The 3 biggest mistakes people make when buying a watch, according to an expert

Crown & Calibre
  • Hamilton Powell, CEO of online luxury watch market Crown & Calibre, told Business Insider about the many pitfalls of buying a watch.
  • Among his advice, Powell told us that you shouldn’t buy a new watch as an investment, as the vast majority will only depreciate in value.
  • You should also match your watch to your lifestyle, not the other way around.
  • Powell advises buying a watch that has a narrative – like a pilot watch – that can become a talking point in itself.

Buying a watch can be a total minefield.

There are seemingly infinite combinations of straps, materials, movements, frequencies, indices and lugs – whatever any of that means.

As a result, many people leave the shop with a watch they’re not really content with – but that doesn’t have to be the case, says Hamilton Powell, CEO of Crown & Calibre, an online market for pre-owned luxury watches.

Powell spoke to Business Insider about the biggest mistakes people make when they’re buying a watch, and what they should be doing instead.

1. Buying a new watch as an investment

A member of staff poses with an Omega Seamaster watch worn by Daniel Craig in the Bond film Spectre, during a photocall at Christie's auction house on February 15, 2016 in London, England. Forming part of the 'James Bond Spectre - The Auction' sale on 18th February it is expected to fetch between 15,000 - 20,000 GBP.Carl Court / Getty ImagesA member of auction staff poses with an Omega Seamaster watch worn by Daniel Craig in the Bond film ‘Spectre’.

When reading headlines of outrageous, million-dollar Rolex sales at Christie’s, it can be tempting to buy an investment timepiece of your own – just make sure it’s not new.

“95% of modern watches that you’re buying these days are not going to be investments,” Powell told us. “If they were, the brands should never sell them in the first place, the brand would just sit there and hold onto them.”

Powell compares the watch market to the car market: “The second you drive it off the lot it loses value.”

By buying a pre-owned watch, you’re skipping that initial depreciation hit that the original owner has taken.

2. Buying a watch that your friends like

Your watch should be a reflection of your tastes, not the tastes of your friends or your favourite blogger.

“Buy a watch that you like to look at every day and you think is fun,” Powell says. “You’re going to have to wake up to that [watch] every day and if you don’t like the look of it then you’re going to get sick of it pretty quickly.”

3. Not matching your watch to your lifestyle

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their Men's Singles semi-final match on day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 14, 2018 in London, England.Clive Mason / Getty ImagesRafael Nadal wears a super-expensive Richard Mille watch when he plays.

It’s no use having a delicate, vintage watch if you’re a lumberjack. “Some watches are meant to be really taken care of,” Powell says, and if you live a gritty kind of lifestyle then there are certain timepieces that you should avoid.

For instance, he says: “If you like to be outdoors and you’re kind of rough on a watch, you can’t wear a minute-repeater,” which is a mechanical feature that, in the words of Mark Bernardo (digital media editor of WatchTime magazine), “transforms a watch from mere timekeeping device to miniature music box,” by chiming the time down to the minute.

Preparation and consideration are key, Powell says. “I own plenty of vintage watches but before I wear them I have to make sure that I’m careful because one knock on a wall or a door and I can bust all the patina or all of the loom off of the hand.”

To summate, match your watch to your lifestyle, not your lifestyle to your watch.

Buy a watch with ‘soul’

Zenith Pilot Type 20.Hadrian / ShutterstockZenith Pilot Type 20.

Watches are ultimately a great talking point, so Powell recommends picking a watch that has a narrative to it – for example, a pilot watch.

Pilot watches feature a large crown (the dial on the side of the watch), which apparently serves no purpose now, but but according to Powell, pilots needed a larger crown because they wore gloves back in the 40s, “and when you’re wearing gloves you have to have a larger crown in order to move the watch.”

“That’s kind of cool that in 2018 you can still say ‘well that’s the reason why my watch has a larger crown because originally it was for pilots who needed it’ and it becomes a fun storytelling exercise,” Powell says.

He added: “Buy a watch that has some type of soul to it, some type of history to it that allows you to tell a story of some type.”

Versatility is king

“When possible, buy a watch that allows you to switch out the straps,” Powell says.

If you can get a watch that looks just as good with a steel bracelet as it does with a leather strap then you’re in the money.

Powell says changing the strap on your watch will make it look like you’ve bought an entirely different watch for a fraction of the price.

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