Buying Time: What To Look For When Purchasing Your First Luxury Watch


Quiet luxury has now made it to common parlance, mostly used to describe products that are free from logos but bear testimony to the owner’s wealth and perhaps taste. Screaming that you’re moneyed is passé; your wealth now has to speak in hushed tones, in whispers. Horology is a passion perfectly suited to this concept of stealth wealth.

The making of watches is considered a coveted art form that is enjoying a resurgence after the ebb of a chaotic influx of smartwatches. Aficionados of this art form will rarely need to see a dial or logo to be able to spot the signature of a watchmaker. A cursory glance at a wrist across the room, a handshake, and they could easily list the year, the collection, and the details of the bezel.


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This elite clique has everyone’s attention—watches have proved to be a great investment, social media has hyped and amplified their worth, and now everyone wants access. There’s also the fact that they make for great family heirlooms, and someone who appreciates a pun would surely enjoy passing on the gift of time to the next generation.

Many are abandoning their smartwatches for the quiet, uninterrupted offering of luxury timepieces. If you’re drawn to the intricacies of watches and are wanting to make a purchase that goes beyond the brand names but are unsure of how to go about it, our guide to buying luxury watches has inputs from watch enthusiasts and horologists.

Jehangir Readymoney, HOD of Timepieces at AstaGuru Auction House, would suggest delving into the history of the brand first. “In the watch world, history is everything. You can have a brand that has a signature watch that is recognised by just a glance. Even the bracelet is in a league of its own. Take, for instance, the Rolex President Bracelet—the three-piece link metal bracelet is unique and renowned, so iconic, you could spot it across a room.”


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Rizwan Bachav, a luxury watch enthusiast from Mumbai, confirms that brand legacy should play a significant role in your watch purchase. “Research reputable brands that are known for their quality, craftsmanship and heritage.” He goes on to say that a timepiece based on an important milestone event could also be a great buy. “It could be a vintage watch, probably launched during a World War. You start aligning towards things you are passionate about—sports, art, etc. Some watches even have hand-painted art on them.”

Both Readymoney and Bachav emphasise that timekeepers that you invest in must have a connection with you. Readymoney says, “Buy what you love. That is the main criterion because you are going to wear that watch and it’s expressing your personality. Then, you should look into multiple levels of craftsmanship.”

The intricacy of craftsmanship involved in watchmaking is unparalleled. In 2020, Swiss and French mechanical watchmaking earned the UNESCO intangible heritage status, an accolade bestowed on a select few. In this world, craftsmanship is held in high regard, and for a first-time buyer, this could be intimidating. Bachav breaks it down, “Craftsmanship distinguishes a watch’s quality and attention to detail. Look for movement, finishing, materials, the dial’s design, the finishing of hands, and a well-crafted strap or bracelet.”

Readymoney says, “Case shapes are distinctive to brands, so you could look at that. Panerai Luminor’s case design is legendary, featuring a contemporary take on vintage watches from the ‘50s. Audemars Piguet’s eight exposed hexagonal screws that attach to the octagonal bezel is pretty unique. Breguet has a finishing on the side of the case, called the coin edge finish, that’s exclusive to them.”


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It’s about now that a first-time buyer should familiarise themselves with the term ‘holding value’, colloquially known as resale value. While it shouldn’t be a deal breaker, having an appreciating asset in your wardrobe doesn’t hurt. Bachav says, “Most collectors don’t buy a watch for reselling, but there is merit in the knowledge that the watch you bought two years back for six lakhs is now selling in the secondary market for upwards of 20 lakhs. Watches are now seen as an investment. It’s beyond just owning a watch and it being an accessory or jewellery. A lot of these watches have a resale value, and that matters. Brands like Rolex or Patek Philippe or Audemars demand a premium in the secondary market that is unheard of!”

The appeal of timepieces lies in their value, augmented by their rarity and ability to weather the passage of time, with little to show for it. Perhaps it’s time to invest in one or reach for seconds (you see what I did there?).

Find ELLE’s latest issue on stands or download your digital copy here.

- Digital Editor


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