For lovers of fine art and craftsmanship, Swiss watches have a place all their own in the luxury market. A true luxury watch blends form and function into an integrated work of wearable art. Appreciated for their beauty and prized for their accuracy, luxury Swiss watches represent the pinnacle of mechanical workmanship and artistic design.
The Swiss watchmaking industry has existed since the 16th century, and a number of today’s companies have been in business for several centuries. For those new to the luxury watch market, it’s important to be aware that, while many watches are advertised as having Swiss movements, a watch can be labeled as Swiss-made only if its entire movement has been made and assembled in Switzerland. After its manufacture, each Swiss-made watch is inspected for quality and authenticity.
Different Watch Types
Although quartz watches make up the vast majority of the contemporary luxury watch market, mechanical watches are also still available. Here is a breakdown of the differences between the two:
• Quartz: Quartz watches have an electronic mechanism which is powered by a battery. These watches are generally recognized as being far superior to mechanical watches in terms of accuracy.
• Mechanical: Unlike a quartz watch, a mechanical watch has a mechanism that is driven by a mainspring and regulated by a balance wheel. Mechanical watches need to be wound; however, some styles can wind themselves through the natural movement of the wrist; these are call self-winding watches.
Although their time-keeping properties may not always be as precise as a modern quartz watch, mechanical watches feature a fascinating, complex mechanism. For this reason, many watch connoisseurs and vintage watch collectors actually prefer them to their modern quartz counterparts.
There are different styles of watches for just about every lifestyle and occasion. Sports watches are favored by those who prefer a casual look, as well as those who lead an active outdoor lifestyle. Casual and fashion style watches are appropriate for all types of everyday wear. Dressy watch styles are popular with business people and entrepreneurs who want to make a good impression. For women who particularly love to sparkle, most luxury watch makers also offer a line of cocktail models, usually studded with gemstones and glamorous enough for the most formal occasions.
Among the most celebrated Swiss watch companies in the world, several stand out for the beauty, craftsmanship and innovative design ethic of their products. Here are some of the most popular luxury watch makers:
• Rolex: One of the premiere watchmakers in the world, Rolex offers some of the finest examples of the watchmaker’s art, producing timepieces that combine a distinctive, iconic design with precision timekeeping.
• Cartier: Cartier watches represent the haute couture branch of the watch industry, with high fashion, creatively innovative designs executed in precious metals.
• Movado: Along with Cartier, Movado watches are also prized for their high level of artistry, combining form and function in contemporary settings.
• TAG Heuer: Swiss-based TAG Heuer is especially famous for its durable, high quality sports watches.
• Omega: Manufactured since 1848, Omega is one of the oldest Swiss watch brands. Omega watches rank with Rolex and Patek Phillipe in terms of classic style, accuracy and durability.
• Tissot: A premiere luxury brand, Tissot Swiss watches are prized for their sleek design and high quality.
• Invicta: Invicta watches are an affordable entry in the luxury watch market. Invictas are especially popular because of their durable Swiss movements, trendy sport designs and inexpensive prices.
If you prize haute couture fashion above everything else, then luxury watches by Cartier, Michael Kors, Omega and Movado might suit your preferences. Those who value the timeless look, accuracy and durability of a world-class watch will do well to consider the models offered by Rolex, Patek Philippe and Tissot.
If you want a rugged, tough watch that can endure climate extremes, then you may want to consider investing in one of the high quality sports watches made by TAG Heuer. For budget-minded buyers looking for a sports watch, the Invicta brand offers durable timepieces at exceptionally low prices.
Features You’ll Want in a Luxury Watch
All luxury watches are not alike. Some watch connoisseurs prize design and cosmetic features, while others look for accuracy and durability. Before investing in a luxury watch, here are a few factors to consider.
• Water resistance: Contrary to popular belief, waterproof and water- resistant are not interchangeable terms. A waterproof watch is constructed to endure total submersion in water. Because of this, most scuba diving watches can be classed as waterproof. A water-resistant watch, however, usually can’t tolerate these levels of submersion. A water-resistant watch can be exposed to certain amounts of water, such as a rain shower. Likewise, if you’re in the swimming pool and you discover that you’ve left your water-resistant watch on, it should be unharmed as long as you remove it right away.
If you plan to regularly expose your watch to marine conditions such as swimming and diving, you’ll want to opt for a waterproof watch that’s especially geared for scuba diving. Some of the best diving watches also have other features such as waterproof bands and screw-down crowns for extra protection.
Additionally, the water tolerance of a watch is measured according to a special water resistance scale composed of numeric meters. According to this scale, the minimum rating of a watch used for scuba diving should be at least 200 meters. Before you buy a waterproof watch, check to see what its rating is.
• Shock resistance: There are specific standards of testing required before a wristwatch can be legally labeled shock resistant. In the United States, a watch is considered to be shock resistant if it can survive being dropped onto a wood floor from a maximum height of three feet.
Although this isn’t something you’d want to test on your own watch, if you’re planning to wear a wristwatch during certain outdoor activities, such as mountain climbing or diving, then you’ll want to choose a shock resistant sports watch.
• Chronograph: A chronograph is a sophisticated type of wristwatch that features a stopwatch function, as well as extra dials to measure hours and minutes separately. These dials can also help the wearer measure speed and distance during different activities. Chronographs can be an invaluable training tool for athletes such as runners, and can also be helpful for hikers and bikers.
• Calendar: Many watches, both luxury and otherwise, have calendars displaying the day, month and year. Luxury watches have more sophisticated perpetual calendars, which readjust themselves for date irregularities such as leap year.
• Alarm: Many watches feature an alarm buzzer or bell that can be set to go off at a specific time.
• Hacking mechanism: A hacking mechanism causes the second hand to stop so the watch can be set to a precise second. This synchronizing tool was once found primarily on military watches, but is now a common feature on luxury watches as well.
• Moon phase: This is a rotating disk under the dial which displays the current phase of the moon.
• International time zone dials: These are separate dials on a watch face which display the time in different zones and major international cities.
• Repeater: A repeater is a function that chimes the hours when a button is pressed. Repeaters are generally found in only the most costly luxury watches.
• Skeleton back: Some luxury watches have a clear back, so that if the watch is turned around, its works are completely exposed to view.
For many watch collectors, the the design aesthetic of the timepiece is as important as the accuracy of its mechanism. Luxury watch cases can be crafted in gold, platinum, sterling silver, stainless steel and titanium, and studded with gemstones such as diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Watch faces can be made out of precious metals, stainless steel, titanium and porcelain.
The band style also plays an important part in the design aesthetic of a luxury watch. Many watch wearers prefer the comfort of a leather strap that conforms to the wrist, while others like the looser, heavier fit of a metal band. For both men and women, these bands can be made of precious metals and set with jewels.
How Much Does a Luxury Watch Cost?
Luxury watches are generally quite expensive, because you’re paying for hours of labor by highly-skilled craftsmen who are using the finest materials available. As with any work of art, the making of a great, Swiss-made luxury watch requires an extraordinary amount of skilled craftsmanship and takes hours of labor to create.
The investment, however, is worthwhile, because a luxury watch is made to last for generations. These timepieces are often passed down as family heirlooms, and it’s not uncommon to hear of fine Swiss watches, such as Patek Philippe or Rolex models, that were made a century ago and are still in excellent working condition.
Luxury watches can cost tens of thousands of dollars, especially if they’re made of precious metals and encrusted with gems. Stainless steel luxury watches can still cost several thousand dollars, although some brands offer basic models for $500 and up. For those who can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars for a watch, companies such as Invicta have found a way to produce affordable luxury watches priced from $100-$300.
Vintage and Pre-Owned
For many lovers of luxury watches, a brand new watch is simply unattainable because of price considerations, but a vintage or pre-owned luxury watch may be an attractive alternative. A pre-owned Rolex watch in excellent condition can cost less than half the price of a new Rolex. In the world of vintage watches, however, it’s definitely buyer beware, because fake Patek Philippe and Rolex watches abound. It’s also important to make sure that you purchase your pre-owned luxury watch from a reputable dealer; otherwise, you may end up buying a timepiece that needs major repair work costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Watch repairs are both costly and time consuming. Depending on the model of your watch, you may have to wait several days or even weeks for a watchmaker to get the right parts. The good news is, luxury watches are made to be durable. If you’ve purchased your watch from a reputable dealer and you know that it’s a genuine product, then chances are you’re not going to be sending it out for repairs anytime soon.
The best way to stay out of the watch repair shop is to get your watch cleaned and serviced by a professional watch repairer on a regular basis. A standard watch cleaning also includes lubricating parts and checking for problems that could impede accuracy and precision. Your luxury watch should come with a manual instructing you as to how often you should get the watch cleaned and serviced. If properly maintained, your watch will reward you with decades of impeccable timekeeping.
If you’ve never experienced the thrill of having a magnificent, state-of-the-art timepiece on your wrist, then you should consider investing in a Swiss-made luxury watch. No matter what brand or style you choose, you can rest assured that you’re getting a timepiece that will last — and bring you pleasure — for the rest of your life.