Selecting a Quality Watch.
March 19, 2005 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I would like to purchase a quality watch that will last my lifetime and potentially beyond that.

I would like to know what brands/models I should considering and what instruments would work best for me. My price range is anywhere between $500 and $4000 USD. I only want to pay the upper end of that if the quality justifies the cost.

I am not a pilot nor a diver, meaning that my profession/hobby does not require an accurate time piece on my wrist. However, I am not eliminating instruments that include more advanced functions that such entail. I am interested in an instrument that displays analog time, has a chronograph function, displays the date in some manner. Day of week is a plus, as well anything else interesting that fits into the design of the instrument such as tachymeter or C to F conversions - things like ground speed, however, are getting a bit too tangential (but maybe okay if aesthically pleasing).

I am a professional and brand recognition, while not necessary, is somewhat nice in what I do. I'm looking for something that would go well for a weekend at the lake as well as on Thursday in full business attire.

My top contender is the Omega Speedmaster Day-Date. I have also looked at some Breitling's, but as I've said, I'm not an aviator at this time. I'd appreciate any help you could give me in this search. Also please correct or redirect any mistakes in terminology and/or focus I have.
posted by ix to Shopping (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Tiffany has gorgeous watches, and their customer service is great. I've always been told that the more functions a watch has, the more likely it is that it'll break down someday. I'd think simple and classic.

(i've been happily wearing a retro rectangular timex-- sorta like this one--for over 20 years, and just keep replacing the band and batteries when needed, so i may not be the best judge, but i still get compliments on it.)
posted by amberglow at 9:10 AM on March 19, 2005

I personally like Omega as a brand, and their style. Rolex is too showy for my tastes, and Rado is too modern.

I would go with the Omega.
posted by riffola at 9:21 AM on March 19, 2005

I second the vote for the Omega. You can wear it with nearly anything, and mine (a Seamaster, as I actually do dive with it regularly) has survived years of daily wear, still working and looking great.
posted by thomascrown at 9:44 AM on March 19, 2005

Second the Tiffany recommendation. I received mine (gold, classic white face, black numbers, with date) as a graduation gift many years ago, and aside from the triannual battery change and one cleaning, it's kept its looks and very accurate time. It don't know whether they still make it, but it's similar to this one except with a sapphire crown and different backplate.

It's understated in the way that Tag/Rolex isn't, and it looks damn good.
posted by aberrant at 10:07 AM on March 19, 2005

Oops. A reread of your requirements indicates that mine isn't the watch you're likely interested in. I've flagged my post; hopefully it will get deleted.

posted by aberrant at 10:13 AM on March 19, 2005

Omegas have nice stylings (I have owned a couple in my day), but they are still essentially nicely appointed cases with mass-produced ETA movements in them. They are nothing special from an horloger's perspective. This is the same case with Tiffany, Cartier or any of the so-called "fashion watches". you are paying for the name and not at all for the craftsmanship and the tradition. I love the Cartier styles, particularly the tank wateches, but the price/quality ration is too high for my taste.

In that price range, you would do well to look at IWC, Ulysse-Nardin or Jaeger-le-Coultre watches. All three of those watches are spectacularly put together and would all be geniuine collector's items, heirloom pieces, and are really something special. These makers do make some super high end models, but they all offer a nice selection in the sub $4k range.
posted by psmealey at 10:17 AM on March 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

I should preface this post with I'm a Jeweler. But the Swiss line that we carry is the best value in swiss watches. Still family owned and operated since 1862. Cyma

I have two of their watches and get complements on them more than my Vacheron and Rolex.
posted by CCK at 10:29 AM on March 19, 2005

IWC does the same thing as Omega, they take the ETA movement and rework it.
posted by riffola at 10:53 AM on March 19, 2005

I'd second getting something in a "traditional" Swiss line. Personally, I think anything from the Hublot brands are (usually) beautiful.

For more watch info then you could ever want, make sure you visit
posted by jeremias at 11:00 AM on March 19, 2005

You could be right about that riffola, but it's been a long time since I've looked at it. As I recall it, IWC uses retooled ETA movements for their lower end models, but they build their own movements for specific models, such as the Portugiesers and the Doppelfliegerchronograph, to name two. Regardless of the whole made vs. manufactured debate, Omega watches, while they are sturdy and serviceable, are produced in much greater numbers than these other brands, and while are sold at a lower price point they also tend not to hold their value very well. This may or may not be a consideration for the original poster, but definitely worth talking about.
posted by psmealey at 11:00 AM on March 19, 2005

ix - let me provide a little background. What psm is referring to is the fact that after the Japanese quartz movements nuked the Swiss watchmaking industry in the 70's, a separate company - ETA - was formed from which almost all swiss watchmakers outsourced their mechanical movements. As psm notes, there are very few exceptions: Rolex being most notable. These exceptions tend to hold their value longer, which is only of importance if you plan to sell it.

Since you want a chronograph (watch/stopwatch combo, as opposed to a chronometer, a designation for a watch that meets strict standards of accuracy) almost any mechanical watch you purchase will have some variant of the ETA Valjoux ("val-JOO") 7750 movement. Some manufacturers specify higher quality parts, or will hand tweak the movement, both of which have, IMO, questionable real-world impact on quality.

To answer your question - finally - yes, Omega is a fine brand, tho psm is right, a new one probably halves its value as you walk out the store. Do you care, if you're planning to wear it 20 years? Personally, I favor the German Sinn watches like the ST103 and the simpler 356. And if depreciation is an issue, you can let someonbe else take the hit by buying a used watch from the 'Sales Corner' at the above mentioned TimeZone, or from a high positive feed-back sellers on the 'Bay. I got a very nice Seamaster on a Speedmaster bracelet for about $800 on the 'Zone a few years back.
posted by mojohand at 12:04 PM on March 19, 2005

I am no watch expert--I own a regular old Swiss Army chronograph, although I would like, someday, to own something fancier. But my advice is: don't buy an Omega, or a Tag, or a Breitling, or any of those brands, because every 20-something investment banker with too much disposable income owns one. They are a little bland and without personality. If I were going to buy an expensive watch I'd want it to be something a little more special and boutique.
posted by josh at 1:01 PM on March 19, 2005

I don't know about buying watches, but I own an Omega which I inherited from my grandmother and it's a great watch. It's about 45 years old, and even though the model isn't made any more I've had no trouble getting repairs. I've managed to break it three times (I know, I'm careless) and had it sent off to Switzerland from Perth (WA), London and Amsterdam, and it's come back quickly every time.

I suppose josh is right that they "can be a little bland" - I guess I just prefer to think of mine as "classic."
posted by different at 2:04 PM on March 19, 2005

posted by mert at 2:32 PM on March 19, 2005

I'm with josh too: Omega's are a bit wannabe. I wear an Oris, which frankly keeps rubbish time (it is an automatic) - but I don't care because it's so damn sexy.
posted by forallmankind at 2:44 PM on March 19, 2005

I'm no watch expert (though I prefer swiss watches) but I read somewhere that for something to hand down to generations and keep value rolex was at the top, though I'm not a rolex fan.

Everything at tiffany is going to be nice, but severely overpriced, just like their diamonds.
posted by justgary at 2:49 PM on March 19, 2005

Bell & Ross (no relation) make beautifully plain watches, with all the functions you require, no fussy extra bits, Swiss made, etc. etc. I have a Vintage 120 (wedding present, in lieu of a ring) and it is beautifully made and certainly feels like it will last a lifetime, appropriately enough
posted by jonathanbell at 3:08 PM on March 19, 2005

I feel obliged to suggest that you consider why you want an expensive watch when a relatively inexpensive watch will keep excellent time and last a very long time. In my opinion, it is largely status that makes people buy a watch that costs more than a Seiko or a Citizen. A mechanical watch in a gold case will not keep time as well as a quartz movement but can cost over $10,000. I don't see the point.
posted by dclawyer at 4:56 PM on March 19, 2005

If you get a watch with a movement, it may last a lifetime, but it'll need regular servicing every 1-4 years to keep it running on time. The cost of this on my Blancpain moonphase is about $1300, so it's not negligible by any means. Patek and Audemars Piguet are two other lines that people frequently speak of wanting to pass down to their kids.

I think that if you're looking to buy a Swiss watch, it's more about what catches your eye and appeals to your sense of personal style. If I were a chronograph person instead of a moonphase person, I'd have an IWC, and if I were a big hulking hairy specimen, as so many chrono people seem to be (instead of a skinny-wristed geeky type) I'd want a Breitling instead.

I agree with dclawyer that there's no practical reason to do this, but not that it's pointless. It's an indulgence. It's supposed to make you happy. Have you ever taken a look at the insides of one of these? The really high end ones, like Pateks, have hand-beveled edges on every single tooth of every tiny little gear. They're marvels of human accomplishment. If you just want something that keeps good time, buy a Casio G-Shock - if that'll make you happy.

The watch hunt is almost more fun than the eventual acquisition you make. Check Time Zone, especially their Sales Corner - and have fun!
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:57 PM on March 19, 2005

Have you considered a few hundred cheap, fake Omegas? Quantity to last a lifetime and more with the same classic styling with none of the features you don't need. Just keep the ones you're not using in the plastic.
posted by saysthis at 8:13 AM on March 20, 2005

My Seiko is almost 23 years old and is still going strong. It's taken a lot af abuse, too. I think that I paid about $80 for it ...
posted by rfs at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2005

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