Luxury watches have become extremely expensive and the prices keep rising. For example, the Rolex Submariner originally cost $125 in 1953 which equates to $1300-1400 today adjusted for inflation. However, the Submariner now costs over $9100 which is 7 times more than it should based on inflation. In just the last few years, there have been huge price spikes on the Submariner, with a 10.5% increase in 2021 alone. While a strong Swiss Franc against weakening currencies like the US dollar contributes, luxury watch brands increasingly position themselves as luxury goods and feel justified in raising prices aggressively. I no longer feel these dramatic price increases are worthwhile.
The High Cost of Servicing Luxury Watches
Servicing a basic Rolex watch with hour, minute and date functions costs around $800 each time. For collectors with multiple luxury watches, these service costs can really add up over time. Many people try to avoid the costs by not servicing their watches regularly. However, if anything goes wrong, service charges may be exorbitant. Also, when you leave a luxury watch for service, it can take months to get it back. You won’t know the final charges until then either. Luxury brands like Rolex won’t return replaced parts, even though legally they are yours. Understandably, they don’t want to see valuable branded parts sold online. However, as the owner, it would be nice to have the option.
Excellent Alternative Options Exist
High Quality Homages
Well-made homages or replicas from brands like San Martin can provide comparable quality and finishing to luxury watches for $200-300. I’ve examined both under high magnification. The finishing and attention to detail in homages is excellent. Of course, the movements cannot compete. A $200 watch won’t have a 70-hour power reserve or anti-magnetic properties. However, many people don’t need high-end complications. As homage brands release more original designs, they gain more respect in the watch community.
Established Affordable Brands
Respected Japanese brands like Seiko, Orient, and Citizen offer heritage and quality comparable to luxury Swiss brands at a fraction of the price. For example, Seiko produces almost everything in-house so has impressive expertise. While these watches don’t carry the Swiss luxury cache, they provide great value for money.
Outstanding watches with amazing technical qualities can be found for $2000-3000. After that price point, you mostly pay for the luxury brand name. For example, what does a $10,000 Rolex provide beyond a $3000 Tudor Pelagos other than brand prestige? Luxury branding commands a premium, but may not enhance enjoyment.
A $500 watch can bring as much joy as a $10,000 one. After owning watches at all price points, I find enjoyment-to-price ratio highest with affordable pieces. Also, expensive watches bring anxiety about robbery and theft. Apart from in very safe places like Singapore, wearing a luxury watch attracts the wrong kind of attention. I rarely wear my most expensive watches now because I don’t want to get mugged. That diminishes their value to me. If resale prices fall, I would consider selling some of my luxury pieces to fund other interests. My opinions come from personal experience and may change. But for now, I find affordable watches most worthwhile.
In summary, luxury watch prices have skyrocketed while excellent alternatives are available for much less. Maintenance costs are prohibitive. And expensive watches often bring more anxiety than enjoyment. For these reasons, I have not purchased a luxury timepiece in 3 years. However, if circumstances change, my opinions may evolve as well.