Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Watch Hunting

Now that I've submitted my Stern application, naturally my mind has wandered to what present I will get myself IF I get in.  I very rarely buy big things or allow people to buy me big things because I always feel like I don't deserve them, but this time I think I will.  After all, what's a Stern MBA student without a sick watch?

I have a few Michael Kors watches that are fine and get the job done.  The Movado I got on my sixteenth birthday still gets some use, as does the one that belonged to my dad and was his prized possession.

But I want a real watch, a big girl watch.

I've been doing research into brands and movements and have been utterly confused.  Automatic or Mechanical Movements have more prestige, and yet they are less accurate and must be adjusted every month.  Quartz Crystal based movements are considered "cheap" and "mass-produced", but they are very accurate and lose mere seconds each year.  What's up with that?

I'm gonna try and break down what I've learned here and share with you the options I've been most seriously considering.

So first of all, mechanical (sometimes called manual) and automatic watches both use nearly identical movements, but a mechanical watch must be manually wound (about every 36 hours) to get the power it needs to keep time, while an automatic watch harnesses the energy produced by movement in order to automatically wind the watch.  This means that as long as you wear the watch at least every other day, it should be fine since the normal movements of your arm are enough to keep the rotor inside spinning, passing the energy on to the main spring for the winding.  There is something called a watch winder you can put an automatic watch on if you don't plan on wearing it regularly; I haven't looked into this because I am looking for an everyday type watch but I like to imagine that it's like putting your watch on a swing set.

  • Mechanical movements are more highly regarded by watch aficionados because there is a lot of engineering involved in the design and creating a movement takes lots of precision and care.  Some of the most expensive watches out there use handmade movements.
  • You only need to wind or wear it once a day so it's really not that inconvenient unless there is literally not a minute you can spare in your day.
  • You can impress people by talking to them about your in-housemade movement and some watches even use transparent backs so you can actually see it.
  • The second hand makes a smooth sweeping motion across the dial which is admittedly pretty cool looking.
  • If you take good care of it, since these watches are generally so well-built they can last for generations (not that you'll be around for them).
  • You have to remember to wind it, and I can barely even remember to bring my cell phone with me most days.
  • They're significantly more expensive than quartz watches.
  • In a lot of ways you're paying for the history rather than the efficiency.
  • They can gain or lose a few minutes per month so they need to be calibrated fairly frequently.

  • These watches are very efficient timekeepers are typically only lose or gain a few seconds a year.
  • A good deal less expensive than mechanical watches and certainly more choices in a variety of price ranges.
  • Suited for an everyday lifestyle where you're not planning on passing this thing that will probably be totally outdated within a generation when we figure out how to manipulate time down forever.
  • They don't require as much craftsmanship and care in making, if that's the kind of thing that matters to you.
  • They need their batteries replaced about every year and a half (as opposed to mechanical watches that need servicing every 5+ years)

So basically, there are lots of considerations for each, but what it really comes down to is what you want the watch for.  If you are going to be using this because you have an obsessive need to know the most accurate time as possible all seconds of the day, get a quartz.  If you are the kind of person who would never get an automatic transmission sports car because it defeats the purpose, even if it is much more suited to the highway driving you spend most of your time doing, get a mechanical.  If you care more about cost-benefit analysis than history and prestige, go for the quartz.

For me, right now anyway, I care mostly about price, quality, and look.

Quartz watches in general are cheaper but many revered watchmakers offer both mechanical and quartz options, so certainly "quartz" and "cheap" are not synonymous.

Anyway, I've been looking at two brands specifically, Rolex and Cartier.

Rolex Lady Datejust
Rolex Lady DateJust

The Rolex Lady DateJust looks almost exactly the same now as it did in 1955, and still retains the automatic movement.  While there aren't choices in styles, there are choices in dials and bracelets.  Markers and bezels can be diamond, bands can be two toned or single, metals can be platinum (out of the price range) or stainless steel, dials can be pale pink or champagne or silver.  One of the biggest choices is bracelets:

Oyster, Jubilee and Presidential are the ones I have encountered the most in my searching and I think I prefer Jubilee the most.  It's the most feminine to my eye, and the most interesting to spruce up an otherwise boring and plain watch.  I love the two-tone look but my most worn MK watch is two tone and someone already mistook that one for a Rolex so maybe I should go with a solid color.  I think silver looks the best on my skin tone.

You can find a nice, good condition pre-owned piece from a reputable seller in the $2000 range.

Cartier Pasha C WatchCartier Roadster Watch
Cartier Pasha C (left with pink dial) and Cartier Roadster (right)
photos via Gilt

The Cartier Pasha C is another gorgeous, simple watch.  Its clean lines are complimented by an unadorned face, and I love the option to get a pale pink dial to add a little color to my otherwise neutral wardrobe.  The Cartier Roadster, on the other hand, is a little more different.  The shape and Roman numerals make it stand out to me and I don't have any other non-circular watches, so it would be a great addition to my collection as a statement watch.  I can't see either of these looking dated in the years to come.  Both are available in automatic or quartz movements.

These can both be found in good pre-owned condition in the $2000 - $3000 dollar range, depending on the movement.

I've only been looking for a few days, but these are the three that have caught, and kept, my eye so far.  They are all quite expensive but, considering I wear a watch every day, I imagine it will be money well spent.  I am starting to branch out to Baume et Mercier and other brands in hopes of finding more that I like and can consider.

Does anyone have experience with higher end watches?  Was it worth the money (I'm loathe to call it an "investment" because let's be real, it's not)?  I will probably change my mind a thousand times between now and the time I can actually buy it, and I'm also probably get my hopes up a little too high for admission, but hey, it doesn't hurt to 

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