How To Buy Your First Luxury Watch


Investing in a proper watch is a rite of passage for many men. But it comes at a cost so you want to be sure you’re buying a watch that will last you a lifetime. What should you spend? What brands stand the test of time? And what else should you be looking out for? We asked Beth Hannaway, head of fine watches and jewellery at Harrods, and Matthew Cule, collector and founder of CuleM Watches, about the best entry-level manufacturers and what your money should get you.

Can you start by telling us about the different watch types out there?
Matthew: There are four main types of watches in terms of the mechanics: automatic (also called self-winding), manual winding, quartz and smart watches. The best watches are considered to be automatic and manual-winding watches that can be passed on from generation to generation. 

Beth: There are also five key styles to consider: dress, an elegant watch to complement a suit; dive, a highly technical watch to withstand high pressure and depth; racing, borne from the race track, often with a chronograph for split-second race timing; aviation, commonly referred to as a pilot’s watch; and, finally, field watches inspired by military battlefield requirements, often including a Nato strap.

And which type should you choose for your first luxury watch?
Matthew: An automatic watch that is Swiss made. These come at a higher price but they’re a good place to start looking because of the variety of brands, quality, prices and functionality. Other countries to look at include Germany and Japan, which both have some lovely, high-quality brands.

What is the minimum you should be spending?
Matthew: For £950, you can buy a decent time and date watch with a standard, automatic Swiss made movement.

So which are the best entry-level brands to look for?
Beth: Firstly, always go ‘classic’, which will mean your watch is far more likely to retain its value and to have been a sound investment, even at the entry level. Tudor are really the hero of the £1k to £3k price bracket – particularly its Black Bay collection – while TAG Heuer also has a good selection of both mechanical and smart watches. For an even more affordable selection, young brands such as March LAB and Oris offer some really good-looking Swiss mass watches at around the £1,000 mark.
And what sort of thing should you be looking for?
Matthew: If you have a particular interest in certain items or activities, start looking for watches that match what you love. If you love diving, look for watches that are water resistant. If you love travelling, look at dual time watches like a GMT or a world timer. Having a connection to a watch is important. Consider your style and think about how and when you’ll be wearing it. Then choose one that will suit your lifestyle and your wardrobe.


"If you have a particular interest in certain items or activities, start looking for watches that match what you love."
- Matthew Cule

Where should you be looking if you’ve got a slightly higher budget of, say, £3k to £6k?
Beth: Brands such as a IWC, Panerai and Breitling are all strong in this bracket, spanning sporty, elegant and highly technical styles.

And if you can stretch to £10k?
Beth: For real investment-worthy pieces, Rolex is always going to be near the top of the wish list, with Jaeger-LeCoultre, Hublot and Cartier following closely behind.

Are there any watch trends worth knowing about at the moment?
Beth: There’s certainly a continued reinvigoration of historic styles and this can be seen either as inspiration or as direct relaunches. Alongside the ever popular blue and silver dials – and increasingly green too – there is also a trend for unique dials, like Moser’s iconic Fumé dial or the eye-catching Cruz-Diez collection from Hublot.

Which styles or brands never go out of fashion?
Beth: Forever in style is the stainless-steel professional or sports watch, with a number of new models entering the race this year, including Chopard’s Alpine Eagle and the Odysseus by A Lange & Söhne.

Do you go for a small or large face?
Beth: Choosing the size of the case is extremely important and can change the look and feel of the watch, but it’s completely down to personal taste and the readability of the chosen complication. A pilot, for example, will always need to have a more substantial case size than a simple date function.

And what about the strap?
Matthew: Strap prices depend on the type and quality of the material. Leather straps are generally less expensive than alligator straps.

Beth: Outside of the more expensive metal bracelet models, more and more brands are creating watches with straps that can be easily interchanged, allowing greater flexibility in the look of your watch.

Where should you go to buy a luxury watch?
Matthew: A great place to start looking is online and social media. To actually buy though you’re best going to a shop and trying on the watch to see it on your wrist. How does it make you feel when you wear it, what does it look like on you, how comfortable is it? All of these are important questions and things you can’t answer from buying online.

"I would always say to try before you buy. Researching online is super important, but you’ll only know it’s the watch for you by trying it on."
- Beth Hannaway

Can you buy a watch online?
Matthew: Follow your instinct with online purchases, knowing that you can generally return the watch if you are not happy with it. Check the company’s returns policy before pressing the buy button.

Are there any other useful resources to know?
Matthew: To really connect with a brand, you may also want to know about their vision, and chat with the founder. Watch events like Baselworld in Switzerland, Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair, Miami Watch and Wonders, and Dubai Watch Week are a great way to do this. There are also smaller local events which you can search for online. You can meet the people behind the brand, get to know them, and understand the vision for their future collections.

Beth: Watch blogs and individual brand websites provide fantastic insight to the watch industry and share a wealth of industry knowledge and personal experience. I would also highly recommend heading in to talk to the watch specialists face to face, as they can answer all your questions.

What’s the best way to protect your investment?
Matthew: It is worth having insurance as you never know what can happen. Check with your insurance company if watches up to a certain value are included in your policy, or whether you need to insure them separately.

How should you care for your watch once you’ve bought it?
Beth: It’s so important to take good care of your watch and to have it serviced in line with the warranty guidelines, as each brand will differ slightly in their care and service recommendations.
Keep it safe and wound, but make sure to enjoy your watch – it’s meant to be worn.

Anything else we’ve missed?
Matthew: In most peer groups, you will see the same or similar watches around the dinner or meeting room table. Look for brands that speak to you, not just the ones your peer group are wearing. A good but little-known watch can be a great talking point, so lead the way.

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