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:
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…
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
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.
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!”
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.
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...
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.
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.
[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...
... and my watches are...
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:
And, the Orient Mod happens to cost ~1/30th what this Moser costs:
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: