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Paris, Great Britain
At auctions, limited edition watches of top Swiss brands reach prices of several million euros. A basic Patek Philippe model is worth more than 30,000 euro, while the cult Omega Speedmaster goes for about 6,000 euro. Such prices can make...
How much is an expensive watch? For everyone this means something different. I like the statement that there are no expensive things. There are only things we cannot afford. But the conventional lower limit of a high quality chronometer is +/- PLN 10,000. We’ll use that amount for the purpose of this text. Naturally, for people earning less than the national average that amount is certainly huge and a PLN 10K watch is sky high, but for business people, managers, directors or CEOs, this is not necessarily the case. I am not discussing the financial condition of different social groups here, but high quality watches made in Switzerland from the best possible materials, often manually, by qualified personnel, in a country where employees are decently remunerated, with a national average monthly salary of CHF 7,000 (with the current CHF/PLN rate +/- PLN 28,000).
Obviously, this does not mean that a watch worth PLN 2K, 3K or 8K will be poor quality, but the watchmakers’ industry is so distinctive and exceptional that a buy worth PLN 8K is not considered expensive, high quality or prestigious. Unless we are talking about the secondary market – but this is another, more complex issue, which should be analyzed taking each case into account separately. There are rules, but also many exceptions. Why buy an expensive watch then? There are several reasons.
In the times of quartz, smartphones and ubiquitous technology, an automatic watch has long ceased to be just a chronometer. A watch is a symbol of prestige, success, and social status. In interpersonal relations, a watch is our hallmark. It is also a form of non-verbal communication. And while it may seem that this small element may be overlooked – nothing could be further from the truth. We often watch watches subconsciously, they are clearly visible on our wrist. Our interlocutor will perceive us differently when we wear a good quality watch that matches our clothing than when we wear, say, a quartz sports watch with formal attire. Or to make matters worse, a counterfeit of a prestigious watch, which your interlocutor will spot. This is much easier than is generally thought, not only in the company of watch enthusiasts. Let us not forget that, in many professions, our suit, shirt, shoes and watch are the key “tools” at work. Many people representing such industries are well-versed in this subject. A watch on your wrist is also a synonym of punctuality or perfection. An expensive watch subconsciously “tells” our interlocutor that we are not going to sell our business cheap. This positions us higher in negotiations. Yes – a watch will not endow us with knowledge, competence or skills, but it can help us, and we should be aware of this. An expensive watch is a synonym of success.
It is not without reason that watches are frequent gifts for special occasions e.g. an 18th birthday, university graduation or anniversary. We often buy them to commemorate unique moments in our lives, such as the birth of a child or a promotion. A good watch will take us back to those moments for many, many years. There are not very many things which, if properly cared for, can be used every day and last a lifetime. After 10 years a new car is often no longer usable, and even top quality clothing will wear out. But a high quality automatic watch is a buy for generations, as is highlighted by the Patek Philippe advertising campaign slogan “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”. Watchmakers are some of only a very few manufacturers in the world that seek to make long-lasting products. Other industries launch new models every now and again and try to make us believe that the products we own are old and obsolete. Which is often true. However, the main reason behind this is to make a product that serves us well and trouble-free for a short time, usually the 2-year warranty period. It is hard to find a product other than a watch that is so universal and that, after several decades, not only does not depreciate but actually increases in value.
A wisely purchased watch is a good investment. When writing this, I mean, of course, a watch from a trusted source, with a set of accompanying documents and from a limited edition of a reputable brand. Such watches, made in small quantities and short series, are the ones most valued and desired by collectors later on. Obviously, these are usually the most expensive ones, and indeed these are usually the best capital investment. One of the most extreme cases is worth mentioning.
In 2014, Patek Philippe presented a watch for the 175th anniversary of the factory. An exceptional model, the Grandmaster Chime, only 7 copies were made, worth $2.6 million each, but even having such an pile of cash to spend did not guarantee you could buy a watch. Prospective buyers had to apply to purchase, and the decision about who to sell to was made by Thierry Stern, CEO, after an interview. This situation may seem strange, to say the least. But a favorable decision by the CEO meant a profit of several million the next day. There were quite a number of collectors on the market who wanted to buy the watch for a much higher a price. How many applications the CEO received, and who the watches went to, remains unknown. One thing is certain, if any of those watches appears on auction, it could beat all previous records.
Even a Rolex cannot give us extra time. But who among us is not an esthete? Especially among the readers of this blog? Expensive watches are almost always beautifully made of high quality materials with stunning design. We dream about Breguet, Omega, Breitling, Rolex, Porsche and Ferrari, not Casio or Fiat. Expensive watches are also more durable and scratch resistant, we can wear them when diving, and so on. Of course you can always say we can measure time with a PLN 100 rubber watch. But using that reasoning, we would never buy a Mercedes, Lexus or Bentley. A Daewoo Tico will also take us where we want to go. We can also eat at McDonald’s every day, travel by public transport and buy cheap clothing. Yes, we can.
So why are people willing to pay a million euros for a car that can reach a speed of more than 400km/h even if they never try to drive that fast? Why are people willing to buy range rovers even if they only watch wilderness programs on Discovery Chanel, sitting comfortably in an armchair drinking good whisky? Surely for the same reason they buy dive watches, etc. even if they can’t swim. I know a person who bought a really expensive dive watch and found out many years later that the bezel rotates. They hadn’t even realized what it was for. Not all purchasing decisions have to be clear and have a deeper, specific purpose. They are often a sign of a moment of weakness, snobbery, long-lasting dreams, ego overboost, or the desire to improve one’s self-esteem. Just for one’s satisfaction. For the awareness of having a unique object which only a few can afford.
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