Should You Buy an Expensive Watch?

Expensive watches are gleaming investments. And they can also be follies.

So you want an expensive watch to warm your lonely wrist but the voices inside your head (are you okay?) are telling you all sorts of nonsense, including, but not limited to the following:  

“You can’t afford it.” 

“Think about your kids.”

“Buy a house instead.”

“Think about your wife… your angry wife.”

Then, there are other head voices that plead and beg for you to give in. You work so very hard. This is your big splurge of the year. A fancy ticker is a harmless vice! 

So what are you going to do? Is an expensive watch worth it when your iPhone already offers the time? And how angry will your wife get?

What is an expensive watch anyway?

The most expensive watch on this Esquire U.K. story from 2020 is the Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette, which clocks in at £25 million or around P1.7 billion, a price that no doubt qualifies the watch under the category of insanely expensive. But for Marie-Antoinette, the Queen of France who built a recreation of a hamlet on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles for, you know, privacy, it might have been just another trinket for her collection. Unfortunately, Marie-Antoinette never enjoyed the stunning pocket watch because she lost her head before it was completed. 

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Point is, expensive is relative. A French Queen or a tech billionaire won’t bat an eyelash at what most people would tag as get-out-of-here pricey because they have big-bellied bank accounts to absorb the blow. Similarly, what you think is comfortably affordable, like say, a mid-range watch that falls short of a million, can be a hard no for others. 


In the same listing, the most affordable expensive watch, the Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light Tourbillon, has the more modest price of £300,000 or around P20.3 million. That’s chump change compared to the most affordable unit in The Estate, which is the most expensive residential project in the Philippines. If you want the cheapest entry into the 54-storey tower, which is developed by the two of the richest families in the country, the Sys and Tys, you’ll have to cough up P90 million. And if you have that kind of money, you can drop P20 million on a watch with a dizzying complication. Riiight?

Why should you buy an expensive watch? 

And now, the part you’ve been waiting for: someone to agree with your maybe disastrous adventures in spending. There are many reasons to buy an expensive watch and, for most, they need all to fully commit to the endeavor.  

Reason No. 1: An expensive watch is a powerful signal.

We’ll start with what we think is the secret value of an expensive watch: It is an immediate signal to the world that, well, you are part of the very small circle that can afford such a wrist machine. It pulls other members of that circle, which is really a dot, toward you. It creates a connection without uttering a single word. It can even close a business deal. We just hope your choice of expensive watches is something tasteful so that you attract the right kind of attention.

Reason No. 2: An expensive watch is one of a kind.

There’s nothing wrong with using an expensive watch as a flex. But you’re not a sad try-hard, right? If you choose this route, let the shiny metal do the talking. Don’t boast about it.

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Reason No. 3: An expensive watch is for several lifetimes.

We’ll give this one to Patek Philippe, which insists that you “never actually own” the luxury watch that you paid for. For the Swiss watchmaker, you are but a guardian who will gladly turn over the watch to your favorite son after you expire. This denotes the object as an heirloom, giving it the longer perspective of something for generations instead of the selfish now. 

Reason No. 4: An expensive watch is an asset.

But maybe you don’t want to worry about whether your great-great-great-grandson is on time for his future appointments. Just like a fading Russian royal and her last jewels, you can opt to sell or auction your expensive watch in exchange for cold, hard cash. Auctions have become in vogue lately, with many collectors offloading their precious tickers.  

Reason No. 5: Well, sometimes, you just deserve something nice to lift you up. 

Goddamnit. Sometimes you don’t have to explain. You just want this. When you look down at your expensive watch, see your tired face in its reflection, and then remember that, yes, you did the damn thing—you bought it with your piles of cash, which were the fruit of your hard labors—you feel good. That’s enough.

Okay, so how do you know if you can afford an expensive watch? 

There is probably a formula out there that considers your earnings, expenses, and other factors (an unforeseen event like this pandemic) to arrive at a budget for the things you can splurge on. But we’re not an accountant or an Excel warrior. We are, however, a professional buyer of things with a black belt in shopping at snobby places. And one of the easiest ways we’ve found to ascertain if you can comfortably afford something is if you don’t find the need to ask this question: 


How much? 

This applies, not just to expensive watches, but also to anything that comes with a price tag, from the alluring new smartphone to the stuff you chuck into your grocery cart. For example, if you need to inspect the cost of Spam (it’s around P180 per tin), then maybe you should stick to eggs. 

But if you can stroll into a shop, point to the thin rose gold watch with a brown cordovan band, and immediately ask to wrap it up in a beribboned box, then you can afford it. On the flip side, if you find yourself fiddling, fidgeting, and dilly-dallying, please find a less expensive ticker to satisfy your itch. 


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Clifford Olanday
Editor in Chief, Esquire Philippines
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