There are two questions that, as a watch critic, I hate being asked. The first comes with alarming frequency, and is this: “What’s your favourite watch?” Often, before my hand can hit my face, it’s caveated by, “I’m sure you get that question all the time…” Or, “you probably don’t have one, but…” And worst of all, “perhaps you can’t say…”, as if to suggest I’m somehow beholden to a brand, but bound to a false creed of professional journalistic impartiality, and might – just for them – let my guard down.
The second is almost as irritating: “How much do you think I should spend on a watch?” This is usually motivated by a form of hyper-inverted snobbery, and a trap, albeit not a very good one.
It’s posed by someone who has already decided that I would only ever recommend buying a watch from the Argos catalogue if you are eight years old, and that I am one of a breed of pompous, out-of-touch elitists who thinks it could ever be right to spend more than £29.99 on something a smartphone can do much better.
Other times, the question is genuine, which is just as difficult to answer, but for different reasons. It assumes I know how much money you
It sounds obvious, I know, but there’s nothing sadder than hearing someone lament an impulse buy they later come to regret – a herpes watch. Scrutinise your purchase aesthetically. If you like the case shape, but the date window irks you, don’t buy it.
I know this makes me sound like a man who irons creases into the front of his trousers, but seriously, don’t get lumbered with a ball-and-chain watch. Remember that most watches are not an investment and are worth considerably less than you paid for them the moment you pay for them, and that you can still buy excellent mechanicals for a few hundred quid.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told a friend to forget the dream of an IWC for now, and to buy a Hamilton Khaki or an Oris ProPilot instead. They’ve never regretted taking my advice.
If you have to have that spendy watch, there is a way to make it affordable. A number of retailers offer interest free credit for up to 60 months. Watches of Switzerland, for example, will ask you for a 10 per cent deposit and then to pay the rest off in monthly instalments.
On a £3,000 watch, over a three-year term, that means a £300 deposit and 36 monthly payments of £75. That’s a NOMOS Glashütte Ahoi or a Bell & Ross BR 126 Officer Silver for less than your monthly council tax bill. I’ve not done it myself, but I can see why someone who backs themselves to be in a job for the next three years would.
It’s just as possible though, that you already have the money and are aware of the pitfalls, but still want some sound advice on what to buy.
Let’s say I’ve got £10,000 to spend. I could do a number of things. I could go out and get myself a new steel Vacheron Quai de l’Ile. I’d have to haggle a bit, but at the end of it, I’d have a watch that made me feel like Thomas Crown (yes, yes, I know Steve McQueen and Pierce Brosnan wore Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre). That would be a smart thing to do. Or I could sink it into an IWC Portugieser Automatic, with the blue hands and blue Arabic numeral dial, and be happy for the rest of my life. Probably.
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