November 2008


It seems like these days unless you spend upwards of $20,000 on a watch, you are bound to see someone else wearing the exact same one at some point. My recent cruise to the Mediterranean revealed to me that watches in the sub-0$10,000 range, and to a lesser extend the sub-$20,000 are commonly seen. It is getting harder and harder to have a watch that is truly unique, at least in some small way. On this cruise I saw a fellow with a Breitling Motors T in black, exactly the same as mine, and also saw a fellow with a Breitling Chronomat Evolution, same as mine. I haven’t even started to count the number of Rolexes that I saw!

However, what if your favourite watch company started offering the ability to customize your watches in a way that would make your watch a lot more personal to you? Would that be something that you spend your money on?

Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile

Vacheron Constantin thinks it is. They have released a new watch called the Quai de l’Ile, a totally customizable watch offering a total of nearly 400 combinations of metals and dials. It also has high-security features designed by Roger Pfund to make fakes a lot harder to make.

The custom watch takes approximately 3 months to make.

Not a New Idea
The custom watch is not a new idea, but Vacheron Constantin has definitely taken this to the next level. There have been many manufactures offering custom watches such as the Breitling for Bentley Mulliner Tourbillon, and a few other minor watch manufacturers that concentrate on the custom aspect. Then there are guys like Bill Yao that specialize in customizing existing Seiko watches, with dial and hand replacements costing a couple hundred sometimes. Quite the sum when you consider the initial cost of the watch.

I believe the trend of customized timepieces will increase over the years as it is a relatively untouched market with most of the players being very small shops with very little marketing. Getting a few major Swiss players into this market with an affordable sub-$10,000 product will really cause a stir I think.

One of the custom watchmakers of watches I know of is Allen Elishewitz, who is a custom knifemaker by trade, and then branched out to make custom pens and watches as well. See Allen’s stuff here: http://www.elishewitzknives.com/Watches.asp

In many areas of the world, the new 2009 Chronologs are out! Just a reminder to head over to your local AD and pick a copy up, or have your local Breitling distributor send one to you. Last I checked here in Canada they aren’t in yet, but here’s hoping that they will be in the next couple weeks.

There are lots of new models out for this year’s Chronolog, which most of you have already seen since they were released at Baselworld and before. Chrono-matic 49, Breitling for Bentley GMT are a couple that spring to mind.

Here is the watch video from Venice Italy that I compiled. I visited several watch shops, there were tons! I hope you enjoy the video, even in it’s very amateur cobbled together style 😀

I really enjoyed Venice, even though everything there was overpriced. Very nice city.

One of the most frequent questions that potential watch buyers have is whether they should buy a watch online or from an authorized brick and mortar dealer (AD). Well, each has their pros and cons, and it depends on what kind of buyer you are for the most part.

I recall an article written in the Watches and Jewellery section of the Financial Times on November 10, 2007 entitled “Time for the Exchange of your Life”. It was a very well written article explaining the merits of buying from an authorized dealer, and how the relationship between the watch dealer and the buyer differs from most commercial transactions. More specifically, the article states that “to be sold a watch is to enter a drama that is part seduction and part entertainment”.

I have purchased watches from online sources as well as brick and mortar ADs, and I think I am a little more objective than most as I do see the merits of buying from both. Quite often I end up buying used from friends or acquaintances when they are hard up for cash or need to make room for other watches in their collections.

Buying Online

Generally speaking, people buy online because they feel that they can get better pricing, and with collectors that buy watches as often as once a week, it becomes a lot of cost effective as well as convenient to purchase online, with virtually every brand available at your fingertips.

Another additional benefit of buying online is the availability of previously owned pieces. There is an ever-growing community of online watch buyers and sellers who are constantly updating and upgrading their collection of watches, and are more than happy to buy your used watches from you only to sell them again in 6 months (or less!).

There are obvious cons to purchasing online, the most prevailing of which is the chance of purchasing a fake. There are many steps that you can take to make sure that your online purchase is authentic, the most effective of which is “Buy the Seller, not the watch”. When buying online, especially at auction, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of the purchase and the beautiful pictures. The single most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing online is to make sure the seller is legit and trustworthy. Buying from forums where sellers will often have a long history of buying and selling is useful to check their track record. Ebay is great because of the feedback system, but remember not to take it at face value as ebay accounts can be purchased as well as hijacked and use for malicious behaviour.

If buying a watch online from one of the many grey market dealers, you need to keep in mind that many of them sell watches with incomplete papers and filed-off serial numbers in order to protect their sources. This devalues a watch and also means that Breitling will not service the watch directly. You will not be able to send the watch in to Breitling, and instead will have to rely on your local AD repairing the watch in-house. Take note of this in the watch description and call if it is not mentioned. There are many grey market dealers that also sell fully serialized watches with complete papers as well. They will, however, not come with a Breitling factory warranty. They are usually warranted by the dealer for the same amount of time as a factory warranty would be. Not quite as good as the real deal, but quite acceptable in many cases.

There are times when you may want to purchase some accessories online, even though you have purchased your watch from an authorized dealer. This is also a good way to save money, but remember that many accessories sold online are often fakes as well and are quite often more difficult to spot than the watch itself.

In summary, buying online is best reserved for those with experience making online purchases and know the markets well enough that they can prevent themselves from being ripped off. There are a lot of good reasons for buying online, with price and selection being the two biggest. I’ve listed of the general pros and cons below.

Pros:

  1. Typically more Cost Effective
  2. Greater Brand Selection
  3. Secondary Market for even more savings
  4. Great for people who buy and sell frequently

Cons:

  1. Chances of buying a fake are greater
  2. Less of a dealer-buyer experience
  3. No freebies like Hats, Pens, Etc.
  4. Warranty Is not Factory

Buying from a Dealer

For your first watch, I would always recommend buying from a dealer. It takes away that tiny bit of doubt that many people will always have when buying online as to whether or not the timepiece is authentic. All grey market dealers sell authentic watches as they typically obtain them from authorized dealers themselves.

When you purchase your watch from your a local authorized dealer, you create an opportunity to develop a relationship that can last a long time. Every time you come in, they will tell you about any new stuff that is come in, and will likely start to give you some free stuff to entice you into considering another purchase. Usually watch staff are not pushy, unless you are in a tourist location since you will not be coming back again.

A lot of buyers like to buy the watches overseas to save on taxes, and then just wear the watches back on their wrists. This can save you some money, but in the long run it is not always the wisest choice as it makes reselling the watch difficult if you do not keep the boxes (you can, however, ship them back to yourself), and when you are buying from the same dealer locally more than once, he will give you benefits such as reduced prices and other perks. The better long term decision, especially if you are choosing to purchase more than one watch, is to buy locally.

The two biggest benefits of buying from any dealer are the guarantee of the origin and authenticity of the watch, and the warranty that comes with it. The biggest unseen benefit is the relationship that is created between dealer and buyer, and this can only be realized if you purchase the watch locally, or if you purchase it from a remote location that you visit regularly. Of course any benefit you would get from being a repeat customer would be moot if the watches you want are from different dealers. Also worth mentioning is the somewhat more limited selection available when shopping locally. No matter what city you are in, there will be at least one brand you cannot buy, including brands that only sell online. You will however have the opportunity to order any color configuration of the watch you are interested in from an authorized dealer, which you may not be able to do online.

There is something special about coming into your local dealer and having the people you usually deal with come to you with wonderful new toys to grace your wrist with.

Pros:

  1. Authenticity Guarantee
  2. Factory Warranty
  3. Buying Experience

Cons:

  1. More Expensive
  2. Brand Selection is More Limited

Overall, buying a watch is a very personal experience and whether you buy online or from a local AD is your choice. I`ve tried to provide a decent amount of information here so that you can make an informed decision as to which one is right for you. More and more people are starting to buy luxury timepieces for the first time, and many are buying online for the first time, so some pointers can be useful. I hope you enjoyed the article!

Sorry for the lack of updates over the last couple of weeks, but I have been in the mediterranean. Checked out some nice watch stores, and saw some beautiful peices. I’ve made some video footage of my trip through Venice, Italy, and the multitude of watch shops in this beautiful sinking city.

I have also been working on a few articles while travelling, including one on buying watches online or in a B&M store.. the pros and cons.

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