There are many articles out there suggesting that if one knows “the secret,” then you’ll get the best deals on luxury watches. Unfortunately, most of these types of articles promise much more than they can deliver… The cost of a luxury watch starts from several hundred dollars and goes up to many thousands for high-end Swiss brands. Let’s see how we can get the best deal for our money!
Why buy a luxury watch?
A luxury watch is a show of status or achievement. As the most important part of the suit, watches are worn to mark milestones in life and career with subtle status symbols. They aren’t just fashion accessories; they also function as extremely precise and well-crafted utility devices. This makes luxury timepieces exclusive status symbols.
The truth is that it is very unlikely that you can get a good luxury watch for 80%, 70% or even 50% off the retail price. More realistic discounts are around 20% (maybe even 30% on selected models). Therefore, websites or advertisements that attempt to offer greater discounts should be examined very carefully.
There are several important reasons for this inflexibility in the luxury watch market.
There are three ways to purchase luxury watches. The first way is “brand direct” where the brand sells their product directly to the consumer. This method has the advantage the provenance is clear. There is no question about authenticity.
The second is through an “authorized reseller.” There is no single company distributing the watches; rather, several companies are granted licenses by the manufacturer to sell items under their brand names. This means that it is up to you to do your research on the reseller before buying. Note: many authorized resellers may sell luxury items at heavily discounted prices, but they can come with warranty issues or possible authenticity problems. Remember, these are basically second-hand watches, so finding the real deal can be tricky.
The third way is through an “authorized dealer.” This is a middleman (retailer) between the purchaser and the manufacturer/distributor, which typically means the retailer will mark up their prices to cover their expenses (such as physical location, staffing, and training). Mark-ups may vary, but overall you can expect to see only small discounts from these types of retailers.
While most manufacturers do not release information about the cost of production or distribution, there are a few that have been more open.
Firstly, Rolex publishes retail prices, and they have for decades. However, notice that they never reveal production or distribution costs, nor do they give an official MSRP or recommended retail price. This strategy allows Rolex flexibility when demand rises or falls.
Longines has a similar policy, though they started publishing an MSRP in 2014 with their US distributors. This information is also available at authorized dealers around the globe (by request).
Montblanc does not give guidelines when deciding how much to charge for their items, but they do make some interesting claims in regard to how many man-hours it takes them to produce and release a luxury watch. Apparently, it takes at least 400 hours for the production process alone, not including time spent on design and testing.
Other luxury watch manufacturers also base their prices off the time and resources it takes them to make a single unit, but this information is not available to the public. Interested purchasers can do some research can using online resources such as Alibaba since they have listings for wholesale manufacturers across China. This can include approximate man-hour costs associated with production lines. You may want to consider whether they offer a volume discount on bulk orders.
There’s no telling if 2023 will see great differences in the official luxury watch market, as prices for these items have remained stable for decades.
You may be able to find discounted luxury watches at small boutiques and vintage shops which offer slightly damaged pre-owned timepieces for a fraction of their original value. Of course, you may need expert help to determine whether it is the genuine article.