Watches for the future: Buying an Heirloom Watch.
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 04:22


I had a chat with a gentleman a while ago who was considering buying a watch. On it's own this is a conversation I tend to have pretty regularly, but this conversation was a little different, in that this guy was specifically after a watch he could hand down to his kids.


Watches are perhaps the most emotive physical representations of family, and family history around. Culture is full of the watches of fathers and grandfathers - who can forget Christoper Walken in Pulp Fiction!


That watches play this heirloom role makes a lot of sense, they are small, valuable objects that are worn or carried by their owners, meaning that they're less likely to be lost or damaged over time - it's small size and (forgive the pun) timeless function means a watch is also less likely to be prey to the vicissitudes of fashion than say, furniture or other larger heirlooms.


This is not watch as accessory, or watch as tool - this is watch as heirloom, and accordingly there are some different priorities at play. If you're looking for a watch as an heirloom - you're not buying a watch based on the latest trends or fashions, and you want something built to last - you've got to try and futureproof your watch.


By the way, watch companies are aware of the power of this urge in the watch purchasing process - and are very good at marketing to the 'legacy' heartstrings - see the above Patek ad.


Here are my top tips to consider when buying a watch you'd like to give to your kids one day.



1. Buy a known brand.

Normally I'm not a huge brand fanboy - I usually say that as long as a watch is good quality, you shouldn't be overly concerned about the name on the dial. HOWEVER, if you're buying a watch for the next 50+ years the longevity of the brand is important - in terms of reliable servicing and in terms of holding value. I'd say that if a brand has been around for the last 100 or so years, and is still operating today - chances are pretty decent that they'll be around in another 100 years. Brands like Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet and Omega spring to mind.


Servicing is an important consideration - if you buy a watch from a new brand, with an unusual in-house movement - there's no guarantee that the brand will be around in the next 50 years, or that anyone will have a decent idea on how to service it, or have the special parts made only for this watch.



2. Keep the style classic and conservative.

Don't buy the hippest, trendiest watch around. It will date. Plain metals; gold, steel (or platinum!) are your best bets, classic shapes, nothing too kooky. A Rolex from 2012 still looks largely like a Rolex from 1950. There's a reason it's the most well known brand in the world. Timeless, elegant designs will win over avante garde or trendy every time. That's not to say you can't buy something modern and contemporary - but try for classically modern and contemporary.



3. Buy the best you can afford.

So the above two points are kind of aesthetic and style factors, here I'm talking about quality. Quality in all aspects of a watch. And I'm not saying that only uber-expensive Swiss watches are the only watches suitable for passing onto the next generations, but buy the best 'you' can afford, and if that means waiting for a year or so and putting a little away to get something just right - so be it. This is an investment in the future we're talking about here. Quality is important for a few reasons. It means that the longterm reliability of your watch, in terms of telling the time and construction, is likely to be good. It also demonstrates the value you have placed in this watch. It isn't something you picked up on a whim; thought went into it and if you value it, the next generation is more likely to value it as well.



4. Don't buy quartz.

Just don't.



5. Don't expect your watch to significantly appreciate in value over time.

Unless you buy a super desirable/rare watch and keep it in a safe for the rest of your life it's unlikely to significantly increase in $$$ value (and even then it's not given). The best you can hope for, is for the value of your watch to remain stable over time. But really, an heirloom watch isn't about $$$ value. It's abut <3<3<3 value (that's hearts = love and family sentiment by the way). So don't even go down that route. If you want to look out for the financial wellbeing of your kids, start a trust fund. Don't buy watches.



So that's a few ideas about what to consider when buying a watch with 'heirloom' status in mind. But, in the end anything will do, and serve as a testament and memory to family. And by the same token you can't totally predict the values of the next generations. Watches might be a redundant thing of the past. There's nothing you can do about that. But if you think about your watch, and do your best to futureproof it, you've made it a little more likely your watch will be worn on someone in your families wrist in the next 50-100 years.


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