Luxury watches have reached an increasingly broader, more dynamic, and more multifaceted market over time. There are many aspects to consider when buying expensive watches , certain things to refer back to in order to evaluate the best watch according to your needs.
The use of the watch as a symbolic element of power and wealth originated in past centuries, first in the pocket model and then as something to show off on your wrist.
The luxury watch market is very dynamic and vast; there are many elements to consider when buying or selling your prestigious watch. The first aspect to be evaluated, for both men and women, is the type of watch you are interested in. Indeed, there are several types: pendulum, quartz, wall, pocket, second wrist and so on. Another fundamental element: the materials used to make the luxury watch . Yes, you can go from the traditional gold to the innovative wood to the super technological carbon. The clock release date it is also important in determining its value and typology: there are limited editions, period products, and contemporary watches.
Over time, the country that has distinguished itself for its ability to combine technical know-how with captivating and refined aesthetics is most certainly Switzerland, the place of birth and development of the main luxury watch manufacturers . However, we will also analyze the characteristics, development, and peculiarities of the Italian, German, and Japanese markets.
The last aspect, certainly not lacking in importance, is price. To take advantage of a reduction in the cost of buying a luxury watch compared to the list prices you can watch out for rare promotions, prioritize second-hand products, or choose clones and replicas. Moreover, the used market is quite vast and flourishing, allowing you to take advantage of small price reductions and to own precious pieces from the past. Much attention, however, should be paid to replicas that are sometimes passed off as original to inexperienced buyers and first-time purchasers.
We will attempt to address all these aspects in the following article, also taking a look towards the past to understand how this timeless tradition was born, and to which places and companies have prompted its development, in order to help you find your way among the numerous alternatives and proposals related to this thriving market. We will then try to make you dream a little by presenting you with the latest news presented at the Geneva Haute Horlogerie show, focusing on the most expensive and precious products.
View sub sections
- 1 History of luxury watches
- 2 Luxury watches brands
- 3 The luxury watch market
- 4 The countries that produce luxury watches
- 5 Types of luxury watches
- 6 The materials
- 7 Production year
- 8 The price
- 9 Used luxury watches
- 10 Replica luxury watches
- 11 How to choose
History of luxury watches
The wristwatch is used today by men and women alike. The origin of its use, however, differs for the two genders: if for the female public the wristwatch began to spread mainly as an aesthetic and decorative product rather than a functional one, then for men, the use of wristwatches developed from practical necessities.
In the nineteenth century, Patek Philippe invented the first wristwatch, conceiving it as an accessory dedicated exclusively to the female public. At the time, the use of the pocket watch was widespread among men. At the beginning of the 20th century, Louis Cartier created a more practical watch thanks to a stimulus received from a friend who had difficulty reading the time aboard a plane. Thus, the first Cartier wristwatch with a leather strap was born. In the coming years, the product became popular in Paris, especially among male customers. Over time, the wristwatch market has steadily grown, forming various niches, including that of luxury watches – certainly the most interesting and most followed.
Luxury watches brands
Let’s discover, in detail, the most famous brands in the luxury watch market .
The history of Rolex was written by Hans Wilsdorf, who founded the company in London at only 24 years old with the intention of making accurate, attractively designed wristwatches. Rolex’s research concentrated on creating precise and quality movement, succeeding in 1910 when it received the Swiss certificate of chronometric precision, the first in a long series of awards. The company then moved its headquarters to Geneva, home of a long tradition of top tier watchmaking.
The model that most symbolizes the production house is certainly the Rolex Daytona . Introduced in 1961 with its characteristic Oyster case, it’s a watch with mechanical movement, automatic winding, and a chronograph’s functionality.
The best-selling Rolex model, however, remains the 36mm Datejust, a timeless timepiece of unmistakable style and design.
Audemars Piguet watches
The Audemars Piguet is a fine watch production company based in Switzerland with a long tradition, dating back to 1875. The company founders were two young boys: Jules Louis Audemars, who was in charge of the production side, and Edward Auguste Piguet, who headed the commercial department. After completing their studies, they began working in the watchmaking industry. The Audemars Piguet is a beautiful example of a family company; even today, direct descendants of the two founders’ families lead the company. The main characteristic of the company is the handmade production, using traditional methods.
The icon of the Swiss company is, without a doubt, the Royal Oak model, which since the 1970s has represented watches with a sporty and elegant style, the symbol of luxury par excellence.
Patek Philippe watches
Patek Philippe was also born from the union of two talents in the field of watchmaking: Antoine Norbert de Patek and Adrien Phillippe. The two gifted entrepreneurs decided, 170 years ago, to put their shared passion and skill towards the goal of creating “the most beautiful timepieces in the world.”
Over time, the company has made numerous commissioned productions. The most famous is certainly the pocket watch with 24 complications made in 1933, still considered among the most complex and expensive ever made. This precious achievement was sold at Sotheby’s in 2014 at a record price of 17 million euros.
IWC , an acronym for International Watch Company, is a Swiss company founded in 1868 by the American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones with the aim of producing pocket watches for the American market. Later, the company moved to Switzerland to combine the expertise of excellent local craftsmen with modern American production technologies. IWC is currently based in Schaffhausen, on the banks of the Rhine. It is now part of the Richemont Group, a Swiss financial holding company that combines luxury brands with glorious tradition.
Officine Panerai watches
The Officine Panerai laboratory was founded in 1860 in Florence by the intuitive master watchmaker Giovanni Panerai, who also founded the first watchmaking school in his workshop. The company, currently based in Milan, is part of the Swiss financial holding company Richemont, which increased its production exponentially from a few hundred pieces a year to tens of thousands. Officine Panerai specializes in the production of diving watches. Its enthusiasts are so fond of the brand that they meet in clubs all over the world, using the nickname Paneristi.
Zenith is a manufacturer of luxury watches based in Switzerland, formed in 1865 by Geogrgs Favre-Jacot at just 22 years old. The company is currently part of the LVMH group, which it has been since 1999.
The declared objective of the company has always been to create precise and reliable luxury watches . Excellent chronometric performance encompasses the destiny and mission of Zenith. In 1899, the company created a pocket chronograph for the first time; in 1969, it created El Primero, the most accurate standard caliber in the world, and the only one to operate at 10 alternations per second.
Girard Perregaux watches
Girard Perregaux is based in Switzerland. It originated in 1791, the year in which the watchmaker and jeweler Jean Francois Bautte signed his first wristwatches. Since then, the company has been producing a vast collection of exclusive luxury watches , the apex of which is the Tourbillon with three gold bridges. Its complete range of mechanical movements serve as the basis for the construction of the mechanisms with complications, and quartz movements as well.
Breitling represents a real gem in the luxury watch scene . The company specializes in the production of technical watches and chronographs, confirmed by the fact that it is one of the few watch brands in the world that makes up its models with movements that certify them as chronometers. Furthermore, Breitling is the owner of all the mechanical chronograph movements it uses: it follows the planning, the realization, and the development within its own laboratories. Finally, Breitling is one of the very few companies that managed to remain an independent family business.
The luxury watch market
Luxury watches are high-end products marked by excellence, difficult to obtain for potential customers thanks to high prices. This relationship between the accessibility and exclusivity of luxury watches is a very delicate and subjective balance that allows us to define the kind of customer we are facing. Economic factors, both globally and in individual countries, influence this relationship by expanding or restricting the market for potential buyers of luxury watches . There are, of course, exceptions: timepieces which, despite very high prices, represent status symbols of such value that they have never been affected by any kind of crisis, and whose sales represent constant peaks over time.
What is undoubtedly certain is the fact that the luxury watch has assumed the role of the male accessory par excellence, a symbol of power and social status. What is surprising, however, is the rapid rise currently characterizing the female wristwatch market, especially in the luxury sector. In fact, according to a variety of research, the brightest future is a pink one. A report by the American company Frost & Sullivan states that by 2025, women will increasingly play leading roles in the labor market. This will consequently change buying habits and consumption, very likely prompting women to represent leading customers in the world of luxury watches .
Watch manufacturers, therefore, will have to prepare themselves with ad hoc proposals and products suited to this new consumption scenario. They must be capable of interpreting and defining a style, and of representing functional products that are fundamentally important in managing everyday life.
Generally speaking, it is possible to state that the buyer of luxury watches has become increasingly informed, demanding, and competent. To measure their propensity to buy on the potential market, and to stimulate and satisfy brand lovers ‘ sense of belonging to the brand , watch houses sometimes create limited editions of watches made with unique and special features.
But in which countries is the tradition of design and creation of luxury watches strongest ?
The countries that produce luxury watches
Switzerland certainly represents a territory with a traditional, deeply-rooted watchmaking vocation. In fact, many historical companies of the watch industry are based in these regions. These days, all the major luxury watch manufacturers are collaborating with Swiss watchmakers in the creation of platinum, gold, and silver watches. All made in Swiss watches are therefore synonymous throughout the world with quality, style, and elegance.
Switzerland is the traditional home of mechanically-operated watch production. With the advent of digital technology, Switzerland, after some initial difficulty, reacted with confidence, confirming itself as one of the most interesting countries in the luxury watch market. It continually constitutes the home of numerous prestigious, high-end production houses.
Types of luxury watches
Luxury watches can come with very different characteristics, allowing you to group them into several categories:
These clocks measure time thanks to the oscillation of a pendulum, a mechanism conceived way back in 1687 that has, with time, been passed over by more modern solutions. They are mainly used as aesthetic furnishings in houses characterized by the presence of certain styles, and are mainly owned by collectors who love this type of watch.
The measure of the passage of time is determined by the oscillations of a quartz crystal, the first application of which dates back to 1928. This mechanism is marked by high precision, making the measurement of time by these clocks greatly reliable.
Wall clocks have been essential elements of furnishing and design for countless years now. Antique models made with precious materials are the ones that are mainly considered luxury wall clocks.
These timepieces represent a passion that many people have in common when in search of a precious and timeless heirloom. The pocket watch was born before the advent of the wristwatch, dating back to some time in the early twentieth century.
Used watches – Pre owned watches
Wording that refers to the timepieces purchased on the used market – increasingly the market of choice. Buying a first luxury watch by taking advantage of a price reduction is very possible on this market, as is finding limited edition or out of production models.
Expensive watches are models, often in limited edition and therefore produced in small batches, that are considered real masterpieces thanks to the use of the techniques required to produce them and the use of precious and expensive materials chosen for processing.
Most commonly, luxury watches involve the use of the following materials in their creation:
Used extensively, especially in women’s models, to make watches shine and embellish. Just think of Piaget’s Emperador Temple model studded with diamonds on the two dials and on the bracelet, which comes to a cost of 3.4 million dollars.
Used to embellish the dials and straps of both male and female models such as, for example, the Patek Philippe Single Button Chronograph, made entirely with this precious material. That watch costs around $3.6 million.
Material that composes the most prestigious watches designed for both women and men. A great example of the use of this material is the Breguet & Fils Paris 2667 Precision, made entirely in 18 kt gold and worth a good 4.7 million dollars.
Generally used alone for the creation of luxury watches thanks to its natural hardness and resistance, which makes it an almost indestructible resource. It is a stainless material that does not need special care to maintain itself, and it’s hypoallergenic!
The perfect mix of lightness and strength, used above all for making watches with a technical and sporty character.
An innovative material used in the creation of luxury wrist watches , chosen especially for the younger market segment. In addition to its unique lightness and one-of-a-kind color, this material grants watches a particularly modern and trendy style.
One aspect that can certainly influence the price and value of a luxury watch is the year it was launched on the market. Indeed, there are timepieces that are part of a limited edition (or limited series), and can therefore only be purchased for a short period of time or in a specific number of pieces. This element obviously helps to dress the product with exclusivity and value. Then there is the type of vintage luxury watches that carry the history and value of the period in which they were made. There are real enthusiasts and collectors who dedicate themselves exclusively to vintage watches.
Finally, there is the category of contemporary luxury watches , encompassing items currently on sale. The brand new 2020 models that represent the latest innovations and the avant-garde proposals of the watch maisons are good examples of this.
The price range in which luxury watches find themselves is certainly the highest one. A prestigious wristwatch usually has a starting cost of at least a few thousand euros, but an get up to mind-boggling figures. Suffice to say that the most expensive watches in the world can easily hit stellar prices, and are sometimes priceless.
The most expensive luxury watches of 2020, presented during the Geneva Haute Horlogerie show, showcase some truly unique and exclusive achievements:
- Vacheron Constantin Celestia , with 23 complications, made of white gold and produced in a single copy at a cost of 1 million euros
- Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1 in carbon, titanium and graphene, made on the basis of suggestions provided by Formula 1 racers at the price of 980 thousand euros
- Tourbograph Perpetual ‘Pour Le Mérite’di Lange & Söhne produced in a limited edition of 50 copies, each coming with a perpetual calendar and a chronograph, at the price of 450 thousand euros
- Piaget Altiplano Off-Center Tourbillon , characterized by a precious frame made up of 48 diamonds and sold for about 177 thousand Euro
- Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in Black Ceramic made of black ceramic in 100 copies sold for 87 thousand euros
- LAB-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 DaysWorkshop Panerai made with the innovative carbontech, a material derived from carbon, and available in 50 copies for the price of 46 thousand euros
- Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe Performance is an automatic watch with a double speedometer to measure the speed of a car and a man at the same time. Selling price: 21 thousand euros.
If you have been stunned by the cost of these watches, then you will be even more so when you see the most expensive watches ever.
Nevertheless, you can buy luxury watches at lower prices by following some simple tips and guidelines.
Used luxury watches
The second-hand market, for example, also known as the pre-owned market or second wrist market, is very active. It allows you to enjoy the pleasure of wearing a precious object while saving a ton compared to list prices. The quality of these products is always certified and guaranteed, and the originality of the watch is always proven. Thanks to the used market, a wider customer base has access to the purchase of luxury watches. Furthermore, through the second wrist market, it is possible to find models that are no longer in production, limited editions, and particular models.
In addition to the traditional method of purchasing, the activity of buying and selling through auctions has increased in popularity. One of the best sites for buying second-hand luxury watches is certainly catawiki.
Replica luxury watches
The market for replicas of the most famous luxury watches is also flourishing. Indeed, these clones are often chosen by those who cannot afford the purchase of an original model, but still do not want to renounce the dream of having a prestigious watch on their wrist. There are many websites that, in an absolutely confident manner, offer to sell fakes for bargain prices.
How to choose
There are numerous sources that can be found online to disentangle the jungle of information, quotes, and proposals concerning the luxury watch market . What we recommend to be safe from counterfeiting and to manage purchases in the best way is collected in the following key points:
- Buy online from the best e-commerce retailers
- Read the reviews left by other users on the online store in general, and on the product that interests you in particular
- Rely on certified centers to carry out repairs
- Always request all the certifications and documents that testify to the originality of the product
Now that you know the various dynamics related to expensive watches, you can continue to stay up to date by reading our news on luxury watches .