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World of Raffi

The Argument For a Luxury Timepiece

When you work in the business of luxury timepieces long enough, you tend to hear the same aggregate of questions. One of the more popular ones: “What’s your most expensive watch?” At some point, we all must learn that there are watches that carry an unobtainable price. Unobtainable at least for most of us. There is a small minority that can drop six figures on a wristwatch without having to empty a savings account. Or seven figures.

For the horologically-curious, finding out that a timepiece can retail for $1 Million plus is a bit of a mind-blowing revelation. This leads into a second, very often repeated question, “Why do luxury watches cost so much?” There is, unfortunately, no quick and simple answer to this query. A myriad of factors go into the designing, manufacture, marketing, and selling of the final product. To enlighten said curious watch enthusiast would require more time than he or she may be willing to invest.

An atypical response would be to suggest that in order to ensure that every person in the supply chain of a luxury timepiece makes a fair and living wage, the retail price of the watch needs to be sufficiently high. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but it should be noted that luxury timepieces are generally produced in countries with a considerably high standard of living.

When setting a reference for what constitutes an “expensive” timepiece, a good brand to use as an example is Grand Seiko. This storied manufacturer, now over 60 years old, has the distinction of being forever associated with its parent company, which is universally renowned (almost infamously so) for creating affordable, everyday watches. So why does Grand Seiko cost ten or, in some cases, twenty times as much? Does the inclusion of the word “Grand” justify such a steep increase in price?

The original philosophy of Grand Seiko, which still exists to this day, is to make the “ideal” watch, a watch that embodies precision, durability and beauty. Ultimately, the price for such a timepiece would be based on meeting these exacting criteria. In this scenario, the value of the watch is what determines its price, not the other way round. There are several luxury timepiece brands that adhere to this way of thinking, and they all craft watches of a timeless exquisiteness that has built a framework of enduring value.

Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SLGH005

The short answer, if there could really be one, is deceptively simple. If every watch manufacturer took the same time, care, and attention to detail when it comes to designing a watch and using the best materials available in its construction, then every watch would cost as much as a Grand Seiko. Clearly this isn’t the case, as most watches are produced only after their retail price has been predetermined. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it fulfills a market-driven need for affordable wristwatches. Luxury doesn’t have to begin at a certain price. It can be accessible too.

This is something that Swiss manufactures have excelled at for decades. Large parent companies like the Swatch Group use their many brands to intentionally manufacture watches within several hierarchies of cost in order to offer quality products throughout numerous price ranges. The Hamilton Watch Co, for instance, has been offering authentic field watches since the Second World War, when the then-American company produced over a million timepieces for the Allied forces.  Purpose-built, Hamilton’s Khaki Field collection offers authentic heritage, Swiss craftmanship, and an accessible price for budding wristwatch aficionados.

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical H69529933

But it just so happens that, if you were so inclined, you could purchase a timepiece that was decidedly up-market. Something that sparks joy, in a real Marie Kondo kind of way, for years or even decades. With a quick turn of the wrist, you’ll see a wearable piece of mechanical art that serves to remind us of what we’ve accomplished, and to the select few that notice, that we’ve arrived.