It is an age old question and one that we’re only too familiar with being asked at Manhattan Time Service? The question is “why are luxury watches so expensive?” It’s one that we’re in a pretty good position to answer given we spend so much of our time fixing and servicing them.
Watches are a very divisive subject matter when it comes to price because, let’s face it, at the end of the day, whether you’re rocking a Audmars Piguet or a Casio, they’re both doing the exact same thing - telling the time. Right? Well, yes, that’s technically correct, of course, but there is so much more going on under the surface which points to why there is such a mammoth gulf in price between your designer watches and those at the luxury of the spectrum.
Needless to say, there’s all manner of reasons as to why you’ll have to remortgage your home to get your hands on a Hublot but can purchase a timepiece of lesser repute with the chump change you find swirling around in your back pockets and we’ll try and explain those differences below.
HERITAGE & HISTORY
As you might imagine, one of the most compelling reasons why a luxury watch costs more than those at the other end of the spectrum is largely due to the fact they’ve got such a rich tradition and heritage in the world of horology.
The likes of IWC, Breitling, Baume et Mercier, Rolex et al have been around for centuries producing magnificently crafted timepieces, made of the finest components and when you compare this to more modern watchmakers who don’t necessarily use the same quality materials, the difference in cost begins to become clear.
It’s impossible to ignore that the vast majority of timepieces at the luxury end of the market originate from Switzerland and whilst this isn’t a prerequisite for being an expensive watch, chances are those from the European country are likely to be a touch more costly because Switzerland is certainly seen as the spiritual home of watchmaking.
Designer watch brands just cannot compete with the heritage, and indeed the perceived value, that comes from being a Swiss watchmaker with a long and rich tradition of delivering stunning timepieces that gravitate towards the rich and famous. We’re lucky enough to see watches from some of the world’s leading watchmakers cross our doorstep every single day here at Manhattan Time Service but we know for sure that it isn’t merely just having a rich watchmaking tradition that makes luxury timepieces so expensive. Let’s face it, we’re not going to put down thousands of dollars on a watch just because it’s made by someone who has being doing it for a while…..well, we might but there is plenty of other reasons why luxury timepieces are so expensive.
Making a luxury watch is a gargantuan undertaking that is so far removed from the massed produced watches at the other end of the spectrum and when you factor in the master craftsmen, the materials and the sheer amount of time that it takes to manufacture a top of the line timepiece, their additional cost begins to stack up.
A low end watch will be made quickly and cheaply and those from the likes of TAG Heuer, Montblanc and IWC are pored over and made with considerably more care and time. It is this amount of time that goes into the manufacture of luxury watches which inevitably ramps up their cost and makes them, in our opinion, reassuringly expensive.
CONSIDER THE COMPONENTS
When speaking of watches, one of the words that you’ll hear most regularly is that of “movement” and this is definitely one of the biggest contributing factors to the cost of high end timepiece. A lot of the world’s leading watchmakers will develop their own in-house movements and this takes a look of investment and skilled workers to ensure they deliver a top of the range timepiece.
Watches at the cheaper end of the scale will often have a more generic quartz movement which is by no means a terrible instrument of time but when this is put up alongside an in-house movement, it really is no comparison and this is a chief reason a luxury watch will cost so much more.
The materials are often like chalk and cheese as well when you compare a luxury watch from the likes of Omega, Rolex and Breitling alongside a lower cost wristwatch and whether it’s a luxury leather strap or scratch resistant sapphire crystal glass, there are often little touches to the design and manufacture of a luxury watch that will make them that bit more expensive like the Omega Cal. 563 Movement pictured below.
Something which is often overlooked when it comes to pricing of luxury watches is that of perceived value. It is clear that luxury watches are so priced because consumer are prepared to pay such a premium for a timepiece which they consider to be better than what else is available on the market.
Luxury watches remain one of the biggest draws for men the world over when it comes to status symbols and it is this very fact that people are prepared to shell out thousands of dollars on them that they remain so expensive. If people didn’t pay that much for them, they’d surely come down in price.
Most men see luxury watches as an investment - something that you’ll likely only buy one of in your lifetime and, in all likelihood, pass on to future generations. There simply isn’t the same mindset about watches at the other end of the spectrum. If you buy a watch for a couple of hundred dollars or so, chances are you’ll be looking to replace it in a year or two. A luxury watch is something that makes us feel good about ourselves and, if we’re being honest, that’s priceless.