When you’re young, a slap watch will probably cut it. But as you get older, you’re going to be drawn to more and more expensive, luxury watches. It’s just science (probably). Watches from Rolex, Omega, Breitling and more will all catch your eye. Here’s what you need to know about buying your first luxury watch without emptying your first home buyers deposit.
When should you buy your first expensive watch?
Getting the right watch is like getting the right tattoo. You can’t read someone else’s recommendation for something you’re going to wear every single day.
Compound it with the fact that this particular timepiece is going to take a fair whack out of your bank balance no matter where you buy it, you should probably focus on getting something you have your heart set on, rather than something someone else thinks is cool.
That being said, there are particular times in life when getting an expensive watch makes sense for you, the purchaser.
Unless you’re very special, buying a $10,000+ watch every week probably isn’t in the cards for you. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be looking to buy one or two for yourself, with the view to potentially start a collection one day. Getting your first watch then is something you’ll need to invest a bit of thought in.
When you’re looking for your first watch, you should immediately consider when you’re going to wear it. Given it’s your first, you’ll probably want to use it everyday until you get something more bespoke for different situations. If that’s the case, you should consider your daily style.
Do you wear a suit to work? If so, you’ll want something formal. A classic that elevates your look beyond the boy in his father’s suit to the man at the head of the table.
Or are you more of a smart casual dresser? If so, getting a mix between a sport and formal watch might suit you better. You might only be looking for something to wear on special occasions. If so, consider what you’ll be pairing it with at the time.
Once you’ve considered your look, you’re ready to buy. But what should you start with: a new model or something retro? Again, this one’s going to come down to taste.
Ultimately, your first watch shouldn’t be about buying something that’s going to appreciate in value. If you’re buying a pricey watch, it’s a fair bet it’ll appreciate over time if you care for it and service it at regular intervals anyway. Your first watch should be something you keep to be proud of!
Brand new watches from mainstream brands like Rolex, Omega and Breitling are always going to be hard to come by. These brands control supply in a way to make scarcity part of the marketing pitch. Finding what you’re after might take a bit of hunting around local first-party and authorised dealer stores before you can even try on what you like. I’d recommend going into a store to try watches you like just to see what size suits you before buying something new or used, just to get a feel for what looks good on your wrist.
Purchasing a watch from the year of your birth or the year of a significant occasion is a worthwhile pursuit, but you should always contact the buyer to ensure the service history is up to date. You don’t want to drop $10,000 on a watch only to realise it hasn’t been serviced since it was built in the 1980’s.
The question of when to buy your first expensive watch comes down to when you feel comfortable spending that amount of money on a timepiece. I’ve wanted a pricey watch for the last five years or so, but knew I couldn’t justify the purchase when I was riding around in UberX every weekend and paying most of my money to a landlord and a credit card company.
Instead, I decided that my first watch purchase would come after I had purchased my first home and my first new car. It would become a celebration of my ascent from small boy to grown-up who pays bills and everything.
Others see it differently. I know blokes who cop a Rolex on their 21st, 30th and/or 35th birthdays as a way to mark the occasion. Others might ice up their wrist to celebrate the birth of their child; an engagement or a big (big) promotion.
When you purchase your first expensive watch comes down to one central question: when do you feel comfortable spending that amount of money on a timepiece rather than something more significant?
How to buy your first expensive watch
Thankfully, the question of how is always much simpler than the question of when.
The question of how you buy feeds into the story you want your watch to tell. Do you want to write the history of your watch as a timepiece owned only by you across a number of years, or do you want to inherit a timepiece that has already had a story that you can add a chapter to?
If you’re buying new, you’re writing that watch’s story. You’re the author of its acquisition, history and ultimate pettina. If you’re buying used, you’re inheriting a story. One isn’t better than another, but it does come with different paths to choose from.
Buying used means you’re hitting the internet in search of a good deal. After-market sites like Chrono24, Crown & Caliber, StockX, CHRONEXT and Bob’s Watches are all great places to look for unique stock.
Some aftermarket watches can come with steep discounts, as they’re sold from person-to-person, skipping the boutique markups.
If you’re buying after-market, remember to keep your scam EQ up. Don’t transfer someone $10,000 on Western Union because they can get you a mint Rolex Paul Newman Daytona that ultimately doesn’t exist. Use you’re head, and realise that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. To keep yourself safe, always opt for a service that uses an escrow so your money is safe as the watch wings its way to you.
Buying new is inherently easier, but it rules out the ability to scoop up a potential after-market bargain.
Authorised dealers and first-party stores will be your first port of call. Speaking with staff to figure out how stock moves throughout the region will determine when and where you can get your first timepiece. Often stores and dealers aren’t aware of what they’ll be shipped. They know just as much as you do when they receive a new shipment of watches, and within a week or two, that stock will almost definitely sell out.
If you don’t want to do the legwork, putting your name down with one or two stores or dealers is a smart way to let the watches come to you, but be aware you’re signing up to a black box process that means you won’t always know when your watch will arrive.
At the end of the day, you’re purchasing a timepiece you can stamp part of your identity onto, no matter the age. It should be something you can afford at a time that makes sense for you. If you have your heart set on a particular model, there are always ways to get your hands on one, and if you want to do a bit of extra legwork, you might just find yourself a bargain.
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Luke Hopewell is the editor and co-founder of Redaktör. He's previously been the Editor of Gizmodo, Founding Editor of Business Insider Australia, Editorial Lead for Twitter Australia and more.