Are expensive watches worth your money?

Original BDWF archived information from James
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James Elsener
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Oct 02, 2018 8:27 pm

Are expensive watches worth your money?

Post by James Elsener » Wed Apr 17, 2019 3:52 pm

The answer is an unqualified yes if you are beholden by

superior quality of cases. Often individually milled out of a solid block of metal. Subsequently hand-polished

nicely detailed dials in most cases individually made

hand-polished sapphire crystals

individually decorated by hand movements for mechanical watches

quartz movements with gilted contacts

etc, etc.

in short they are worth your money only if you are enthralled by hand-crafted things.

Watches from Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin are not only made that way but keep their and in many cases even increase in value over time. Certainly, the limited number of watches that can be made that way also help.

The quality of a watch depends to a large extent on how much the people making the components going into it love their craft. To people employed by brands like Patek or Rolex making watches is not a job but their vocation. That is why almost all of them undergo vocational training always taking years.

In Switzerland people are trained in what we call the 'apprentissage' (apprenticeship). This means that they undergo training on the job in alteration to training in specialised vocational schools. You find more details on the way two-thirds of the Swiss youngs are trained here. The apprenticeship system used to be universal all over the world in the past. In old novels you might find the caption and 'he was apprenticed to'. In the past the apprentices had to pay for the privilege of being trained. Today, they are getting paid and the more they further they progress in their training the more they are paid. The apprenticeship system has survived in its purest form in Switzerland and to a lesser extent in Germany and Austria.

In the Swiss watch industry it takes

3 years of training to become a federally certified watch case maker

4 years of training to become a federally certified watch maker with specialisation 'watch industry'. These are the people working in a watch factory setting

4 years of training to become a federally certified watch maker with specialisation 'rhabilleur' (this is the watch maker working on the most delicate movements and fine-tuning them)

4 years of training plus 1 additional year to become a federally certified watch maker with specialisation 'after sales'. These are the people handling the complex tasks of servicing and repairing watches

4 years of training plus 2 additional years to become federally certified watch maker allowed to guide apprentices.

4 years of training to become a federally certified guillocheur. These are the people decorating the individual watch parts and/or making complex dials.

The top of the range manufacturers want only properly trained people to work on their watches. Subsequently watch factories and components suppliers alike invest a lot of time and energy in educating and training these young people.

The company making our cases is a small firm in La Chaux-de-Fonds. They have a staff of 23 people on the shopfloor. Every single of these people is a federally certified watch case maker. If you take a case of our watches and you put next to it a case of a non-descript factory you start noticing the difference. There are no gratings and uneven cuts in our case for instance. The inside is polished as well. The case has an even lustre, etc., etc. There are companies not employing trained people and they make good cases as well, however by employing properly trained people you stand to increase the chance of making superior products many times over. And this goes for every single component going into the watch.

This is in a nutshell why expensive watches are usually worth more than their money. Just my two cents worth of experience.
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