What is the difference between a cheap watch and an expensive watch?


“Can you recommend a good inexpensive watch for my husband?”

I was about 20 years old working at the watch counter at Macy’s on vacation when a woman asked me this question. Full disclosure, I was not a watchmaker (a watch expert). All I knew was that if you worked in the jewelry department, you would earn a commission for each sale.

I showed the woman a multitude of watches from Fossil to Movado, from automatic to mechanical, all at different prices. I stuttered, trying to convince the woman which watches were the best quality and struggling to remember what my manager had told me about the intricacies of watches. She balked at a few $ 1,000 watches I showed her, saying they were too expensive. She ultimately chose one: a Citizen with a stainless steel case and rotating bezel for around $ 300. A “good watch,” an associate told me after I sold his gift to the woman. However, the question remained: is it possible to buy a good watch without breaking the bank?

Buying a watch can be intimidating. There are more distinct types than there are face masks, all at different prices. But what makes an expensive watch different from a cheap watch? (And for this story, we’re excluding fitness watches from the conversation, because they’re a whole different beast.)

“Watches range from $ 50 to $ 500,000 for special collectors, limited editions or vintage watches. The trick is to figure out what you intend to buy before you buy it. Are you thinking about functionality, style, longevity, or all of the above? Said Gary Girdvainis, editor and editorial director of International watchmaking review. “Although the devil is in the details. How much does it cost to manufacture the watch you intend to purchase? “

We asked three expert watchmakers and one watch enthusiast to explain the difference between a cheap watch and an expensive watch, and if you get what you pay for by choosing an expensive watch.

Engineering plays a huge role in the value of a watch

“When it comes to inexpensive watches, most use mostly mass-produced base materials,” said Sabir M. Peele, founder of Pro style for men and a watch enthusiast. “There are several determining factors that define their value, the brand’s heritage, the materials, the movement and the hours of work to create the piece.”

For simplicity, the materials used to make the exterior of the watch, as well as the materials inside, can make or break a watch, literally. “It has a lot to do with engineering. Inexpensive watches are often mass produced and have fewer parts, so not as easy to adjust for accuracy, ”said Edward Farber, one of the two directors of the Aaron Faber Gallery At New York. “It’s not the exterior of the watch that matters; it’s the engineering inside.

photosinde via Getty Images

The engineering of a watch isn’t just about what you see on the outside.

“You can find a wonderful, inexpensive watch, but you must be wondering if it will hold up? Does engineering allow it to be worn on a daily basis and withstand the ups and downs of life? Will it scratch or break easily? Is it resistant to water or shock? You have to consider the vulnerability of the watch in addition to its portability, ”added Faber.

“If you pay $ 50 for a watch, the parts …” So if the watch is cheap, chances are it was made cheaply. “

There are markings visible on the watches

When you buy a new watch, you need to understand that you are paying a certain amount of markup. Most brands are particularly discreet about production numbers, costs and the tools required for engineering, but it has been estimated that the markup can go up to 100%. “It depends on the price bracket,” said Tim Mosso, watch specialist and media director for Watch box. “The cost of adding value to a manufacturer can encompass everything from research and development to product engineering to tooling capital. For watches sold by mainstream brands such as Rolex, Omega, and Breitling, most of the cost of a watch will reflect research and development, engineering, training, and production equipment.

Much of a watch’s value comes from its advertising

There is a truth that the the longer you keep a watch that is a good brand and works well, the more its value increases. And luxury watch brands spend millions on advertising each year that talks about the prestige or exclusivity of a piece and how it is made. Yet most of a watch’s value comes from its advertising, as Faber noted. “Cartier, Rolex, Patek Philippe and all of the big luxury brands invest more in marketing and advertising than other mainstream brands,” Faber told HuffPost. “They make their watches more exclusive, they design them better and make it harder to obtain, which adds to its value.”

“Personally, it’s difficult to assess the value of a watch because it has such a personal intrinsic meaning to most people,” Peele said. “Maybe it was a gift from a deceased relative or you received it as a reward for your hard work. For me, its value is weighted in its versatility. Can I wear it everyday or with what I currently wearing? Can I swim with it or travel? The versatility of a watch is its true value.

Emotion, like design, plays a major role

Just like any accessory, a well-designed watch can not only meet the physical needs of a buyer, but it can also have a psychological component.

“There is the emotional appeal of carrying something that is not just another solid state disposable sealed box. Over time, the enduring qualities of a watch become more pronounced; you grow up to associate it with all the vacations, promotions, good times, bad times and life stages that you come across, ”Musso said.

Do your homework on watches before you buy

“Google is your friend. Check out online watch collectors, magazine and blog communities to do your research,” Musso said. “There are many YouTube communities and websites that offer niche guides, reviews and the basics of finding any watch, “Girdvainis said.” The second-hand market is quite large when it comes to watches, and you can find deals on quality luxury watches there. “

When it comes to buying a watch, you don’t necessarily have to waste $ 20,000 on a good, high quality watch. Below, check out a few options for men’s watches at all prices.

HuffPost may receive a share of purchases made through links on this page. Prices and availability subject to change.

Bulova Futuro Gold, $ 425


Fossil Neutra Chronograph Stainless Steel Watch, $ 149


Seiko SSB333, $ 260


Movado Museum Classic, $ 495


Skagen Signatur Black Silicone Field Watch, $ 95


Timex Standard Watch with 40mm Leather Strap, $ 79


Jack Mason Dive Wristwatch, $ 315

Jack mason

Hamilton Khaki Field mechanical watch, $ 475


Citizen Airplane, $ 350


Tissot Everytime Swissmatic, $ 450


MVMT nitro blue, $ 95


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