The quality of watches: Are they better now than back then?

The quality of watches

The number of high-quality, beautifully designed modern watches available today is mind-boggling. Even some of the remakes of vintage designs look and function better than their predecessors.

>However, you can be faced with the difficult decision of whether to invest in a new watch with the latest technology and materials, or in a classic watch with a long history and prestige. To compare and determine the quality of classic and modern watches, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each, before choosing which type of watch is better for your lifestyle, needs, style and, of course, its value.

Come with us as we journey into the mind of a watch-buyer. What should we be looking out for?

What makes a good watch in the first place?

Now, we need to look into what exactly constitutes a good watch. Here are the five features that earmark a good watch as opposed to a bad watch.

1. Is the brand synonymous with quality?

We’ll go into more detail about this later, but you can set a good amount of trust in whether or not a brand name is synonymous with quality. Certain brands are strongly associated with being well-made and, where watches are concerned, you can always set your watch to the bigger and more trusted brands (pardon the pun). There’s a reason the popular watch brands are so popular!

2. Does the watch have a chronometer rating?

Only the best watches have chronometer ratings, and they’re watches you can expect to pay over £1000 for (so this may not be relevant to you if your budget is lower). A chronometer rating is an independent testing system applied to certain watches, and it tests – quite specifically – how well a watch keeps time. If you see ‘chronometre certifie’ on the dial of a watch then you’ll know it’s gone through the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) testing process which tests a watch in various climates and temperatures.

3. Is it made in Switzerland, Japan, or Germany?

Although these may be wild generalisations, there is some truth in that watches made in these locations are of consistently high quality. These nations have traditions and heritages around watchmaking that go back generations. That said, there are watch brands across the globe that push their own innovations, so take this one with a tiny pinch of salt.

4. If the watch has a metal bracelet, is it held together with screws instead of pins?

Many luxury watches have metal bracelets, but only the best brands ensure that their metal bracelets are held together by screws. It’s well-acknowledged in the industry that screws are far preferable to pins (despite the fact that pins are the cheaper option). Screws hold better than pins, they’re far more resistant, and generally look better. It’s always worth considering which metals were used in the makings of a watch.

5. Does the watch have a reflective coating?

As we’ve said countless times before, prolonged exposure to the sun will damage any watch. If a watch you have your eyes on comes with a reflective coating then you’ll know it’s a good one!

Things to remember when you’re assessing the quality of a watch

The following tips are all things you need to know when choosing a new watch or simply mulling over what it is which makes a good watch. Take note!

Vintage doesn’t necessarily mean a better investment

Long gone are the days when you could easily invest in quality vintage watches and sell them a few years later for significantly more than you paid for them. The likes of Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are now out of reach of the average collector’s budget, and owning one of these watches is now more to do with the label than it being a quality investment.

If you’re not too bothered by vintage watches, you should go the other way and look out the hot fresh brands with bags of potential.

Pictured: the Longines Mens Heritage 1945

Consider the reliability of modern watches

One of the first things you should consider when weighing up whether to invest in a modern or vintage watch, is just how reliable and easy to service it will be. When investing in a vintage timepiece, while the history of it may leave you fascinated and in awe of it, the cost of a vintage watch’s upkeep can end up costing more than you had in mind.

Just because a watch is vintage does not make it better. The quality of watches made today from the likes of Rolex and Omega, are in a different class to their ancestors of 20 plus years ago. These brands now use better materials, the manufacturing process is worlds apart and they are, generally speaking, more durable and accurate.

Servicing your vintage watch

A modern watch is definitely lower maintenance, so if you just want to invest and enjoy your new timepiece, a modern watch is certainly the way you should go. If you want the best of both worlds, look out for vintage-inspired watches.

Although vintage watches have withstood the tests of time, you may find it hard to find replacement pieces and mechanisms, or that you have to invest in a more regular upkeep of it. Modern watches, on the other hand, will have a service guarantee and are built using the latest materials and technologies, so aside from the battery, it’s unlikely you’ll have to make many, if any, replacements.

Remember, when you buy vintage there is always the potential for further maintenance down the line. You are buying an old watch after all. Take a look at our ‘Vintage watch restoration tips’ guide for more information. 

What is best for your style?

Disregarding how reliable they are, or how easy it would be to service your watch, your decision will be mainly driven by whether a modern watch or vintage watch matches your personal style.

If you enjoy collecting or investing in vintage items, then a classic, vintage watch will be the best option for you. However, you should consider the watchmakers’ brand name, the condition of the watch and the model, before buying. After all, if you’re going to invest in a vintage watch, you’ll want to make sure it’s worth it. As soon as you get your vintage watch, take it for a service to avoid any possible future repair costs.

If, however, you like the idea of a vintage watch without the complications of owning one, there are a number of modern well-made watches to invest in, which capture the beauty and design of vintage watches. The advantage of investing in a modern watch is that the materials used today are designed to last, so you’ll not only have a good-looking watch, but it will also require little to no maintenance whatsoever.

Which features do you prefer?

It goes without saying that classical, vintage watches didn’t come with the modern technical features and build quality found in today’s watches. You’ll find it hard to come by vintage watches with any shock protection or waterproof casing, which can create limitations if you’re planning on wearing it on a daily basis. Protection of a watch’s magnetic field was a feature found in vintage watches, but it was nowhere near as advanced as the ones found in modern watches today. You also need to consider that most vintage watches will need you to manually wind them, unlike modern watches.

Pictured: Tissot Chemin des Tourelles Squelette Mechanical 42mm Watch

Poor value for money

There are numerous examples of modern watches being poor value for money. In the last decade, the prices for high-quality Swiss-made watches have risen to obscene amounts, despite manufacturing costs remaining the same or decreasing. When a time-only Patek Calatrava watch can set you back over £25,000, the current high-value modern watch industry does not necessarily represent value for money.

But, what makes a good watch to invest in?

If you’re investing in a watch, here are your most important considerations.

Stick to high quality watch brands

If you’re looking for a watch that will make a solid investment and will retain its value, keep to the big brand names only. Unlike other luxury watches, coveted luxury brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe, will usually retain their value or even increase in value further down the line. These types of brands have longevity and invest heavily in their heritage to ensure their value is maintained and are sought-after by all.

Keep an eye out for limited edition models

Should the release of a limited-edition watch become a big hit in today’s market this could be an early sign for a future vintage classic and may, therefore, merit your investment. As well as limited edition models, there are also a number of anniversary models which are released that are often sound investments due to their collectible status.

Get an iconic watch if you can find one

Iconic watches such as a Rolex stainless steel and ceramic Daytona watch, or a stainless-steel Royal Oak Audemars Piguet, are usually sold out, even within their own watchmaker stores. However, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one, then you know you’ve got a classic watch which will only grow in value.

Pictured: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Investing in watches is something we’ve written about in great detail before. If you’re on the lookout for a prime investment piece, read our informative guide ‘The best watches to collect for investment’. It gives you the lowdown on everything you need to know about investing in watches.

Remember – there is always risk involved

Investing in watches, whether it’s a modern or vintage watch, is a risky business and there aren’t any guarantees that your Rolex or Patek will increase in value. The decision of whether to invest in a modern or vintage watch is very much down to your personal preference and how much maintenance you can or want to do. No matter the decade your watch was born in, you should invest in one of our protective watch cases or watch collection boxes, to help your prized investment retain its value.

Need any more information?

For more guidance, our team are happy to answer any questions you may have. Simply get in touch here, and you’ll be met with one of our helpful team members. In the meantime, check out our blog. It’s regularly updated and packed with insights about watches and watch protection.

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