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February 13, 2013



As I asked Ulysses in the other thread, I'm curious about examples of this price range. To put it another way, what are the best watches $2,000 (or less) can buy?

I feel like there are certain "sweetspots" of watch quality, tiers if you will.

Beyond your garden-variety Target/Walmart $30 watches, there's the $80-120 tier, which are decent low-end watches, the type of watch your "average Joe" that isn't into watches might wear, or the first level of watches the addict gets into. These include low-end Invicta and Seiko, Pulsar, Timex, Casio, etc.

Then there's the $150-300 tier, which includes a lot of mid-range Seikos that I like to buy - like the Black Monster, Jeff's SKA371, etc. It also includes a lot of Citizen, some Bulova, a few Victorinox, etc.

Then there's the $400-600 tier, which are the borderline watches between affordable and "semi-luxury," what could be called "pseudo-luxury" watches. This includes watches like some of the Seiko Velaturas, the Orient Revolver, Bulova Accutron, etc.

Then there's the $800-1200 tier, which is a true semi-luxury watch - like the Seiko Tuna, upper-end Citizens, various watches with Valjoux movement.

And then there's the $1500-2000 tier, which seems to be the first true luxury watches, "low-end luxury." These include many Tag Heuers, upper-end Seikos, some Orients.

And then you go up to the $3000-5000 tier, the mid-range luxury, which include a large number of true luxury watches - Omega, Breitling, even a few Seiko, etc.

And then there's the upper-range luxury, the $8-15,000 tier, which are watches like Rolex, Panerai, etc.

Beyond that there are the "super-luxury" watches - those costing $15,000 up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, which include everything from upper-end limited edition Rolexes to the true craft brands like Patek Philippe.

It seems that Ulysses is saying that watches pretty much max out at $1500-2000. I don't think this is entirely true, but that the difference between a $2,000 watch and most $8-12,000 watches is rather small and relates more to value perception and name brand only. Maybe that is what Ulysses means?

But the Patek Philippe and other super-luxury watches are really in a different category. They aren't mass-produced; they are hand-finished and put together in a way that even Rolexes aren't.


Hey Jeff, I've noticed something odd - some of my posts seem to disappear. I responded to Ulysses here, it was up and then it disappeared. It happened in another post, and a few weeks ago as well (but then that post appeared again...weird).

Do you know what's up with that?


Jonny, thanks for letting me know. I went to my comments and found them under "spam"; then I published them just now.


That's exactly what I meant jonnybardo. I am a casual ogler of the watches in the luxury watch store windows in town and it seems a general rule of thumb that some of the "respected" brands (bar the two mentioned) produce timepieces in that ball park. Lesser-known Swiss brands will offer better value if you can find them. At this price range quality and finish is pretty much a given; you're then paying for the brand and the exclusivity of the watch and there are plenty to choose from. Example brands at this price range would be Oris, Longines, Raymond Weil, Cartier, Nomos, Victorinox etc. Maybe even a Tag, as well as models from any brand that are several years old and gathering dust on the shelf; every now and then they are highly discounted sometimes by as much as 50%. I saw a Maurice LaCroix not long ago at an incredible price.

As you said, the quality difference between say a $2000 watch and one in a higher tier is not going to be massive but I suspect the desire to purchase an even more expensive watch like that is driven more by the feeling of exclusivity than an ability to discern superior workmanship. On the other hand, there are little details we can all use to judge quality such as the smoothness/ease of winding the crown, a lack of play and rattle in the bracelet (indicating finer tolerances), a quiet rotor, a dive ring that turns smoothly and isn't loose etc.


I forgot to add the brands Mido (have a look at the Multifort chrono), Hamilton, Tissot and Certina.


The cheap watch is a marvel of modern technology. To think that you can get a watch accurate enough to navigate by, at throw-away prices! Horatio Nelson would have quite literally killed for a timepiece with anything near the accuracy of today's dime store quartz Timex.

Today's cheap watches are so good that the only real reason for buying an expensive watch is that you're going to do it because you're going to do it. Being guys, though, we have to imagine there's some practical reason for our overpriced toys. And then get furious at anyone who points out that we're kidding ourselves!

Michael Brent

It is beyond my comprehension why anyone would spend thousands of dollars for a watch.
Just sayin


It's because a watch is about far more than simply telling the time. It is beyond comprehension why anyone would pay more than $10 for a cellphone yet millions do.


But doesn't that really go for EVERYTHING. People aren't generic----and we like to demonstrate that by what we have. Any reason to spend more than $35,000 for a car? Really? Okay, $40,000? Think about it. For the driving we do, and the speed limits/roads we have, really? Clothing? Our homes? Eyeglasses? There are eyeglass frames they give away free with the lenses, that let you see as well as the $200.00 pair we buy. Yes, cell phones? Furniture?


There are a couple facets here.

First of all, just as we might think it is crazy to spend thousands on a watch, some (like my wife) thinks its crazy to spend $300 on a watch rather than the $30 it costs to get a perfectly serviceable Timex or Casio.

So you have a $30 Timex, a $300 Seiko, a $3,000 Omega, and a $30,000 Patek Philippe - and everything in-between. What's the difference, really? Is there one?

Or you have a $5, $10, $20, $50, and probably bottles of wine that cost hundreds of dollars. Or cars, electronic equipment, furniture, women's accessories, etc. Shampoo, even. It goes on.

Now one could say, why not just get the cheapest variation of everything? There are numerous reasons. First, cheap stuff is usually cheaply made. But more so, one of the ways that cheap stuff skimps on in terms of production cost is in R&D - they just aren't as aesthetically appealing. But the other part is what I'm calling the mirage, and it is what separates a $3,000 Omega from an $8,000 Rolex - while Omega is a big name, Rolex is Rolex. It is THE name in luxury watches. It may even be that a $1,500 Seiko Prospex is about the same quality as an $8,000 Rolex, but Seiko uses Japanese movement and Rolex uses Swiss, plus is, well, Rolex.

I personally try to find a "sweetspot" that combines quality with a relatively affordable cost, which is why I've settled in the $150-300 range for watches. One thing I've been finding of late is that if you're willing to buy used, you can get a watch that normally costs twice as much in that range.

But the temptation is to just keep going up, and I think a lot of that is a delusion perpetuated by the consumer world - and one that almost all of us (including myself) buy into. I personally struggle against it. Yesterday afternoon I wrote a post on my blog talking about how I wanted to save up and eventually get a $2,000 watch; I woke up feeling slightly nauseous about the idea, thinking "What was I thinking?!" But I'm sure I'll go there again.

I think the bottom line is that higher price items USUALLY reflect an increase in quality, but that those increases become smaller and smaller and for more and more money. I don't think there's a one-size fits all formula, but it may roughly involve a double in cost to rise up a new tier in quality, so something like this: $50, $100, $200, $400, $800, $1500, $3000, $6000, $12,000, $25,000, etc.

But even then, those jumps are less visible; most of the value of a $25,000 Patek Philippe is not visible, it is in the finishing and complexity of the movement (unless it is encrusted in diamonds).

I don't know what the actual steps or degrees are in terms of quality difference, but I can say that the biggest difference between a $200 and $400 watch is a better clasp and bracelet and sapphire crystal - that's what you get for $2-300 more; it is a solid, visible difference but it is also not a massive one. And a next step up at $800-1200? How much better is a Seiko Tuna than a Seiko Sumo? I don't know - the changes might actually be smaller, or at least less visible (like better movement?). And I think that continues - the increases in quality become less and less visible so that while your $8000 Rolex might have kick-ass movement and be backed by a long tradition of quality, the physical object is no better or worse than a watch costing a tenth of the cost.

People that aren't luxury watches get off on the status aspect. For me this is the least important; it is non-important, really. If anything I'd be embarrassed wearing a super expensive watch because it meant that I spent thousands of dollars on it, when I could imagine many better uses for that money. It is the same thing with regards to super-sports cars. I love how Lamborghinis and Ferraris look, but I'd be a bit embarrassed to drive one (maybe a Porsche, but even then).


I agree with those, like Jonny, who compare watches to wine or cars. Craftsmanship, expression, quality. It's also a matter of income. On a limited budget, I would find a Casio solar for $50, but on my current income, a 600 dollar watch would be my limit. Obviously, wealthy people get watches much higher than that.


There's also the psychological factor of how much money you drop at once. For instance, you say $600 is your limit but you spend thousands over a year - so you could theoretically buy a couple $2,000 a year. But that is psychologically more difficult to do (and harder to rationalize to the spouse, at least for me).

The other thing I want to highlight, which I already said, is that while I do think that--like wine or cars--quality does increase with price, the differences get smaller and smaller, like Zeno's arrow in which the distance between the arrow and the target is continually halved. Let's say a $100 watch is a 50 on a scale of 1-100; then a $200-250 watch is a 75, a $4-500 watch is an 87.5, an $800-1000 watch is 93.75, a $1,500-2,000 watch is a 96.87, a $3,000 watch is a 98, a $6,000 is a 99, a $12-15,000 is a 99.5, a $25-30,000 is a 99.7, etc. Not only is there no true perfect 100 watches, but the differences just get smaller and smaller, for more and more money - it is almost an inverse.

If that hypothesis is correct, then Ulysses is right - once you get to about $1,500-2,000, you've reached that point on the curve where the differences become so small that you really need to be a horologist to notice them and/or be extremely wealthy.


Sometimes, there's a situation I call the "Chesapeake Bay Seafood House Factor." Back in the 1980s, we had a restaruant chain named Chesepeake Bay Seafood House. They didn't have a buffet----but it was all you could eat, and the server would keep bringing food to your table. Here's the thing: Prices started at $4.99 for all you could eat haddock. For 5.99, you could get all you could eat fried clams and haddock. $7.99 would give you all could eat catfish, clams and haddock. $10.99 might have added flounder. $13.99, crab. $17.99, lobster. So in other words, if you paid the top price, you'd get it all----anything on the menu, as much as you want. And the funny part is that just out of college, my friends and I would go, fully intending to just get the $4.99 haddock deal. But we'd sit at the table and say----geez, for only a dollar more, we get clams. Then we'd be ready to spend the 5.99----and rationalize that for only $2.00 more, you'd get catfish, which was really good there. By the time you knew it----the increments would have us close to the top of the menu. With watches or with anything else----once you're comfortable at a price point----if they offer you a little more for a little more money----you talk yourself into it. Before you know it, you're spending three times as much as you were last year. I mentioned guns----and it's the same with those. You get walked up the ladder---a little more for this feature. A little more for that feature----and all the sudden, the $795.00 pistol you were planning on is $1795.00.

Michael Brent

OK so I met with an investment guy today and noticed he had a very cool looking watch.
I commented on it and he told me it was a Patek and his father had given it too him.
I thought of you guys.


Materialism at its finest. Or worst.

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