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Help me understand watches and value

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Cary Grant, Oct 13, 2008.

  1. zjpj83

    zjpj83 Well-Known Member

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    On the other hand you could make the same analogies about hand-stitched and mechanically stiched garments, or between leather and rubber shoe-soles.
    Or between ANYTHING that is made simply to serve its utilitarian function and its less run-of-the-mill counterpart.

    Exactly my point.
     
  2. coolpapa

    coolpapa Well-Known Member

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    I always knew that. [​IMG] However, that does not take away my curiosity over the cult-like followings that mechanical watches seem to have.
    Why would you argue about this on StyleForum forum? This isn't any different than arguing about bespoke vs OTR or any of the other multitude of debates that have already taken place here about style over substance. Is a $6K bespoke suit that much better than a $1.5K OTR suit, etc?
     
  3. johnnyblazini

    johnnyblazini Well-Known Member

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    If you go by technology, quartz is the most superior technology around. Yet, for whatever reason, quartz watches aren't particularly popular among the watch aficionados.

    Personally, to me, expensive mechanical watches are analogous to spending a load of money on a steam engine driven vehicle when you've modern automobiles with ICEs (i.e. quartz watches).

    No matter how pretty, it is still a steam engine.


    I tend to agree with this, too bad no-one makes nice looking Quartz watches...
     
  4. johnnyblazini

    johnnyblazini Well-Known Member

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    Why would you argue about this on StyleForum forum? This isn't any different than arguing about bespoke vs OTR or any of the other multitude of debates that have already taken place here about style over substance. Is a $6K bespoke suit that much better than a $1.5K OTR suit, etc?

    Bespoke fits, wears, and looks better.

    Mechanical watches do not fit, wear or look better (well, they look better, but not as a result of the mechanics).
     
  5. johnnyblazini

    johnnyblazini Well-Known Member

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    After my two comments, a disclaimer: I actually find mechanical watches facinating, but I also find this facination to be very illogical... I would love to rationalize this into why it makes sense to spend 10K on an instrument of lesser precision, but in my quest to be throughly logical, I find this very difficult...
     
  6. gdl203

    gdl203 Well-Known Member

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    Mix of art and function. There's no logic in finding value in art. Yes, one can always try to bring it back to number of man hours, quality of materials, price of ultra-skilled labor, etc... but at the end, it's about either passion for the art of watchmaking, or it's about exclusivity and status, or both. I know many watch collectors that fit at various places along that continuum.
     
  7. Metlin

    Metlin Well-Known Member

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    Another way to answer your riddle is to say that what might be an enormous sum of money to you might not be quite so enormous to others.

    This answer does not explain all cases, but it explains many of them.


    - B


    Fair enough. The thought hadn't escaped me; however, I doubt if I would be cavalier about a 140k watch, no matter how much money I had.

    But that could just be me.
     
  8. huy

    huy Well-Known Member

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    Bespoke fits, wears, and looks better. Mechanical watches do not fit, wear or look better (well, they look better, but not as a result of the mechanics).
    A nice OTR can easily be tailored to fit and look good on you for a fraction of the price of a bespoke.
    After my two comments, a disclaimer: I actually find mechanical watches facinating, but I also find this facination to be very illogical... I would love to rationalize this into why it makes sense to spend 10K on an instrument of lesser precision, but in my quest to be throughly logical, I find this very difficult...
    High end time pieces are rather accurate; they are only off a couple seconds a day if that. Who really needs to be more than a minute accurate in a day realistically? If you wore that watch every day, you would be off about a minute after a month. When you're buying these $10k+ watches it's really not logical at all no matter how much you convince yourself. It's just a desire to own something that is world class. Something that a craftsman spent hours upon hours working on. On another note, real high end watches does not need advertising. It is useless and devalues their product. These high end houses have a very special customer base, a very small, wealthy one. They could care less if the average joe has heard of them, they only care about those that can afford it.
     
  9. djf881

    djf881 Well-Known Member

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    Fair enough. The thought hadn't escaped me; however, I doubt if I would be cavalier about a 140k watch, no matter how much money I had.

    But that could just be me.


    Very few people are. They don't make a lot of them.
     
  10. djf881

    djf881 Well-Known Member

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    Bespoke fits, wears, and looks better.

    Mechanical watches do not fit, wear or look better (well, they look better, but not as a result of the mechanics).



    It's purely aesthetic. People think the clockwork is beautiful, and the fact that it is much more complicated makes it exclusive. People like the fact that the thing has a beating heart. The mechanical movements are kind of fascinating.

    And there's an appreciation of the history; many of these watches have been upgraded only subtly over a period of decades.

    I was going to compare it to classic cars, but I think a better analogy would be a sailboat. There is no reason to sail anywhere, yet people continue to build and refine sailboats.

    Similarly, why continue to keep horses, which require feeding and stable services and are inferior to cars or motorcycles?
     
  11. Yanqui

    Yanqui New Member

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    Sometimes a picture says more than a thousand words.......

    Enjoy.

    Y

    [​IMG]
     
  12. djf881

    djf881 Well-Known Member

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    If I had a DRSD, I would sell it. The prices on vintage Rolex have ballooned in the last few years, and I don't think that phenomenon will survive the economic downturn.
     
  13. micbain

    micbain Well-Known Member

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    Mix of art and function. There's no logic in finding value in art. Yes, one can always try to bring it back to number of man hours, quality of materials, price of ultra-skilled labor, etc... but at the end, it's about either passion for the art of watchmaking, or it's about exclusivity and status, or both. I know many watch collectors that fit at various places along that continuum.
    I think this is the best answer. Buying watches crosses from utility to hobby/interest/passion for people who are willing to spend thousands, tens of thousands and more for watches. If you have this interest/passion for horology then you can understand the value of watches but if you don't have this interest/passion then it makes no sense at all. Either you get it or you don't.
     
  14. Tarmac

    Tarmac Well-Known Member

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    I still don't understand the confusion. How is this different from any other hobby with a wide range of products which are priced varyingly?
     
  15. huy

    huy Well-Known Member

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    I still don't understand the confusion. How is this different from any other hobby with a wide range of products which are priced varyingly?
    It not any different. People just think its outrageous to pay so much money for something so small that you can use a cellphone for.
     
  16. Metlin

    Metlin Well-Known Member

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    It not any different. People just think its outrageous to pay so much money for something so small that you can use a cellphone for.

    I wouldn't necessarily say outrageous - merely curious.

    I mean, you are free to do with your money as you will. There is no reason for another person to be outraged by that. However, it is indeed a most curious matter...
     
  17. Cary Grant

    Cary Grant Well-Known Member

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    And I am not questioning those who pay large amounts as a hobbyist and because they choose to afford it. I was looking to understand where the break point is between the tech of the watch truly being a key price factor to where the large leaps in pricing are more driven simply by brand/forced scarcity (ala Ferrari for example) and the answers here have helped me understand that.
     
  18. swiego

    swiego Well-Known Member

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    I think you are skipping a cost paradigm, namely labor. It's possible for the "tech" to stop at maybe $2,000 (just to toss out a number) while labor costs due to craftsmanship (all that hand carving and ornate detail) carry the price well into the five figure range before "brand/margins" begins to enter the picture. No doubt, eventually it does, but all that handiwork has a price tag.

    Imagine for the sake of argument, $50/hour x 4 person weeks = $8,000. Now, I have no idea what the labor cost nor labor hours (as a result of the "frills" handiwork) is, but plug in any set of reasonable numbers and you'll come up with a labor cost that far outweighs the cost of the raw materials or the technology itself. Does that labor cost go all the way up to the actual retail cost of the watch? I doubt it; I'm sure there are nice healthy profit margins on these things. But I bet it gets you a good portion of the way.
     
  19. Enfant

    Enfant Active Member

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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cary Grant
    Thanks for the reply- I'm not trying to analogize cars/watches. rather, simply using that as an example of my understanding of one business case.

    From what others are saying here, however, I believe they'd disagree with you if you leave out the quality of the works and the cost involved. the "mass-produced" nature of a $150 Seiko versus the hand-made engineering of a higher-end watch alone creates a significant price differential.
    Exactly. If I had to identify the element of the cost, it would be: (i) R&D on the watch, (ii) labor of the watchmakers, and (iii) marketing/goodwill/intangibles. Some people here are suggesting that it's all (iii), and they're wrong.


    --Sure. As to quality, it is debatable, depending on which measures you are using. A $150 Seiko is widely agreed to be of higher reliability than a $45000 Patek, lets say, because of fewer moving mechanical parts. The problem with quality is that it is a moving target. Why? For example, the quality differences (movement finish, applied numerals on dials, hands...) for a $3500 Jaeger is nearly the same as a $15000 Patek; some Pateks, like the 5196 (which I like by the way!) even have printed dials. Therefore, it is very hard to justify quality in terms of such a vast pricing chasm. So we know quality has nothing to do with it, at least to a certain point. Second, the more complications you have, the higher the bar. Soon you will come to some point where there are fewer comparable watches for you to measure quality. So it is not a useful yardstick at all.

    On the point about the labor of watchmakers, sure, salaries in Switzerland are higher than Japan and certainly over China. But the differences in the order of a 300-600 fold over a Seiko watch clearly do not commensurate with a similar wage structure for a similar number of watch makers. Patek is pretty big too, and Seiko has other businesses that can share costs, and so I am making this qualified comparison.

    It just does not make sense...If you asked me now, I suppose there is always that R & D, da Vinci innovative factor in all higher complications for mechanical watches: complications no one needs but everyone wants. Then this must certainly show the more prevalent factor over pricing differences, which is snob value. The higher you climb, the more distinctive you are. I don't think we are far from this in the watch industry.
     
  20. djf881

    djf881 Well-Known Member

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    Not sure it's forced scarcity with the Ferraris and Pateks and similar products. The scarcity is the nature of the thing, because part of the allure is that it the product is handmade. You can't scale up the supply of that kind of highly-specialized labor significantly without suffering a decline in quality.

    The Swiss watchmaking industry has shrunk in the number of workers it employs and the number of watches it produces. And there are a lot more precious metals, a lot more decorations on movements and a number of other improvements to drive up costs. These were the state of the art tech in the 1960s, and if you were a WWII commando or an Ian Fleming-era Cold War spy, you needed a Rolex or a Panerai or whatever.

    In the wake of newer, cheaper technologies, clockwork has remained relevant as a luxury item, just like sailboats and horses and handmade shoes. Think about it this way: A good watch is the only thing in your wardrobe that you can wear every day for several decades.

    The extremely expensive watches are for people who just don't care about the money. $150k Perpetual moonphase whatever in solid platinum is for the guy with a $50 million apartment, a $50 million jet, and a few hundred million that he can't think of anything to do with. There are people for whom the cost of these watches represents a smaller percentage of income than the cost of an iphone to guys like us.

    On the other hand, there are some guys on some of the watch forums who seem to be very middle class, but own a half dozen Rolexes for some reason anyway, and seem to have rationalized this as some manner of saving for retirement. That is dumb.
     

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