What's the appeal of watches over $5k?

I totally understand guys that don't like Chinese brands. I don't either. I think their names are stupid and their quality control is normally poorer and I would feel really stupid wearing a "Pagani Design" (not the car manufacturer but the popular watch brand that is ripping off the name). 

But there are Japanese / American / British / German brands with many decades of history and good production quality that cost a few hundred bucks. Like the one pictured above (I know not everyone likes that exact style, it's just an example.) 

And I even understand the appeal of spending $1-2k to get really fancy lume or tritium or exceptional finishing from some of the lower priced Swiss brands. 

But what pushes you to shop for watches over $5k / $25k / $100k? 

Especially when the designs don't have anything very special. - I mean most Rolex / Omega / JLC / Patek / AP watches that I see are made of steel with a simple dial and don't have any tourbillions or diamonds etc. 

Do you just love the designs that much? 

Or is it for status? 

Or the exclusivity/rarity? 

Is it an emotional connection to the brand?

Or do you have so much money that price doesn't matter? 

Or do the cheaper brands not have enough dressy options? 

Or do you not have the time to search for lower priced options that you also like? 

Or do you just feel the same about Citizen and Casio as I feel about Curren and Skmei? (That they are a bit crap) 

Or some other reasons? 

Doesn't it sometimes feel like a bit of circle jerk? (Especially with the watches that cost tens of thousands) - I mean we're paying huge amounts - just to get the same status as other people who also pay huge amounts.. 🤔 

I don't mean this as a personal attack. Someone who's happy with Chinese homages could say the same thing about my medium budget watches. 

I personally think they would be wrong to say that. - I'm sure Casio and Citizen do make significant profits over the actual production costs, so I'm certainly also paying for the brand name and status to some degree. - But I am getting significant quality and feature upgrades when I spend a few hundred rather than $40. - Whereas far above a grand or two I just fail to see where the real value is. 

And quite the opposite - if I were to spend $5k I would feel like I was just giving money to these companies for no reason. 

And that's why I'm asking. Maybe I'm just being closed minded and not seeing the big picture. 

Cheers. 🍻

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There's many reasons why. Personally for most watch enthusiast is brand/watch heritage. Personally I love Pilot watches so Citizen, Laco and many other affordable brands are in my collection. As I move up or even down the latter I want those Pilot watches with significant history which many can very well pass the 5k. Pilot watches like Cartier Santos, Breitling Navitimer, IWC big Crown Pilot, Breguet, Rolex GMT and many others. Also I want affordable watches like Glycine Airman, Stowa, Bulova A-15 and accutron astronaut the list goes on ...so to me is not so much the money but the history of the watch.

This watch cost me 80 bucks I love the bang for the buck and the dial color.

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Then I spent 2200 USD for this German watch which they only made a very limited number for WW2 and once they re-release it I had to get it. That's just my point of view.

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For me it's just the product. I don' care about branding or heritage beyond what that means for after sales support. 

Could be materials, if you want a watch made from gold, platinum or some hard to work with case material like sapphire or (polished) tantalum it's what you have to pay because there is a cost involved (unless corners are cut elsewhere).

I find that watches around 5000 can be significantly nicer looking and feeling than watches for 1000. Often it's bracelets and clasps but also some details like how well the dial and case is executed/finished. I personally can see a difference, not always but often. I don't think there is anything at the 2000 price point that can truly compete with the way a Seamaster 300 Diver in its current form sparkles when you see it in person. 

In some case you of course can get the looks for way less. So why pay over 5 grand grand for an uninspired Rolex OP 36 if you can have this for 10% of the price, after all they look very similar from 1m away...

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I can tell you as someone who owns both this and a 36mm Rolex, there is significant difference in terms of how they feel. Whether that's worth it for me is something I decide on a case by case basis. 

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I have three Pagani design watches. All have Seiko movements and I haven't had issues with any of them. They are easily on a par with other watches I have which cost 4 times as much. 

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I think especially with mechanical watches, the pricier brands usually do a better job with QA, presentation, finishing, and generally put more thought on the overall experience.

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For example, my Cle de Cartier is obviously inspired by 60/70s watches but also pretty unique in design. The watch is superbly finished, and runs well within COSC out of the box (which seems to be what many people have been getting) even though it's not COSC certified. It's also Cartier, so there's that brand name factor too. It also came in the "iconic" red Cartier case, which could be a plus. In addition, Cartier boutiques have been an absolute pleasure to visit for me.

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On the other hand, my Citizen Skyhawk often makes me wonder what the point of getting watches over 1000US$ is. The grade 5 titanium case is beautifully finished, has a unique design, is robust in terms of durability and movement function-wise, etc. Sure Citizen's not a fancy company, but still a well respected one (albeit, probably much more respected outside the watch community). The watch came in a cool tactical box, and the Citizen reps were always super cool and down to Earth.

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I do hope to add one more luxury watch someday that is the Tudor Pelagos. As I understand grade II titanium is harder to work with, the details in the dial are very appealing, and there are 5 lines of text to remind me why the watch cost me so much. In addition, the overkill of 500M WR with the helium escape valve and COSC certification makes this watch seem like the ultimate diver you can get from a renowned brand. I also feel like this would make a perfect duo with the Skyhawk, two titanium watches at the top of their respective game.

So in short: design, functionality, luxury options, and brand name.

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I'm probably not the one to answer this question in terms of a watch owning, I will answer more as a branding specialist. A lot of things form the added cost of the product and the more expensive the product is, the more subtle the reasoning for the added cost is going to be. But the reason is there every time. If you have a nice product for 100$ it will be significantly better than the same product for 50$ (as in your example with Chinese watches). The difference in quality between 100 and 150 will be less, the difference between 150 and 200 even less, and on and on to the point where the 1000$ difference is based on the detail you wouldn't even notice. So 2 similar products in quality could have 2-time price difference if one possesses something the other doesn't (heritage, engineering detail, brand image, design detail). The market is very adaptive and clever. If you are looking for the best option for you in a certain budget you will always see a minor detail that you would like to have in a more expensive piece and if you can pay, you will, if you can't you would compromise. 5K+ watch is for the people who are not ready to compromise. The quality, engineering, service, design, heritage have to be absolutely perfect. If we are talking about 50K sports watch with 3 hands it is all about desirability. The companies play the strings of souls of people – look, this Hollywood star is wearing the same, it is limited edition and you will be one of 500 in the world owning that (including that Hollywood star). You can't get that piece easily and if you did you are better than most of the others. And if many people want a watch you can pump up the price to the point where you have only 1 potential buyer for 1 piece. 

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Would you rather:

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Or:

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?

For me the answer is clear. I value a good movement, even over the design of a watch. I value nice materials, I value the time that went into making the watch. It’s a craftsmanship and a certain kind of art. This is all luxury, so there’s really no clear borders. 5.000$ is an artificial limit that might sound well-placed for you, but is it for everybody?

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Not being a watchmaker able to appreciate high horology features on a caliber or exquisite man made perlage and anglage on movement parts, nor a wealthy individual in pursuit of the ultimate Cartier Tank Cintrée collection, I totally get your viewpoint.

In a recent video, Jody from JOMW mentionned that he would never buy an IWC pilot watch, because he could get 90 % of the experience from a sub € 1 K Laco Flieger. Which is true.

So, unless you have the sharp eye and knowledge of Roger Smith or really large disposable income, I think it's mostly a matter of self-confidence. Spending a lot should make you feel good about your choice. And there are only so many opportunities to feel good in life

In my early years in this hobby (been about ten in total now), I bought a 39 mm Rolex Explorer, then a (very nice) Omega Seamaster 300, both great watches but that I was not comfortable wearing because of how much money they did cost (and that was 3/4 years ago !). But I felt spending € 5 K was the rite of passage to be an estimed member of the watch community, and proudly walk into RedBar meet-ups and similar GTGs. Higher levels of Maslow's pyramid

Then my eyes opened to the reality :

  1. with a few rare exceptions, absolutely no one cares about how much you have spent on your watch. Even in GTGs, most guys are too engrossed in whatever they have on the wrist, because they are looking to flip it or still beaming from their latest purchase experience, to give more than a cursory glance at your wristgear. Even if it's a 5711 or a series A Royal Oak. You're alone on this one, mate.
  2. watch dealership is a high gross margin business, because of associated costs and large working capital. In order to achieve this, pre-owned watch dealers will not pay more than 50 % of what you paid for your watch, and sell it two hours later at 90 % of its retail price (unless its one of these hot models we all know, in which case it will be 250 % of retail price).

Do you really want to see your hard earned savings vanish in thin air for a brief moment of gratification ? When you're old, poor, alone and about to die, will your non hacking Vacheron Constantin gold Overseas bring you relief ?

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In general, I have to say it's a combination of supply and demand, the latter being based on marketing, and the inherent feedback loop of a Veblen good. There are of course exceptions and other aspects, but I feel that's the elephant in the room.

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Everyone has their price point. Subscribers on Watchcrunch have varying degrees of income, net worth and disposable cash.  For me, I wonder why anyone would pay more than $15,000 for a watch.  I just don’t see the point.  There is no shortage of good options below that price point. 
 

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I think the biggest reason people buy $5K+ watches is pretty simple. They can. 

Marketing, status, finishing, and materials all factor in, but the biggest really comes down to having the income/credit to buy one. 

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Given that everyone carries a phone with instant access to the time, date and even changes daylight saving time, a watch is pretty much superfluous to requirements. The time is on your laptop and place of work. It's on the dashboard of your car. Its everywhere. 

So what are watches? Jewellery. And what is jewellery about? Context. You have something to say about yourself. A proper manufacturer has developed a watch, designed it and marketed. it. So when you wear it, everyone else has seen that marketing and knows what type of person you want to convey about yourself.

That's why lots of brands don't really work. The specs might be there, but they aren't distinctive and there's no context.

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For some people, a $5K piece is the same as purchasing a $500 piece.

For me, there will be only one $1K+ watch, the Speedy.

It will encapsulate the story of my life which will be sort of a parallel to the moon landing. 

But like everything, all products do not have an equal cost to quality ratio. Some of the $5K+ pieces will be worth it, others won't. 

It's our job as buyers to determine which do and we are willing to spend money on & which don't and we are not willing to spend money on.

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Watches are a silly thing to be interested in, but they make us feel a certain way (or we wouldn't be here).  

Different things make people feel whatever way they want watches to make them feel.  For some it's history, others finishing, others functionality, others a perceived "value", still others status.  

They're all perfectly good reasons.  

If this thread is about value, then everyone has their own threshold or calculation.  I've got an interest sweet spot in the $500-2500 range, but that's just me.

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It can be for many reasons. It depends on the type of person.

A $100k Patek on a CEOs wrist versus $500k Richard Mille on an influencers. They are both probably flexing, and clearly they were motivated to part (or someone else did as a gift) with cash for that privilege - some are faking it and adding to the illusion of ‘success’, some have grafted long and hard to get to (and stay at) the top - I believe that Mark Cavendish wore a RM, which he was gifted by RM as a cycling fan.

However, must of us, to varying degrees are lucky to sit in the ‘I, too, want a taste of the good life and have access to the luxury market to indulge‘ and go out and spend more than some might deem appropriate on functional jewellery.

If someone wants to pay silly money for a timepiece that’s on them :) Me? I have been lucky to get my Seamaster and love it to bits! Even after a couple of years, barely a day goes by that I don’t wear it and raise a smile when I look at it… it’s weird to many I’m sure!

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bikerbill

I have three Pagani design watches. All have Seiko movements and I haven't had issues with any of them. They are easily on a par with other watches I have which cost 4 times as much. 

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I have 3 Pagani Design watches with seik meca quarts and the finish on them is far beyond what they cost

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Sometimes it's a misguided attempt to impress others. Sometimes it's a token of reassurance to one's self that they are "successful". Sometimes the advertising just hit when they were at their most impressionable. And sometimes it's a Rolex, which is the only kind of watch that actually can impress others so you'll pay what you have to pay.

And quite often it's one rich person attempting to passive-aggressively one-up another rich person.