How do watches at different price points compare? (One completely autistic and orthogonal take)

So, in another thread, @roberto wrote:

Are you taking post requests, @HotWatchChick69? Because as someone who will most likely never live day to day with a watch that costs over $500-$1000, I am curious about how your watches compare to each other? Given the love you have and express for your watches that are under that threshold and the fact that you have extensive experience with watches that go for much, much more, I’d love to read your thoughts on how they compare. What is build quality for you? How noticeable is it on the day to day? Are your purchases trending downward in price? What has the price graph looked like for you over the years and how would you explain the inflections, if any? Etc. 

I am seriously eager to learn from your extensive experience. Because with my limited experience, which is biased too by my upbringing with regard to spending, my aversion to speculative markets, my distaste for displays of wealth, and my skepticism towards legacy/inheritance/etc, I just don’t get much of the fuss over watches beyond that price range and even less so with each additional step up in price. I like to think I have an open mind and I enjoy reading your reflections, so consider this a petition.

So, this is my attempt at answering!  As always, like all my posts, this one is incredibly meandering and 90% of the response is focused on context-setting, and mostly the answer is entirely orthogonal to the question!

Strawberry ice cream is OBJECTIVELY better than chocolate ice cream?  Really???

Ultimately, I think that what makes watch collecting so interesting is that watches have a myriad of features and aspects to them, any one of which will appeal to one enthusiast, but completely turn off another enthusiast.  Which is why it is so nonsensical to me whenever I hear or read someone saying, “Watch X is better, because…”  Really?  It is objectively better???  You could say, “Watch X has better water resistance, so if water resistance is your primary decision criterion, then Watch X is better than Watch Y.”  But, it is nonsensical to say, “Watch X is better because it has a higher water resistance rating,” when the other person may not give two sh*ts about water resistance!  Saying “Watch X is better than Watch Y, because it has better this or that,” is akin to saying, “Strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate ice cream, because it has more strawberry flavor.”  

So, ultimately, I think maximizing utility in watch collecting is an exercise in optimizing for whatever feature / combination of features you, personally, find compelling.  It doesn’t matter if the watch costs $20 or $2M!  If the $20 watch truly delivers on X, and X is what’s important to you, and the $2M watch does not deliver on X, then the $20 watch is better... to you!  

What do you want to optimize for?

Just off the top of my head, here are a number of characteristics that I think watch enthusiasts often look for in watches:

  1. Specs
  2. Heritage
  3. Finishing
  4. Unique design
  5. Ability to signal high status and wealth
  6. Complications
  7. Personal connection / sentimental value
  8. Technology

I’m sure there are a bunch of other characteristics that are important to many people, but these are just some off the top of my head.  

So, let’s imagine that you’re someone who loves geeking out over specs, and you really love the looks of dive watches.  In that case, potentially you’d optimize for a watch with a 120-hour power reserve, 300M water resistance, bulletproof reliability, and you might decide that the ultimate watch is this…

Introducing the Aquis Date Calibre 400, the First Watch Featuring a New  In-House Movement from Oris - Worn & Wound

Where else are you going to find a diver with a 5-day power reserve, 28,800 vph, 10-year warranty, and 300M water resistance, at this price???  In terms of utiles / dollar, this is, for you, the ULTIMATE watch!

Or, if you’re @roberto, you might want to optimize for “personal connection / sentimental value.”  So, you design your own watch, every aspect of which is tailored to your taste and your preferences, and there’s a connection to your loving daughter in that process!  https://www.watchcrunch.com/roberto/posts/california-rail-explorer-9694

Or, if you’re @Candide3693, the best watch is the one that will survive your insane endurance tests!  https://www.watchcrunch.com/Candide3693/reviews/casio-skmei-illuminator-led-watch-men-sports-digital-military-watch-50m-waterproof-review-12545

Or, if you’re @Ichibunz, what matters is that you buy ALL the Seiko’s!  https://www.watchcrunch.com/Ichibunz/posts/nwa-thank-you-enablers-10622 

Or, if you’re @Aurelian and @chronotriggered, whichever watch best suits ye olde timey lifestyle is the best!

How Walt Whitman's Decade In Washington Changed His Life -- And His Poetry  | WAMU

For some people, heritage is most important.  So, there, you would want to optimize for whichever brand / watch has the most amazing backstory and history, and this is where brands like Rolex, Omega, VC, et al often dominate.

Rolex Explorer 124270 36mm Review

For some people, status signaling is most important.  So, you would want a watch that is immediately recognizable to the broader masses, and screams at the observer, “Yes, I've made it!”  

Rolex Submariner - Find your Rolex

To me, each and every one of these desiderata is perfectly legitimate.  Different people have different preferences.  I like chocolate ice cream, you like strawberry ice cream.  One preference is no better or worse than the other.

What am I optimizing for? 

Finally, with all that context-setting, we get to trying to answer @roberto’s question!

I have come to discover that I am trying to optimize for #3 - finishing.  Why?  Because I love shiny things!

I remember reading this book called, “Animals in Translation,” written by Temple Grandin, who is autistic.  

Animals In Translation - By Catherine Johnson & Temple Grandin (paperback)  : Target

Apparently, all sorts of organizations dealing with animals would always call her in, to help them figure out how to improve their animals’ lives and happiness.  And Grandin made the point that she thought that being autistic gave her insight into how these animals saw the world - the animal caretakers would suddenly find their alpacas freaking out for no reason whatsoever, she’d come to investigate, and she’d be like, “Hey, they’re frightened by that new sign you put up on the wall there.  Just take that down, and they’ll be all good.”  If I remember correctly, in the book, she talked about how pigs are absolutely fascinated by straw!  They can chew straw all day and all night long.  Each piece of straw is something unique to any other piece of straw!  And when you give pigs straw to chew on, they enter a sort of state of flow.  In her own case, she wrote about how grains of sand reflecting and refracting light were to her as straw is to pigs.  She talked about how she could just sit for hours and hours letting sand fall between her fingers, sparkling in the light.

Well, I guess I’m a lot like Temple Grandin, but with watches.  Every frickin’ time I look down at my wrist, and see light reflecting and refracting off the indices, the hands, the dial, the case, and the bracelet of my watch, I am like a pig chewing on straw!  So, over time, my collection consists entirely of watches that sparkle like crazy.  The more they sparkle, the better.  I don’t care about the specs.  I don’t care about heritage.  I don’t care about having unique, spaceship-like design.  I don’t care to signal wealth.  I don’t care about complications.  I don’t care about sentimental value.  I don’t care about technology.  I just want watches that sparkle.  I’ll sit in work meetings, and just stare at my watch the entire time, while some work colleague drones on endlessly about…  I have no f*cking clue what they’re droning on about!  If sparkly wrist jewelry were the norm for males in corporate culture, I would go to work, sitting in the boardroom, talking about cost cutting and the latest revenue figures, while “dripping in ice” like this...

cartier love bracelet cartier love bracelet with diamonds cartier love  bracelet white gold cartier love bracelet used cartier love bracelet rose  gold cartier love bracelet price fake cartier love bracelet dupe cartier

Unfortunately, this is not the norm in corporate America, so I’m left with just staring at my watch discreetly.  

How do my lower-priced watches compare to my more expensive watches?

Well, unfortunately, sparkly-ness really is something that is best done by hand - diamond-polishing by craftsman - and that sh*t is expensive.  And, when I look at the watches I’ve purchased, kept, and loved, it all boils down to optimizing for finishing.

  • Breitling’s had okay finishing, but not great, so moved them on fairly quickly
  • The Rolex I bought was not sparkly.  Kept it for all of 3 days before selling it on
  • My Omegas were exceptionally finished, and of all the watches I’d purchased, I loved them the most…  but, once I discovered Grand Seiko, it was all over for Omega.  I now have only 1 Omega in my collection…  and it’s the sparkliest one!

Okay, but what about the sub-$1,000 watches that you asked about, @roberto?  Well, I’ve discovered that as interesting as they are, as cool as their designs, etc., etc., ultimately, they just don’t sparkle the same way as the GS’es.  In each and every case, I’ve bought these watches, thinking, “Okay, this is it!  I am in love with this watch!”  And then, over time, I find that I just don’t wear ‘em.  And I go back to wearing my GS’es.  Because the GS’es are the straw, and I am the pig.  And what I’ve found is that the sub-$1,000 watches are the watches that I’ve been auctioning off to raise funds for GiveDirectly to donate money to Kenyan families living below the global poverty line.  Or, these are the watches that I’ve been giving to family friends’ kids…  Typically, they’ll challenge me to a game of chess, and I promise them if they get good enough to beat me, they can have one of my watches, thinking that it’ll take them years to get good enough to beat me.  And then all of us parents will start drinking cocktails, and I’ve found it’s really easy to make simple mistakes in chess - and lose to a 12 year-old - when you’re 6 smoked bourbon bijou’s into the evening.

Tantrums GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

[Me when I lost to that snot-nosed 12 year-old]

To me, how much a watch costs doesn’t matter 

So, there it is.  My personal take is that the cost of a watch only matters if it helps you to optimize for that which will deliver utility to you, personally.  Otherwise, a $20 watch is as good as a $200 watch is as good as a $2,000 watch is as good as a $2M watch.

What about diminishing returns?  Are there diminishing returns to finishing?  ABSOLUTELY!  A $500 Baltic is finished very, very nicely.  That’s where Baltic focuses their effort.  So, could one spend $500 on a Baltic and get 90% of the sparkly-ness for 10% the cost of a Grand Seiko?  Yes, without question!  “Well, then, why do you waste so much money on buying expensive Grand Seiko’s, @HotWatchChick69?”  Well, “expensive” is all relative, right?  For me, in my particular personal situation, I find that even in the face of the steeply diminishing returns, that extra little bit of sparkly-ness is worth it to me, cause I'm akin to a...

Pig

... and my watches are...

Dust Free & Earth Friendly | Superior Straw Bedding

But, if you said to me, “Yo, @HotWatchChick69, here’s a Folex watch that costs $20, and it sparkles the way your Grand Seiko’s sparkle,” I would sell all my GS’es and buy a bunch of Folex'es instead.  And I would love the Folex’es as much as I love the GS’es.  But, to-date, I have not seen any watches that match GS when it comes to finishing, and unfortunately, GS’es are expensive.

But, I think the key insight again is that HOW MUCH A WATCH COSTS DOESN’T MATTER!  If there is a particular characteristic that doesn’t cost a lot to produce with high quality, and that characteristic is what’s important to you, then it would be insanity to spend more for a watch!  So, for example, if what I wanted to optimize for were a reliable watch with good build quality, cool old-timey pilot vibe, awesome lume, and one-of-a-kind uniqueness, this is the watch I would buy - the Orient Mod from @BRSEvolve:

Image

And, the Orient Mod happens to cost ~1/30th what this Moser costs:

Image

And, to me, the Orient mod would deliver just as much utility as - if not more than - the Moser.

I hope that adequately answers the question!

*****

Victorinox INOX Mechanical Blue charity watch auction goes until Wed, 8/3, 12pm PT, where every $1 of winning bid gets matched and turned into $4 for Kenyan families living below the international poverty line of $1.90 / day:

https://www.watchcrunch.com/HotWatchChick69/posts/buy-a-watch-help-save-the-world-6-victorinox-inox-mechanical-blue-12957

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thx for the insight @HotWatchChick69 i guess to summarize this post there are two important things which we can learn here:

  1. there always a wristwatch for everyone, if you like it and you able to buy it you should go for it. everyone else opinion doesnt matter because it is a subjective subject
  2. @HotWatchChick69 likes sparkle watch

😂

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This really needed:

TL;DR: Buy what you love and pick what's important to you, be it specs, bling, status, etc.

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Thank you! This does answer my question. To some extent I was misreading your watchbuying trend overall, I think, and I am glad you clarified about the Orient mod because I was wondering how that fit in as I was reading through this post. Also, Temple Grandin is a fave – love her work!

The most pressing follow-up questions:

  • Is a bedazzler part of your EDC?
  • You know the “Ooh, Shiny!” trope, right?
  • This you?
Image
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I think you nailed it. 

We all come from different backgrounds, different economic circumstances, and have different preferences. The perfect watch for me, might be the most horrendous watch imaginable to another.  

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Unholy

thx for the insight @HotWatchChick69 i guess to summarize this post there are two important things which we can learn here:

  1. there always a wristwatch for everyone, if you like it and you able to buy it you should go for it. everyone else opinion doesnt matter because it is a subjective subject
  2. @HotWatchChick69 likes sparkle watch

😂

Thank you for the summary!! I would have to take a week off to read this novel!!

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Agree with HWC69’s basic assumption. For me, I still enjoy collecting a fairly large number of watches. They are small pieces of mechanical art to me and I enjoy seeing how different makers answer the same basic questions. For my daily wears, I have 3 GS and 3 Omegas. Others get worn for ‘special‘ events. The most common is a play date with a grandkid (I’ve got 10 of those!) that involves a lot of water/mud & etc. I do have some parings that I think are both great watches. One extreme example is my Omega steel/gold AT and my Citizen AW1151-04E Dive watch. They have a similar appearance to me as both have two-color cases, comfortable rubber straps, 100 plus meter water resistance. Is the level of finish different? Sure, but I love them both. Of course one is over $6k the other $250. I’m lucky that like HWC69, I can afford either. I know their heritage is much different, but I wear both proudly (not usually at the same time!)  I know  you can get a lot of wonderful watches, including automatics below $1k. Happy hunting. 

Image
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Dude! I knew something is brewing!! correction !! Not All Seiko’s just most 😂… for the record I haven’t read everything yet so I I will comeback with a much better appropriate response to this novel!! 
 

and yeah why do you have picture of me…I was slim here and looks so young…

Image
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roberto

Thank you! This does answer my question. To some extent I was misreading your watchbuying trend overall, I think, and I am glad you clarified about the Orient mod because I was wondering how that fit in as I was reading through this post. Also, Temple Grandin is a fave – love her work!

The most pressing follow-up questions:

  • Is a bedazzler part of your EDC?
  • You know the “Ooh, Shiny!” trope, right?
  • This you?
Image

Dude, totally!

  • My kids have bedazzler kits!
  • I did not know the trope, but it is very appropriate
  • My 9 year-old has been diagnosed with ADHD inattentional type, and, well, she had to have gotten the genes from somewhere, right?
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Robcollects

Agree with HWC69’s basic assumption. For me, I still enjoy collecting a fairly large number of watches. They are small pieces of mechanical art to me and I enjoy seeing how different makers answer the same basic questions. For my daily wears, I have 3 GS and 3 Omegas. Others get worn for ‘special‘ events. The most common is a play date with a grandkid (I’ve got 10 of those!) that involves a lot of water/mud & etc. I do have some parings that I think are both great watches. One extreme example is my Omega steel/gold AT and my Citizen AW1151-04E Dive watch. They have a similar appearance to me as both have two-color cases, comfortable rubber straps, 100 plus meter water resistance. Is the level of finish different? Sure, but I love them both. Of course one is over $6k the other $250. I’m lucky that like HWC69, I can afford either. I know their heritage is much different, but I wear both proudly (not usually at the same time!)  I know  you can get a lot of wonderful watches, including automatics below $1k. Happy hunting. 

Image

The most common is a play date with a grandkid (I’ve got 10 of those!)

Guys...  I think we've figured out who @Robcollects really is!

Elon Musk says he's doing 'best to help underpopulation crisis' after twin  birth
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HotWatchChick69

The most common is a play date with a grandkid (I’ve got 10 of those!)

Guys...  I think we've figured out who @Robcollects really is!

Elon Musk says he's doing 'best to help underpopulation crisis' after twin  birth

You found me! 😵‍💫

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Well said. But. Do we really know/control our own brains.

Perhaps there's apart of your brain that knows that GS watch are expensive and thus they are better. And your conscious brain makes up a story about bling-factor to explain it.

Ah, you say, that part of your brain would want a Rolex. But you're not 70 and you don't play golf. And GS is cool because most people don't know the brand and David Beckham doesn't promote it.

I suspect a piece of the decision process is tribal. I am definitely part of team GS. If Beckham started promoting the brand it would not feel good.

Finally. The correct flavor is French Vanilla.

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Did you have a look at Casio's Oceanus line? 

I have admittedly never seen on in person but I have seen quite a few raving reviews of them, finishing in particular! They probably aren't quite at GS levels of shinyness (yet) but if they up their game a little, there seems to be a bit of a trend in that Apple watch price point, that might be your Folex, well not quite 20$ but they are probably less than 10% of GS prices right now.

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chronotriggered

@Aurelian and myself seem to be painted as the Waldorf and Stadtler of WC. If that is my lasting legacy, I can live with that.

You know I agree with the buy what you want, screw the haters viewpoint. It’s got me in trouble more than once. At the end of the day, I can’t wear that watch for you, so you better like it.

Two Security Guards Confront Hecklers Statler and Waldorf in a Saturday  Night Live 'Muppet Show' Sketch
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CliveC

Well said. But. Do we really know/control our own brains.

Perhaps there's apart of your brain that knows that GS watch are expensive and thus they are better. And your conscious brain makes up a story about bling-factor to explain it.

Ah, you say, that part of your brain would want a Rolex. But you're not 70 and you don't play golf. And GS is cool because most people don't know the brand and David Beckham doesn't promote it.

I suspect a piece of the decision process is tribal. I am definitely part of team GS. If Beckham started promoting the brand it would not feel good.

Finally. The correct flavor is French Vanilla.

Why, yes, @CliveC, as you and I have discussed ad nauseam, you make a most astute point!  And you would be 100% correct!

Sparkly-ness is my proximate reason for loving GS.  But, there is a hidden ultimate reason for my love - and that ultimate reason is hidden from my conscious self by my lizard brain.

But, this post was already 8,000 words long, and to delve into "The Elephant in the Brain," would require a separate 8,000 word autistic post.  And, as luck would have it, that post is coming up soon to signal boost charity auction #7 in a week or so!

The Elephant in the Brain by Kevin Simler, Robin Hanson - Audiobook -  Audible.com: English
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MegaBob

Did you have a look at Casio's Oceanus line? 

I have admittedly never seen on in person but I have seen quite a few raving reviews of them, finishing in particular! They probably aren't quite at GS levels of shinyness (yet) but if they up their game a little, there seems to be a bit of a trend in that Apple watch price point, that might be your Folex, well not quite 20$ but they are probably less than 10% of GS prices right now.

Oh, dude!  Totally!

If they could get this...

Casio Oceanus OCW-G1000 GPS Hybrid Wave Ceptor OCWG1000-1A - Arizona Fine  Time

... up to the same level of sparkly-ness as this...

Hands-On Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Chronograph GMT Spring Drive SBGC249

...  I would totally do it!  I mean, they look practically the same!!!