If you ask any stranger on the street what watch brands they know, the first answer will most likely be Rolex. It is understandable, they are right there with other luxury brands like Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
Most don't know that there are hundreds of watch brands that live inside the 600 billion dollar industry, brands like Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Omega, Jacob & Co etc. But as you may have seen yourself when walking past a jeweler, watches are expensive, ranging from $200 all the way to $500 000. But what is the reason? Why are watches so expensive? What makes a watch so valuable?
Let's cover the 7 reasons why watches are so expensive. It is more than just bragging rights. The actual answers might surprise you..
1. The Complexity
A key reason what makes a watch expensive is the mechanics of a watch. Let us give you an example to get our point across. There is a reason a Bugatti is a car in high demand. It is not just that it goes fast. It is what makes it go fast that costs so much.
The same is true about watches. Expensive watches are expensive to make, because they are not your regular Apple Watch that has a battery in it to tell you a digital time. A proper expensive watch like Rolex, Piaget or Audemars Piguet have mechanical movements inside, meaning they have little gears and pieces that work together to make the watch tell you the correct time.
An Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph has 367 individual parts that make your watch tell the time. Some A Lange & Söhne watches have 556 parts that make it tick. A Jacob & Co Astronomia Tourbillon has 235 parts to show that you are the baddest man in town. If something is hard to visualize, then it is going to cost some and more.
2. The Watch Brand
Hopefully you don't fall into the trap of buying a fake watch, like Lil Baby did when wearing a fake Patek Philippe Nautilus. But this incident proves our point even more: people in general buy things because of the brand name that comes with it.
A fake Rolex is still something people are okay with buying because most people will know the name Rolex, but might not know what makes it authentic (meaning it was produced by Rolex themselves and not in China).
The true reason that makes a watch valuable is the brand. Because who doesn't want to be known for wearing a Rolex on their wrist? The people who say no are lying.
3. The Labor Cost
What makes a watch expensive aside from the brand and complexity? The people who put it together.
If you buy a Patek Philippe Nautilus or an AP Royal Oak, you are paying for someone who put together the watch by hand. These professionals are trained for years under an apprenticeship and believe us, there are not many such professionals.
The level of detail, making sure the watch is perfect and looks amazing - these are all done by hand, by humans. And this long process of detail means that the experts are getting paid fairly and well, which makes the watches more expensive.
4. Use of Materials
Since a watch is a piece of jewelry not just a tool (telling you the time), you can find APs, Rolex's and Pateks in rare metals like gold, rose gold, platinum, carbon fiber, white gold and bronze.
And it is not that brands like Rolex and Richard Mille make watches with pure gold, but they develop their own special blend of gold to make the watch even better than before.
Just like a chain made from steel is less expensive than a chain made from VVS diamonds like ours (link here), so is a watch made from plastic less expensive than a watch made from gold.
5. Limited Availability
Why do people buy expensive watches? Because they are hard to get.
Because luxury watches are expensive, take a long time to be made by real people, and are complicated - there is simply not not enough supply to meet the crazy demand for Rolexes, APs and Pateks.
Some of this is done on purpose by brands (similar to Louis Vuitton and Chanel), but mostly there are just not enough watches made for the millions of people that want them.
6. Retailer Mark-up
If you were to go to a watch store (also known as authorized dealers) right now and say you want a brand new Patek Philippe, never been worn before, they would either laugh at your face or tell you that you first have to spend $200k+ on other jewelry before getting the chance to buy a Patek.
Because famous brands like Rolex, Patek, Audemars Piguet and many others dictate the price on their watches, the only way a store that sells them earns money is if you buy some of their other stuff, like necklaces, rings and bracelets.
That is the way it just is, and won't change anytime soon.
But you can take a shortcut and buy your favorite Rolex on the gray market (like chrono24.com), but expect to pay 2-7x the original price at minimum. Again, limited availability and also..
7. High Demand
The demand for watches today is bigger than it has ever been in history. Since watches are such a big part of culture now, the demand to wear our favorite TV characters Omega is high.
The ladies we want to get, the respect we want to earn will come easy by wearing an expensive watch. A luxury watch is a status symbol, and people pay for appearing high status.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are Swiss Watches so expensive?
Swiss watches are expensive due to the prestige and high regulation of their industry. The most famous and well known brands come from Switzerland too.
Are mechanical watches worth it?
Not all mechanical watches are the same but they are worth the money if you like watches besides their looks.
Why does Rolex cost so much?
Rolex has a huge brand image and is a symbol of success, worn by presidents, rappers, celebrities and millionaires.
The 4 most expensive watch brands are F.P. Journe, Richard Mille, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet.
What are the cheapest high end watches?Longines, Oris, Omega and Christopher Ward are the cheapest high end watches that are worth every penny.
Now you know why watches are expensive. There is a lot more than just the name of the watch, there is actual craftsmanship inside which is made with intention and care.
I will leave you with this quote that summarizes watches perfectly: “Watches are unimportant to the times, they can't speed up or slow down time and our phones tell it better. But as vessels for memories, they know few rivals.”