Sunday, November 23, 2008

Horological Topography I: The Price Ladder

It is difficult to talk about "fine" or "quality" watches in general, since the meaning of such descriptive terms is very relative. So to make this all a bit more specific, I'm going to start by breaking down watches into three major categories, by price, with some additional subcategories. This is fairly arbitrary, I admit, but it will provide one clear reference point when discussing the many variables of watch quality. Prices are street.
    Consumer Watches ($50 or less)
    Affordable Watches
    • Entry level ($50-$300)
    • Mid-range ($300-$800)
    • High end ($800-$2000)
    Luxury Watches
    • Entry level ($2000-$6000)
    • Mid-range ($6000-$20,000)
    • High end ($20,000 and up)
Consumer Watches: These are your basic Wal-Mart watches, brands like Timex, Casio and Armitron, and all those countless fashion watch brands that do not actually make watches themselves, but know people with factories in China that do. If your only interest is keeping time, they are by far the best value. They are also the only watches that the vast majority of people will ever wear. But they are cheaply made and do not much interest us here.

Affordable Watches: These are the watches that interest here, because they are generally fine, quality watches. And among quality watches, they offer the best value for price. They are constructed from high-grade materials, with smart designs (many of them, anyway), and built by very capable robots. Actually, most will receive some personal attention from human watchmakers as well, and overall quality is high. This segment is dominated by the Japanese giants Citizen and Seiko, though both also have some entry level luxury lines as well. They are your typical jewelry store watch. There are also a few Swiss brands in the low end, like Swatch and the various Swiss army brands, but especially in the mid-range and high end one also finds Swiss makers like Ball, Hamilton, Fortis, Glycine, Oris, Tissot and numerous smaller concerns. These are all good brands.

There are also a number of upscale fashion brands in the low end of this category, many owned by Fossil, Movado, and other fashion conglomerates, or OEMd by Timex, or made by contract in unguessable Chinese factories. These are less interesting. There is also the very popular Invicta brand, a Florida company that manufactures in Asia. There is much debate about Invicta, in part because their quality and service is uneven, but the brand has its fans. Finally, Russia has a rich tradition of watchmaking and has recently started marketing its better products to the West, especially under the Vostok Europe brand. Even more interesting are the high-end Russia-only brand watches, made by companies like Buran and Poljot, with mechanical chronograph movements of Swiss design made on Swiss machinery. All of these fall comfortably into affordable watch territory.

Luxury Watches: These watches are very interesting, but not to me, since I will never own one. This is the domain of the manufactures of the Swiss canton of Jura and the German craftsmen of Glassh├╝tte. In the low end one starts to find the familiar Swiss brands of Omega, Rolex and TAG Heuer. Then in the mid-range and high end are found the handcrafted, micro-mechanical wonders of world-famous manufactures like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantine, as well as the work of smaller "independents" like F.P. Journe. If this is what interests you, browse on over to The Purists. If they sound elitist, well, they can afford to be.

This blog is devoted to affordable watches, and skewed somewhat to the lower end. These are fine watches any middle-class person can afford. They do not receive as much attention from many watch collectors for that same reason. But their value is excellent. In subsequent posts we'll take a closer look at just what makes a fine watch fine.

1 comment:

Ed Devin said...

I accidentally viewed your blog and I was so amazed with your work that it touched the deepness of my heart and it made me sentimental. Thanks for posting. Visit my site to buy rolex replique