When I am writing for Fratellowatches or when contributing to WatchTime.com, I tend to forget that not everyone is a watch nut or has an in-depth knowledge about watches or watch manufacturers. Of course, this is not mandatory when buying a new watch, but let me at least give you some hints and tips when you are buying a new watch for the first time. Feel free to contribute your own tips and experiences in the comments section.
Let’s assume that you already have set your mind on a certain brand and model and are ready to buy. Keep the next five tips in your mind when you are about to purchase that beautiful timekeeper.
1. Ask about After Sales Service
Like a car, a watch needs maintenance. Or – also like a car – a watch can break. Mechanical watches are (partly) made and assembled by human hands, so things might have gone wrong in the process. Also, dropping a watch or bumping it into a door effects a mechanical watch more than it does a quartz watch. So at some point you will need to have the watch serviced or repaired. Ask the watch dealer if he has a service center or whether the watch will need to go back to the manufacturer. A trip to the watch manufacturer might take longer, but consider it a spa for wristwatches. Also important: ask how long an overhaul or repair will take. It might also be wise to go to some watch forums and search for service times. Some brands will keep your watch for months and I’m not talking watches packed with complications here. Unfortunately, I am talking from my own experience. Nothing is worse than having to return your watch for repair and have to do without it for months. Last but not least, ask about the cost of service overhauls. Some of the watch manufacturers are quite transparent and list the cost of service overhauls on their website. Make sure to get some insight into these costs; I get emails and phone calls from people who were very disappointed to learn that these are as expensive, or more expensive, than the periodic service of their car.
Authorized dealers in a conventional brick and mortar shop strictly use the official price tags on their watches. However, there should always be room to negotiate about the price. Make sure you are informed about the average price of a watch before you enter the store and start to negotiate. Also, don’t compare apples and oranges. Prices you see quoted on the Internet might be for gray-market watches sold by dealers who are not authorized retailers. They have different rules about warranties, service and repairs. In any case, feel free to negotiate. If you are not comfortable with the discount that is being offered, try somewhere else. You can also try to negotiate to get an extra strap or a watch winder etc.
3. Additional costs
I already covered the costs of servicing or repairing your watch. However, if you buy a watch with a leather strap, you will probably have to replace it sooner than the periodic service intervals. Make sure you ask about the price of an OEM replacement strap for your watch. Prices vary from a few (tens of) dollars to hundreds of dollars for a leather strap, depending on the materials used. Also be aware that watches tend to become more expensive each year (the annual price hikes sometimes make you wonder why you don’t get these annual increases each year from your employer). So do prices for accessories like straps and clasps. In any case, this should not be a deal breaker, as you can get very nice straps from third parties as well.
4. Build a relationship with your dealer
So, you bought a new watch at a nice retailer who gave you a discount and made you comfortable with his in-house service center for future service or repairs. Cherish this retailer from now on. He (or she) will do the same with you. Ask if they are organizing any watch events and if you can be on their mailing list. The thing is, this won’t be your last watch. Buying a mechanical watch can be the start of an addiction. Having a good relationship with a watch retailer and watchmaker is very important from now on. Not only for negotiating prices in the future, but also to get updates on new collections, new brands and perhaps even the chance to visit the manufacturer of your new watch. A number of authorized dealers take extra steps to please their customers and to show that they offer added value as opposed to non-authorized dealers who offer larger discounts but little service.
5. Will you become a watch flipper?
OK. You have your watch for a few months now and came to the conclusion that you:
- really want that other watch with that neat moon-phase complication the retailer showed you;
- don’t like the blue dial anymore and want a watch with a black dial;
- want an automatic movement instead of hand-wound movement, as you tend to forget to wind it every other morning;
- feel that you should have bought brand X instead of brand Y;
- don’t like mechanical watches.
There are, of course, more options on that list, but the point is that you should get informed about the resale value of your watch before buying it. So actually, this should be Tip 1 instead of 5. I always compare it with buying cars (although these tend to be worse investments). Take the example of the Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo. They create beautifully designed sports cars and have a lot of fans (called Alfisti). However, they drop in value big time as soon as you leave the showroom. You really, really, really have to like these cars in order to be at peace with the depreciation. Same goes more or less for watches. If you are buying one of the iconic watches (Submariner, Nautilus, Speedmaster Pro, Royal Oak, Navitimer), you should be fine. But if you are buying a model from a small factory that no one has ever heard of, make sure you are at peace with the fact that it will take a long time to sell and that you will take a hit on the price you are going to get for it.
The good thing is, like cars, that the market for pre-owned watches is huge. You can either try to trade it at your retailer (or he can perhaps direct you to someone who is willing to buy your watch) or sell it yourself through one of the watch market platforms or ‘sales corners’ at watch forums.