

Strength in numbers versus fiercely independent

The worldwide watch market is shared by several conglomerates with multi-brand portfolios and a number of independent watchmakers who choose to fly solo. Industry giants like The Swatch Group concentrate largely on timepieces and watch components, but other groups such as French luxury empire LVMH have diversified holdings in other luxury goods such as champagne and jewelry. Rolex, on the other hand, manufactures watches under two brand names. Of the “Big Three” in the luxury timepieces world, two are fiercely independent: Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. The third, Vacheron Constantin, is owned by the Richemont Group.

Membership in a group or conglomerate has its perks. A watch brand should expect marketing and distribution support, as well as investments into research, development and manufacturing. A group will also be able to put more pressure on suppliers and distributors for better terms. That is, of course, if the mothership deems the brand as a moneymaker or a long-term asset. A group will also likely have its own set of rules, regulations, & procedures, and a corporate culture that is followed closely.

On the other hand, an independent watch house is largely beholden only to itself and its owners. They may be nimble and quick in terms of decision-making, and can react to market forces swiftly. Their identity is wholly their own. If the watch house manufacturers all its components, then it is shielded from supply problems. Independents that rely on outside suppliers for components, though, are at the mercy of the bigger suppliers.

The Swatch Group

Though the name is derived from the inexpensive plastic watch which helped revive the dying watchmaking industry in Switzerland in the early 80’s, The Swatch Group is no one-trick pony. Currently the second largest watch manufacturer in the world (after Citizen Watch Co. Ltd.), The Swatch Group has nineteen brands in its portfolio, ranging from affordable basics like Swatch and Flik Flak to prestige and luxury brands such as Breguet and Glashutte Original.

It traces its history to the merger of two of the biggest companies in Swiss watchmaking, SIHH and ASUAG, into SMH (Société de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie) in 1983 under the leadership of Nicolas G. Hayek. That year saw the release of the first Swatch, a low-cost, high-tech artistic and emotional “second” watch. By 1998, SMH was the most valuable watchmaker in the world, manufacturing not only watches under its brands, but also supplying watch parts to the rest of the Swiss watch industry. Ten years later, SMH was renamed The Swatch Group.

Compagnie Financiere Richemont

Richemont, for short, began in 1988 as the spin-off of the Rembrandt Group Limited of South Africa. It started with minority holdings in Cartier Monde and Rothmans International, and expanded to include interests in tobacco and luxury goods, with brands like Alfred Dunhill, Montblanc, Van Cleef & Arpels, and luxury watch houses, including Officine Panerai, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, A. Lange & Sohne, Baume & Mercier, and Vacheron Constantin. The group has majority interest in the Roger Dubuis manufacture and has a joint venture with Polo Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewellery Company. It has since sold Rothmans International to British American Tobacco to focus entirely on the luxury goods sector. Richemont is currently the world’s second-largest luxury goods firm behind LVMH.

LVMH Moet Hennessy – Louis Vuitton

Under the leadership of its chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, LVMH now has an impressive portfolio of sixty prestige brands across five different sectors: wines and spirits, fashion and leather goods, perfumes and cosmetics, watches and jewelry, and selective retailing. It’s nigh impossible to think of luxury and not name an LVMH brand, and it comes as no surprise that it is the world’s largest luxury goods company. Headquartered in Paris, France, LVMH has business interests and affiliates in other parts of Europe and around the globe. Among the watch brands it holds are Hublot, Zenith, TAG Heuer and Dior Montres.

PPR Group

The French luxury and retail group PPR started out in 1963 as a building material business and only entered the retail trade in 1991. In 1999, the group entered the luxury sector with a 42 percent acquisition of the Gucci Group, a stake they’ve since raised to 99.4 percent. The group also has controlling stake in the Sowind Group, which owns the luxury watch brands Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard. PPR is the third-largest luxury group, following LVMH and Richemont. 

Rolex SA

Rolex started out in London as “Wilsdorf and Davis,” founded by watch purveyors Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis in 1905. It became the first luxury watch brand to achieve mass popularity and become a household name. Now headquartered in Geneva, Rolex has been responsible for some of the most iconic watch models in horology history; there’s the Rolex Oyster, the world’s first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch, created in 1926, and the Rolex Day-Date, the first wristwatch to have an automatically changing day and date on the dial. Rolex SA has two brands, the eponymous and premium Rolex, and the more affordable Tudor.

Timex Group B.V.

While the mothership of the Timex Group is a holding company headquartered in the Netherlands, there’s no mistaking the American identity of the Timex brand. Founded in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Company—a subsidiary of a local brass manufacturer—it evolved into the Waterbury Watch Company in 1880, when the company transitioned from clocks to wristwatches. It was renamed as the United States Time Corporation toward the end of WWII. In 1950, it released the Timex brand with the slogan “Timex—Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” to wide appeal.

Today, four companies comprise the Timex Group, each with its own stable of brands. Timex watches, of course, are still the group’s main line, produced by the Timex Business Unit. Swiss company Sequel AG manufactures and distributes Guess and Gc watches. Timex Group Luxury Watches take care of the Salvatore Ferragamo watch brand, while Vertime handles the Versace and Versus brands.

Groupe Franck Muller Watchland SA

Known as the “Master of Complications” for his outrageously complicated timepieces, Franck Muller markets his own brand Franck Muller Geneve, but also holds several small watch brands in his group. “Watchland,” his Genthod estate near Geneva, serves not only as Muller’s headquarters but also houses workshops for boutique watch brands such as Pierre Kunz. In 2009, however, watchmaker Rodolphe Cattin left the group, accusing it of disinterest in developing the small brands under its wing.

Festina-Lotus Group

Born in Switzerland in 1902, the Swiss watch brand Festina was purchased by Spanish industrialist Miguel Rodriguez in 1984 and transformed into the Festina-Lotus Group, with headquarters in Barcelona, Spain. The group owns six watch brands, including Festina and Lotus.

Fossil Group Inc.

Apart from its own Fossil brand of vintage-inspired watches and accessories, Fossil manages a multi-brand watch business, creating and manufacturing watches for several owned and licensed brands. It owns the Swiss brands Zodiac and MICHELE, and Danish brand Skagen. Among its licensed brands are Emporio Armani, DKNY, and Diesel. 

Seiko Holdings Corporation

The “Quartz Crisis” that befell the Swiss watchmaking industry in the 70s and early 80s was largely due to advances in quartz technology, spearheaded mainly by Seiko. The Japanese watchmaker launched the world’s first quartz wristwatch, the Astron, in 1969. By 1978, quartz watches had overtaken mechanical watches in popularity. While the Swiss watch industry has since recovered, quartz is here to stay, with Seiko continuing to innovate in both quartz and mechanical movements. Seiko’s brands currently include Seiko, Grand Seiko, the high-end Credor, Alba and Pulsar.

Citizen Watch Co. Ltd.

Established in 1918 as the Shokosha Watch Research Institute, Citizen has subsidiaries in electronics, precision machinery, and business machines, but its core business remains the design, manufacture and selling of wristwatches. Its product lineup includes the solar-powered Citizen Eco-Drive watches, outdoor-oriented Promaster, and the female-oriented xC. In 2008, Citizen acquired American watchmaker Bulova. Together, they are among the biggest watch manufacturers in the world.

The Independents

Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe, of course, remains one of the most celebrated watch brands in watchmaking. This family-owned independent Genevan watch manufacturer produces its own components and assembles its watches in-house. It has created some of the most stunning works of haute horlogerie ever, such as the Sky Moon Tourbillon and the 33-complication Caliber 89 pocket watch. Rightly so, Patek Philippe markets itself as not just a watch, but an heirloom.

Audemars Piguet

The last name among the Big Three is Audemars Piguet, based in Le Brassus, Switzerland. Founded in 1875, this independent produces all its components in-house as well. Its iconic model is the octagonal Royal Oak, the first luxury sports watch, introduced forty years ago. Each watch is made by hand, the way Jules Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet did over a hundred years ago. 

Breitling

With its own history intertwined with that of modern flight, independent watchmaker Breitling is a favorite among aviators. Its Navitimer was equipped with a circular slide rule that allowed pilots to perform navigation calculations while in flight. While these calculations are now typically done by computer, the Navitimer still remains in production as a cult object among those who fly. Breitling specializes in precision chronographs, and each of the watches they’ve made since 2000 have been equipped with chronometer-certified movements.

Ball

If Breitling is associated with aviation, Ball watches are inextricably linked to the history of American railroads. Its founder, Webster C. Ball, was a jeweler and a watchmaker, but he was also a Chief Inspector for the Lake Shore Lines. In 1891, two trains collided, a terrible accident due to one engineer’s watch failure. Ball was called upon to investigate. He devised and implemented a timekeeping standard. Demanding uniformity and accuracy. His jewelry business grew into the Ball Watch Company. It was kept within the Ball family until the 1990s when the rights to use the name were sold.

Chopard

Chopard began as a luxury watch manufacturer when it was founded by Louis-Ulysse Chopard in 1860. It has since expanded to include jewelry and accessories. Purchased by Karl Scheufele from the Chopard family in 1963, Chopard regained its manufacture status with the opening of its independent movement factory in Fleurier in 1996. Chopard’s first in-house movement of the late 20th Century was the much-lauded calibre 1.96.

This piece was originally published in the print version of Lucerne Luxe Magazine, and condensed for brevity.

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 anchor

Luxury watches have a tendency to develop cult followings. These are the popular luxury watches that people are willing to wait in line for; not because they’re limited edition (because why people want those is a given). These watches are on every wish list because of reasons beyond simple supply and demand.

Rolex Submariner 116610LV

Photo courtesy of Rolex

Although most, if not all, Submariner models have a waiting list—no surprise considering it’s one of the most iconic divers on the market—there is one that stands above the rest when it comes to desirability.

Aptly nicknamed The Hulk because of its green cerachrom bezel and green sunburst dial reminiscent of the Marvel superhero, the unusual color of the Submariner 116610LV has catapulted it to the top of Rolex lovers’ must-have lists.

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual

Photo courtesy of Jaeger LeCoultre

One of the most iconic models of JLC is the Master Ultra Thin, which sprung from the idea of creating ultra thin movements and timepieces that started the partnership of Antoine LeCoultre and Edmond Jaeger.

The main reason why the demand skyrocketed for this model, particularly the silver dial version, is the blockbuster movie “Dr. Strange” (sensing a theme here?). When Benedict Cumberbatch played the titular role, he wore this watch in a few pivotal scenes of the movie and, as Marvel is Marvel, people took notice. Cue cult status for the Master Ultra Thin.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph

Photo courtesy of A. Lange & Söhne

This particular piece features a flyback chronograph with a pulsometer dial, so generally speaking, the 1815 Chronograph is a traditional and straightforward watch. Simple? Not really. Flip the watch over and you’ll understand what the fuss is all about: the in-house caliber L951.5 in all its glory. Regarded as the most beautiful movement ever made, it looks like a miniature city viewed from above, truly a masterpiece.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince”

Photo courtesy of IWC

When you think of a pilot’s watch, the first brand that comes to mind is IWC. The large case and dial make for a very legible watch, and the chronograph function is a great addition to an already good looking timepiece.

However, the “Le Petit Prince” takes the original idea and takes it to a whole new level. Inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel of the same name, and created for the benefit of his foundation, it features a blue sunburst dial, brown calfskin strap made by Santoni, and an engraved caseback featuring The Little Prince himself.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Photo courtesy of Audemars Piguet

The design that gave birth to the luxury sports watch and saved mechanical watches from the quartz crisis. Designed by the godfather of watch designers, Gérald Genta, it made a surprising splash, considering it was only made of steel and had a simple time and date complication.

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711

Photo courtesy of Patek Philippe

This watch is considered by many to be the perfect all-around watch. Its clamp down construction makes it possible for you to take it to the beach for a swim. Its clean lines mean you can wear it to a meeting. The slim case can be worn under a cuff for black tie events—but it’s still bold enough a statement when worn jeans and a plain shirt. All of this is backed up by its relevance in the rebirth of the mechanical watch industry and the birth of the luxury sports watch.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116500LN

Photo Courtesy of Rolex

The Daytona needs no introduction. It’s arguably the most iconic Rolex line. Ever.

The reference no. 116500LN is the latest addition to the popular Daytona line, featuring a black cerachrom tachymeter bezel, a white dial, and a black subdial outer track. The color contrast is reminiscent of the vintage Daytona 6263, a popular choice for vintage Rolex collectors.

Should You Be Buying Pre-Owned?

pre-owned luxury watches chronograph

Pro #1: Pre-owned watches are *usually* sold for less

Buying pre-owned luxury watches can be tricky. But like most things, it has its pros and cons. It can be exciting stumbling on an overlooked treasure, or you could shell out some serious cash on a serious fake. There’s nothing wrong with second hand watches, though; you just need to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of this method of shopping.

Like most things, watches depreciate in value, so you could probably get a pre-owned timepiece for as low as 40% off its original price, depending on the condition it’s in. If you’re lucky, you can get a mint condition piece for a fraction of its original cost. The usual exception is if a specific piece is rare and desirable, or was owned by someone famous or significant; it’s definitely not going to be a bargain.

Pro #2: A pre-owned watch has character

Some people appreciate the look of a used watch, whether it’s the patina of the dial, the faded color of the bezel, or the dings and scratches on the case. These tell the story of the previous owner’s relationship with the watch through the years.

Pro #3: You may encounter rare and hard to find pieces

Watch companies might discontinue watch lines or models for various reasons, whether because it didn’t sell well, or is being replaced by a newer version. It’s not often that watch brands revive previous lines or create reissues, so if you’re looking for something that’s been taken off the market, a good place to look for it is in the pre-owned market. 

Pro #4: The hunt is exciting

If you’re entertaining fantasies of being a pirate searching for dubloons on a deserted island, or an archaeologist discovering a hidden cache of treasures, then we can tell you that you’ll enjoy the process of second hand watch buying. Depending on the watch, you might have journey across the globe for a specific piece, with no way of telling if the watch you’re hunting is even there. If it’s the experience of exploring antique shops, attending auctions, and meeting new people that adds value to the watch that you’re looking for, then navigating the pre-owned market just might be most fun you’ll have.

Unfortunately, buying pre-owned isn’t all fun and games; there are certain things you need to constantly keep in mind… unless you want to be scammed.

Con #1: There are a lot of fakes

And we mean a lot. This is the obvious con; it goes without saying that you have to be very careful when shopping for pre-owned pieces, watches or not. If there is even a single doubt in your mind that the watch is fake, don’t bother.

Con #2: There can be hidden issues, like third-party parts

In horror, the scariest thing is that which you can’t see; it’s applicable in the second hand market. There are sellers who will find ways to hide issues in their watches for the sake of making that sale. In other cases, mostly for vintage watches, original replacement for broken or damaged parts are almost impossible to come by. So if anything needs replacement, third party parts are employed, but doing so will drag down the value of the watch.

Con #3: Inflated prices due to desirability and rarity

Flipping isn’t just for real estate or the newest streetwear drop. Public demand often leads to higher prices, and it has happened that people buy out desirable pieces before anyone else can get to them, only to sell them for profit. Highly collectible, unique, and one-off pieces also tend to fetch higher prices. Let’s not even get started on the phenomenon of celebrity watches selling for jaw-dropping amounts at auction.

Con #4: Hunting takes time and effort

Exciting as it initially is, you will eventually get tired of looking for The One. Even we’ll admit: a search with no end in sight can get frustrating. For those who don’t have the patience, there’s no shame in buying brand new.

From Basic to Better

Understanding innovation in luxury watch materials first requires knowing what properties these materials bring to the table. Their properties are the starting point that innovations spring from. These are generally concerns of lightness, durability, resistance to corrosion or scratching, and aesthetics. Watch materials fall under five categories: metals, ceramics, polymers, composites, and metalloids.

Panerai Luminor Marina 1950 3 days Automatic Titanio luxury watch materials

The Panerai Luminor Marina 1950 3 days Automatic Titanio uses a titanium case, which is half the weight of stainless steel, is corrosion-resistant, and anti-magnetic, and skin-friendly. 

Metals

For general engineering purposes and in watchmaking, metals are used for their strength, hardness, toughness, lightness, and durability. Metals bear heavy loads, resist high temperatures and pressures, endure a lot of wear and tear in cyclic loads, but where timepieces are concerned, these stresses and demands take place on a smaller, more human level. For example, Jacques Cousteau’s Rolex Submariner and Buzz Aldrin’s Omega Speedmaster only needed to be durable enough to undergo the pressures of undersea diving and the intense g-forces of space travel. As they are, metals and their properties already bring a lot to the watchmaking table.

Stainless steel is the workhorse of watchmaking metals. Alloyed with chromium, stainless steel forms a thin film, invisible to the human eye, that retards oxidation while maintaining a smooth finish on the surface. The material is likewise durable enough to accept a number of finishes: brushed, satin, matte, reflective, mirror, and so on. Lastly, stainless steel can endure the wear and tear of human use, lasting entire lifetimes.

Titanium offers additional improvements over stainless steel. First, it can bear up to five times the load ordinary steels can bear. Second, titanium weighs around half the weight of steel at the same volume. Thus a titanium watch case would offer the same durability as a stainless steel case but at a lighter weight. There are, however, certain stainless steel alloys that are more durable than titanium, but these are used for industrial purposes and hardly in watchmaking. Like stainless steel, titanium has an oxide layer that forms on its surface, making it both corrosion resistant and hypoallergenic—ideal for accessories.

Metallic properties and watch components

Flipping over a A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia, for example, would readily illustrate how metallic properties come into play in horology. The hand-polished, chamfered, or beveled parts all attest to the various metals malleability and ductility. The Glashutte waves and the circular, sunburst, and brushed finishes show how metals can, with expert skill, display a number of finishing touches that come together in one aesthetic effect.

Precious metals like gold, platinum, or sterling silver gain added hardness when electroplated with rhodium. By itself a precious metal with a high melting point and low malleability, rhodium is usually alloyed with nickel, palladium, and gold to become the white gold seen on many luxury timepieces. With sterling silver, it adds tarnish resistance and added shine. If used to set diamonds, its reflective qualities make them appear larger and to advantage.

Meanwhile, blued steel—seen on timepieces mostly as watch hands or screws—partially protects steel from oxidation by applying a surface layer of magnetite, the black oxide of iron. Chemical bluing creates a homogenous shade of blue throughout the metal’s surface; because horology requires some nuance from its materials, the preferred method is thermal bluing by hand. This involves laying the screws or watch hands on a tray, which is lined with brass filings to keep the temperature relatively constant, and heating the tray to around 220° C. The components acquire the blue shade to varying degrees—thinner areas acquire the blue shade more readily than thicker areas, resulting in several subtle shades of blues and purples.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Annual Calendar movement luxury watch materials

A. Lange & Söhne is known for its use of precious materials and the degree of finishing it gives all parts of the watch—including the parts that won’t be normally seen, such as in this 1815 Annual Calendar. 

Innovations in horological metals

A few years ago, tantalum was a dark horse in the watch case materials category. It is now generating a fair degree of interest, with its appearance on several timepieces: Hublot’s Big Bang Tantalum Mat, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Leo Messi Edition, and the Panerai Luminor Marina series, among others. As a rare and hard metal, highly corrosion resistant and bioinert, tantalum lends itself well to haute horology. Aesthetically, a timepiece with a tantalum case or bezel would eschew the usual shine of other precious metals and convey a stealthy, matte-gray instead.

Ceramics

While this category includes non-metal inorganic compounds like glass, diamond & sapphire crystals, and graphite, this also includes engineering ceramics that have been used in watch cases and other watch components. Ceramics are the hardest class of materials known. They are around three to four times stronger than stainless steel. Ceramics resist wear and tear easily, maintaining a smooth surface and low friction for a long time. They are also lighter than stainless steel or titanium. With their low density—as low as that of aluminum—and their high hardness, ceramics are an ideal material for watchmaking.

However, ceramics are prone to breaking when hit with a strong enough impact. Ceramics are strong when they come under compression, but their strength is reduced by up to 15 times when under tension; ceramics are not as flexible and ductile as metals. All the same, timepieces with ceramic cases or components are less likely to encounter high-force impacts as say, ceramic aerospace components or industrial tools. Used in a timepiece, ceramics are guaranteed to last several lifetimes, maintaining their smooth finish and low-friction operations.

Rolex Submariner luxury watch materials

The Rolex Submariner uses a ceramic insert, called Cerachrom, for its unidirectional rotating bezel. The material is extremely hard, corrosion-resistant, scratch proof, and its color is unaffected by ultraviolet rays.

Innovations in horological ceramics

Rado set the precedent by being the first to use engineered ceramics for its timepieces. This blends oxides, carbides, nitrates, and zirconium to create a durable, scratch-resistant material that can be shaped into watch cases.

It is for these properties that ceramics find use in many luxury watch bezels, as seen on several Rolex lines, Hublot’s Big Bang, Panerai’s Luminor 1950 series, Omega’s Dark Side of the Moon—all timepieces that require the durability and resistance of ceramics to keep up with their wearer’s active lifestyles.

The Roger Dubuis Excalibur Aventador S is a perfect example of what can be done using forged carbon. It possesses shapes that cannot be molded into place using traditional methods. 

Composites

Carbon fiber was a big hit when it was first used in watches. It was high-tech and advanced, lightweight and strong, and the depth of the checkerboard pattern was mesmerizing to look at. But manufacturing processes have changed. Now, we have forged carbon, a material that looks similar to granite because of its manufacturing process. Instead of layering carbon sheets on top of a mold and injecting resin like a traditional carbon weave, forged carbon is made out of fiber paste mixed with resin squeezed to produce any shape or form possible. It is strong all around but may not be as strong at a specific direction like traditional carbon; the carbon weave can be tuned to be strong at a specific direction. However, forged carbon is easier and cheaper to produce.

The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time Advanced Research is a special release of Patek Philippe to showcase their craftsmanship using different materials, including Silicon, which is used on the escape wheel and pallet fork.

Metalloids

The latest innovation in watchmaking is the use of a metalloid called, Silicon. Not to be confused with Silicone, which is a liquid or rubber-like synthetic material. Silicon, on the other hand, is a natural element that has both metallic and non-metallic properties. It’s the 2nd most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and it is used in bricks, glass, & in electronic devices. So you might be wondering what use does Silicon have in watches. Well, it plays an integral part in the movement, specifically the balance spring, lever and anchor wheel. It’s anti-magnetic, corrosion resistant, unaffected by temperature changes, generates very little friction, and can be shaped into any form.

This piece was originally published in the print version of Lucerne Luxe Magazine, and condensed for brevity.

Fighting words, to be sure, but we’re calling it: These are the watches that are guaranteed to elevate your look, no matter your personal aesthetic.

  1. The Dress Watch

Breguet Classique Chronométrie 7727

For those events that require the wearing of a suit. Usually classic in design, thin, and elegant, it’s worn on occasions when you need to tuck the watch into your sleeve (e.g. a black tie event). Black leather straps are ideal, and since most men consider the watch their only accessory or form of jewelry, is preferably in gold or platinum.

  1. The Divers Watch

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200m

There are more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines, so a diver’s watch is a must for the beach lover. After all, wearing a dress watch to a resort makes just about as much sense as wearing a pair of black leather oxfords with boardshorts. This watch needs to have a rotating bezel, a screw down crown, and a helium escape valve. Other features are big, luminous markers, and preferably a rubber strap.

  1. The Chronograph Watch

Hublot Big Bang Ferrari Unico Magic Gold

It’s a cliché because it’s true: Men who love watches are (usually) just as crazy about cars. It comes as no surprise, then, that auto-themed watches are some of the most popular in the market. These typically feature chronographs that can measure elapses time, and have design features inspired by supercars. Bonus points if you get your hands on a brand collaboration.

  1. The Work Watch

IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Automatic

Yes, everyone should have one, but the watch you choose depends on the job you have, and, realistically, correlates to the size of your paycheck. It should reflect your lifestyle and your daily activities: Are you in surgery all the time? Are you always on the field? Are you always at client meetings? Every industry will have different preferences in brand, style and function, but it should always be automatic and have calendar functionalities.

  1. The Travel Watch

Vacheron Constantin Overseas World Time

Whether you’re travelling for work or leisure, going from one time zone to another is unavoidable at some point, and you don’t want to (or can’t) miss that important flight or appointment. There are three choices for the jetsetter: GMT, Dual Time, or Worldtime. Take your pick.

  1. A Discreet Watch
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Duoface Small Second

There are many occasions being tasteful and discreet is necessary. This is the watch you wear when subtlety is the name of the game and you’d rather not make too extravagant a statement.

  1. The Weekend Watch

Panerai 1950 PCYC Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio

We’ve covered beach weekends, or the weekends that involve taking the Ferrari out with your friends. This watch is the go-to when you’re hitting the clubs or the bars. This is the watch to wear when you’re channeling a laid-back sort of cool, perhaps in the company of people who actually care about what the Met Gala theme this year was. This is the watch that guarantees you’ll get numbers.

  1. A Rolex

Rolex GMT-Master II

Every collection deserves—no, demands—a Rolex. Due to its popularity, it’s quite rare to find someone who doesn’t know about these classic models. A Rolex is also a great conversation starter, and history has proven that these conversations lead to a good many deals being made. If you already own one, you know what we mean.

  1. A Complication Watch

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph

The apex of every collection. Basically, a jaw-dropping watch that probably has a price tag with seven or more figures. From a perpetual calendar and tourbillions to minute repeaters, this is the type of watch that gets the attention only of those who are in the know. Honestly, this watch alone is enough to get you VIP treatment in a Michelin-starred restaurant, nightlong bottle service at a club with an impossible guest list, or the benefit of being bumped up a waitlist for a highly coveted, well, anything, really.

  1. An Heirloom Watch

Patek Philippe 5208R

Preferably one from your father or grandfather, whom you saw wearing the watch while you were growing up. Nostalgia plays a big part in determining the value of this watch: it’s special because it triggers memories of the person who used to own it. Now that it’s yours, it turns you into a custodian of tradition, of a legacy, so start paying more attention to what wisdom you’ll be passing on to the next generation. And take care of that watch, yeah?

luxury watch buyer anchor

Thousands of people come through our doors, but a few personalities have a tendency to stand out. Here are a few of the characters we can spot from a mile away.

The CEO

The CEO luxury watch buyer

Understated models from big well known brands is where their appreciation lies. Simple timepieces that can be hidden from the eyes of the public yet carries the brands heritage and iconic status. They make smart investments in pieces that they think will retain or even appreciate in value. Their mindset is what lead them to be as successful as they are now and their watch buying habits are a testament to that.

The Jet Setter

The Jetsetter luxury watch buyer

The Jet Setter can’t stay in the same place for too long. Whether for business or the sheer pleasure of giving in to wanderlust, they’re always on the move, jumping back and forth between time zones. For them, keeping track of time is a bit of a challenge—it’s happened that they’ve woken up and forgotten what city they’re in. Has a predilection for watches with world time or GMT functions, for obvious reasons.

The Connoisseur

The Connoisseur luxury watch buyer

Their mastery of luxury timepieces could almost be considered a superpower. Has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of brand histories, the inspiration behind watch designs, the latest innovations, and up-and-coming models. This collector is nitpicky about the details and will stop at nothing to get to the heart of the watch to gauge its true value. Don’t even try one-upping them when discussing watches, and Heaven help anyone who attempts passing off a fake as authentic in their presence.

The Sportsman

The Sportsman luxury watch buyer

In sports, every second counts. The Sportsman will opt for a watch that can track their progress while training or competing—the goal is always optimizing performance. Accuracy is of the utmost importance when measuring readings like distance, and speed (for racers), and depth, pressure, and elapsed time (for divers). An accurate sports watch is their weapon of choice because if anyone needs durability and performance, it’s this collector.

The Style Guru

The Style Guru luxury watch buyer

A trend setter with eclectic taste and unerring style, whether they’re in a suit or joggers. Their watch collection is well curated, but each selection is made, conceivably, to match every ensemble. For the Style Guru, collecting watches is more about design than technical specifications. They might own every style available, from sports watches to dress watches, but chances are, much like their clothing wardrobe, this collector zeroes in on a specific aesthetic. Minimalist? Vintage? Ultra-modern? Those terms are just as important as “tachymeter” or “battery reserve”. For them, it’s all about the details.

The Curator

The Curator luxury watch buyer

They’re always on the hunt for hidden treasures at antique shops, abandoned storage units, estate sales and, these days, eBay. For them, the search for the watch just might be better than actually owning the watch, which may explain their membership in myriad watch forums online. Dents, scuffs, and scratches don’t matter, so long as there’s a good (and verifiable) story behind these character-giving qualities, and they’re more than used to dealing with eyebrows being raised by the less perceptive. The rarer the watch is, the better, and The Curator is incredibly discerning when it comes to restoration, sometimes foregoing the process because, sometimes, those quirks add to the character of the piece.

The Car Enthusiast

The Car Enthusiast luxury watch buyer

Their real passion is with cars but a car enthusiast can’t go out on a drive without wearing a watch to match their beloved steed. They would always look for anything car related, especially collaborations with brands like Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini or even watches that are tied to a significant person or an event in racing, for example: Paul Newman and Steve Mcqueen, and events like Daytona 500 and Mille Miglia.

That Guy

That Guy luxury watch buyer

The person who has everything, but who’s always searching for the next most extravagant thing money can buy. Has been known to impulsively swipe their black credit card on the newest model just because “it looks nice.” Their shopping list and must-haves are exactly what you expect: luxury cars, huge mansions, private jets, exotic animals and very, very, very expensive watches, preferably a unique, bedazzled piece that’s the opposite of subtle.

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and go mechanical. We’re proud of you, but we’ve (unfortunately) discovered that a great deal of those who have chosen to listen to the siren song of the battery-free tend to forget a few things about their timepieces.

Fret not—we’re here to keep you from making the sort of mistakes that’ll have you rushing to your friendly neighborhood service center or that’ll keep you up all night Googling “how to fix mechanical watch help me please what have I done”. The truth (sometimes) hurts, but we must all soldier on because some things are worth it.

Your watch will stop when not used.

One of the perks of having a mechanical watch is that it doesn’t run because of a common battery, but because of centuries-old techniques, which essentially makes that slug on your wrist a veritable engineering marvel.

While that is something worth being in awe of, this isn’t without a catch: a mechanical watch only has enough power in it to run for a few days, and when left unworn or unused, the mainspring—which powers the whole watch—will have unwound, leaving the watch without energy.

Automatic watches typically only require being worn (or kept in a winder) to keep it running, thanks to its rotor, but a totally mechanical watch demands winding every few days. So if you’re not wearing or winding (never on your wrist, and never too tightly) it on the regular, don’t expect it to keep time for weeks at a time.

You cannot set the calendar when the hands are near 12 o’clock/between 9 PM and 2 AM.

That is, unless you want to potentially ruin it.

In all seriousness, don’t do it. It’s when the watch hands are in this position that the watch should be changing the date on its own, engaging the gear train. Making any adjustments could potentially break important parts within your timepiece—and good watch repairs don’t come cheap.

You’ll need to have your watch serviced every eight to 10 years.

At the end of the day, it’s still a machine. You wouldn’t forego getting, say, your car serviced, would you? The same goes for your watch, which is just as complicated a machine. Pieces wear out, oils dry up, and straps and bracelets get dirty (particularly leather straps, which tend to degrade faster in hot, humid, tropical weather), so do yourself—and your watch— a favor by taking it to a certified service center every few years for a nice tune-up.

Your sapphire glass can’t get scratched—except by a sapphire or diamond.

One of the reasons you’re probably using to justify shelling out the amount you’ve paid is that the crystal on your watch is pretty much scratchproof. The operative phrase, of course, is “pretty much,” because there’s always the possibility that you’ll mar that pristine, shiny surface if you try hard enough, but unless you’re routinely rubbing against the aforementioned precious stones, you and your watch should be fine.

However, there is a caveat: That anti-glare coating the watch brand’s so proud of? That might look like a scratch on the crystal, even if your watch is fitted with a sapphire scratch resistant glass.

There’s no such thing as “waterproof” in this industry, and the ratings can get confusing.

Water resistance to 30 meters? 50 meters? 100? Great, you can swim and dive with your watch to that depth!

Sorry to burst your bubble, but you really can’t. We’d advise you err on the more conservative side and keep your watch from water, and even steam. Even if you have a diving watch—which is typically marked water resistant to a minimum depth of 200 meters, and which you should only take down to about half that depth—you need to consider that exposing it to extreme conditions means you’ll need to pay close attention to its functionality and have it serviced regularly. Another thing to take note of: the waterproof warranty on your watch expires yearly after the initial warranty provided by the manufacturer unless if you bring it in for waterproofing.

The fact is there is no truly waterproof watch. The water resistance watchmakers mark their pieces with are determined under strict, highly controlled conditions (e.g. steady, continuous pressure and still water) that are far from the reality of the world around us. Simply put: don’t risk it.

Your watch is inaccurate.

If you’re a stickler for semantics, that is. Plus or minus three seconds a day, or even a minute and a half per month, to be specific. That’s just the way it is: watchmakers are constantly striving to achieve complete accuracy, but the journey there is a long, arduous, and ongoing one.

Take a deep breath. It’s fine. We’ve all learned this and had our hearts temporarily broken. But you’ll live. And trust us, your watch is still great.

If magnetized, your watch could run fast up—to several minutes to hours faster. It could even stop.

Think about it: hundreds of tiny metal pieces arranged with extreme precision, holding each other in place and working in perfect harmony. Beautiful. All right, that may sound incredibly simplistic when explaining the negative effects of magnetization on a watch, but any exposure your watch gets to a magnetic force—present in everyday things like your phone, your microwave, your laptop—throws the delicate springs and gears of your watch out of sync, throwing off the timing or even stopping the watch completely. While it might feel like your heart has stopped along with your watch should it ever be magnetized, don’t worry; a well-equipped service center should be able to make any necessary repairs and adjustments to your timepiece.

The price of your watch might go up. Or down.

Bought your watch because you were sure it was a good investment piece? While most watches do appreciate in value, you need to take into consideration several things: the brand, the model, and the market. Several brands typically fetch great prices on the aftermarket, but models within brands might be priced lightyears differently. The laws of supply and demand also play a massive role, with buyers’ wants potentially dictating prices of secondhand pieces. Our advice? While it isn’t in any way a bad thing to buy a piece with the hopes that its value might go up, the main reason you should be buying a piece is because of how much you love it in that moment.

Questions are, contrary to popular belief, rarely a bad thing. Certain questions, however, are clear tells that you might not know what you’re talking about.

This is especially true in the watch world where, to be perfectly frank, one factor for even purchasing a luxury timepiece is to show it off—so asking a question that hints at your lack of knowledge pretty much defeats the purpose of having that gorgeous timepiece on your arm, if your purpose was to come off as a connoisseur,  doesn’t it?

To be clear, we’re not here to judge. In fact, we’re here to acknowledge that, yes, before we knew what chronometers and bezels were, we asked some of these questions too. Out loud, in some cases. And because we’ve asked them, they’ve been answered.

Question 1: “What’s the best watch in the world?”

Many people automatically equate “best” with “most expensive”, “best-selling”, or “most sought-after”, and that often really isn’t the case. The question just can’t be answered without going into the minutiae of watchmaking, or into the inquirer’s preferences. Determining what the best watch in the world is depends on a variety of factors: quality, aesthetics, functionality, complication, rarity, collectibility, as well as a person’s tastes. One brand might do one thing better than another brand. A watch someone considers great might be missing functionalities that are important to you. A limited edition watch owned by your favorite celebrity might not be a fit for what you need.  Trying to narrow the literally hundreds of thousands timepieces available in the world down to one is fighting a losing battle.

Question 2: “Is this watch accurate?”

To answer this demands that one become slightly philosophical, because, in truth, no watch is 100 percent accurate, and yet, some come close. Getting to that point is the horological world’s Olympic gold medal, Peace Prize, Pulitzer, and EGOT, all rolled into one.

There’s no getting around the fact that even the most accurate watch in the world (a designation that changes with each passing day), will lose a few seconds every year due to wear, magnetism, the drying of oils, and just simple aging. Typically, even the best mechanical watches might lose a few seconds a day, because even the greatest group of engineers in the world (again with the superlatives) cannot create a piece that syncs perfectly with universal time.

It’s a matter then, of how close a watch can get, at any given point, to complete and total precision. If accuracy is your biggest consideration, you can rely on the various certifications that have been established to show that a watch is well built, namely the Chronometer Certification, the Geneva Seal, the Patek Philippe Seal, and the Master Chronometer certification.

Question 3: “Which is better: a square watch or a round watch?”

You’ll have noticed by now that we’re not the biggest fans of the word “best” and its iterations when doing watch comparisons. Again, it all depends on certain factors; there simply is no single answer.

In this case, it all boils down to aesthetics, and aesthetics are a very personal thing. Round watches are more commercially popular, and most experts chalk it up to a combination of association (pocket watches are round, wall clocks are round… you get the idea), and simple ergonomics (the hands’ circular motion). This isn’t to say that rectangular watches have no place in a serious collection; watch lovers with an eye towards a vintage style that most explicitly harks back to the golden age of Hollywood are vocal in their love for the quadrilateral shape, as do those whose tastes are more inclined to the super-modern.

Question 4: “Why would anyone still, in this day and age, buy a hand-winding watch?”

You mean aside from the feeling of getting up in the morning, winding your watch, and feeling every bit like a modern day Don Draper, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, or any one of those stylish icons of yesteryear? Because that’s enough of a reason for us.

A hand-wound also has several practical aspects to it,  namely the options of slimming down the watch, and the possibility of design minimalism, thanks to the lack of the mechanisms that make an automatic watch, having fewer parts, making it easier to service and less susceptible to defects. A smaller production number also means that hand-wound watches are generally rarer and more collectible. Chances are, though, it’s the ritual of it that is so enjoyable that for some that to completely forego it is almost unimaginable. Sure, the convenience of an automatic watch might save you a few minutes every day, but the hand-wound piece brings emotional satisfaction and pleasure that an automatic model might not offer.

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