What dictates the price tag on a timepiece?

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

In the world of horology, watches are a perfect example of wearable art and creativity that can represent a memory or wealth status depending on your reason for collecting, but what dignifies the price tag? There is a vast array of different materials, components, complications and other options that can completely change the price of a watch. On that note, there is also a vast difference between a brand that strictly produces fashion oriented quartz timepieces to a brand that strictly makes timepieces for the sake of making timepieces. From where it's manufactured to where its components are produced, a watch can go from $60 to $60,000 and above. So, what makes a watch more expensive than another watch?

Aesthetics aren't the only thing that makes the price of a watch high. A perfect example is the Guess W0040G3 or the Guess Rigor (displayed on the right and is my first watch which started my obsession. Pun intended.) A 45mm watch that is absolutely aesthetically beautiful and comfortable to wear that resembles similarities between Hublot and Audemars Piguet, but doesn't have the components or materials to make it an expensive "high end" watch like Hublot or Audemars Piguet. There are 3 things that make a watch more expensive than others. 1. What movement is inside the watch/how many complications are in said movement, 2. Where the watch is manufactured and 3. What materials were used to build the watch.

The Movement:

A watch movement can change the price tag completely. There are 3 types of movements available; Quartz, Manual-winding/hand winding and Automatic/Self-Winding movements. 

Quartz movements (shown left) always require a battery to create power for the watch to operate. Since this style of movement runs on battery, the watch needs very little maintenance to operate and the battery will power the movement for years before it needs to be replaced. 

However, there is another form of battery powered movements that are referenced as "meca-quartz" movements (as seen right). A meca-quartz movement is a hybrid movement containing both quartz and mechanical components to create one working working system. On a meca-quartz powered chronograph for example, the timekeeping functions (seconds, hours and minutes) are all powered by the quartz components of the movement, while the chronograph functions such as the stop watch function is controlled by the mechanical portion of the movement.

Manual-winding movements are mainly powered by winding the stem of the crown to power the mainspring inside the watch.

Manual-wind watches need to be rewound frequently since there is no Automatic/Self-winding capabilities, and it also ensures that all gears inside the piece are in working order.

Automatic/Self-Winding movements use a rotating weight called the rotor inside to keep the watch wound and running. As you wear the watch, the rotor uses the movement of your arm or wrist to ensure the timepiece stays wound and maintains power. However, the movement of your arm sometimes is not enough to give the piece the proper amount of power to keep it running over night. A watch winder is a good way to keep these watches running properly and keeping good time when you're not wearing them.

Manufacturing: Where its made,

Made in China

Where a watch is manufactured can have a massive dictation on the price of a watch. Budget friendly options are usually Made in China and usually run a quartz or battery powered movement. However, there are many fantastic, budget friendly mechanical timepieces that are being manufactured in China. A majority of these brands will use some form of polished steel for the case and bracelet (not 316L) and use cheaper materials to make their watches and movements, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good watch. Some Chinese brand timepieces can feel of high quality and keep surprisingly great time as well as feel great on wrist.

Made in Japan:

Made in Japan timepieces are a big step up in timepiece quality. Well known companies like Seiko, Citizen, Casio and Orient are all Japanese made brands and are known for their amazing quality for the price. When moving into Japanese made territory, there is an overall quality and feel that improves making the overall aesthetics and wearability of a certain timepiece that much better. Japanese brands will move into sapphire crystals over the dials, 316L stainless steel for the case and bracelets, genuine leather straps, and you also move into Japanese made manual-winding and automatic movements, which a lot of the time are fantastic quality. Japanese brands also use quartz movements for certain timepieces, but the build quality is still amazing.

Made in Germany:

We are now moving into high-end territory with German made timepieces. These pieces are absolute works of art, and are quite a bit cheaper than Swiss made watches (sometimes). These timepieces work with extremely intricate mechanical movements and high quality materials such as gold, white gold and platinum. Brands like A. Lange & Söhne, Archimede, Glashutte, Mont Blanc and Sinn are all amazing German made watches.

Made in Switzerland:

Swiss made timepieces are the absolute best of the best when it comes to quality in watch making. Each timepiece is crafted by hand with the best materials and are equipped with n-house designed and manufactured watch movements to create absolute elegance and outstanding craftsmanship inside and out. Swiss timepieces will run you quite a bit of money, but you definitely get what you pay for when you purchase one. Brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, De Bethune, MB&F, F.P. Journe, Van Kleef & Arpels and Omega are all beautiful examples of Swiss made timepieces. 

There are so many variables that can change the price of a timepiece in the market today. What really matters is what you love. What you decide to put on your wrist is completely up to you and wear your pieces with pride. It doesn't matter the materials, where it was made, the best watch in the world is the one you choose to wear.