The wristwatch is a curious object. Having weathered the disruptive tides of the digital takeover and the triumph of fast fashion, it has emerged not as a relic but as a testament to enduring analog quality that people are still willing to shell out for.
Having said that, there remain pieces that stand out even from the top tier. Here, the Lucerne Group’s managing director Emerson Yao speaks to The Edition about what to keep in mind when shopping for a Swiss watch that’s not only worth its price tag, but is guaranteed to outstrip it.
1. Iconic models
Like carmakers and fashion houses, watch brands introduce new pieces every year. When certain models get dropped, it may be for one of two reasons: it didn’t click with the market as well as the brand had hoped, or it was intentionally dropped to make it a limited edition collector’s item. However, some pieces always remain in the collection and is always the most heavily promoted range by the brand with a lot of story behind them. These are certainly set to become iconic models that will ensure you of longevity, where decades down the line they will still be of great value.
2. Brands with a long history and a strong watchmaking heritage
The more storied the history of a company, the more likely it is to be a successful name with a time-tested watchmaking heritage—a reputation not all watch carrying brands can boast of. A brand may be a longstanding powerhouse in the fashion industry, for instance, but this doesn’t translate to an illustrious history in the art of watch manufacturing. Buying from such names may be a choice informed by style, but it’s hard to say whether 10 or 20 years from now what their pieces might be worth.
3. Brands that are financially strong
Nowadays, few family-run companies are able to run a global brand. While there are a few, such as Patek Philippe and Breitling, most others get bought out by large companies that have very deep pockets and global distribution—storied groups that are able to cultivate small brands into worldwide competitors. While independent brands may be able to stand up in terms of quality, they have far more modest followings—likely because their marketing is not as strong—and can’t assure you that they’ll still be around in the coming decades, or that you’ll find willing buyers.
4. Brands that produce limited quantities, where the demand exceeds the supply
When the 2008 global crisis hit, Patek Philippe announced that they would cut production. Global demand had decreased—but not so much that there were no longer people queuing up for the products. While they wouldn’t have been met with oversupply had they continued to produce the same quantities, cutting production allowed them to maintain the same scarce demand-supply ratio—exhibiting a long-term vision to take care of their brand and its legacy.
This is simply the concept of luxury. If brands choose to make as many pieces as they want in order to meet demand, they are by definition less exclusive and, by extension, less luxurious. Pieces from such brands are far less likely to appreciate over time.
5. Brands with large and loyal big fan bases
Buying watches from a brand with a loyal following assures you of after-market demand. There are, among many others, Omega and Rolex fan base groups that consistently have their ears pricked for pieces to add to their collections.
6. Brands that care about—and flaunt—their movement
When it comes to timepieces, how brands portray themselves to the public is far more important than the usual PR campaign. Choose a brand that is confident in marketing their watch movements, which shows that they’re constantly investing in, and innovating, their mechanisms—and they’re not shy about showing it.
7. Pieces or brands with quality standard certifications
A watch certification is what a diploma is to a professional. When investing in a watch, look into whether it has one of these primary certifications: the COSC chronometer, Geneva Seal, or the Master Chronometer. On top of actually signifying quality, these labels are proof that a brand is confident enough to spend the extra dime on having their pieces certified at all.
The certification of the COSC Chronometer, or the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, is the most basic. It assesses whether pieces meet the standards of accuracy in different movement positions and environments—testing its ability to withstand elements of freezing cold to sweltering hot, and so on. A hundred percent of Rolex and Brietling pieces, for instance, are awarded the Chronometer Standard.
Master Chronometer is a higher version of the COSC, even including the likes of a piece’s anti-magnetic capabilities.
The Geneva Seal is everything that the former look into, plus decoration. Incorporating perlage finishing and gold chatons into a watch is about more than just aesthetics, it’s respecting the Geneva way of traditional watchmaking. Because this seal is only accredited to watches made in Geneva—such as Chopard and Vacheron Constantin—some brands have taken to making their own certification. Patek Philippe has long been awarded the Geneva Seal, but with factories even outside of Geneva, the brand has instead opted to issue a Patek Philippe Seal.
8. Brands that only use the best materials in their production
Look for the brands that use pure materials—such as sapphire, crystal, steel, gold, genuine leather, and the like—in all aspects, from the exteriors of the watches down to their movements.
9. Brands that have professionally run service centers worldwide
The presence of global service centers is indicative of companies that are committed to taking care of their watches—and have the resources to do so. Otherwise, companies the likes of Lucerne wouldn’t bother with the upkeep and training that goes into running a local service facility.
10. Brands represented by reputable partners globally at retail
A no-brainer: major retailers will generally steer clear of a brand that’s not strong in the market.
Lucerne Luxe has boutiques in Glorietta 4 and Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City, and Ayala Center Cebu.
Interview by Arianna Lim
Illustration by Ross Du