Timeless Elegance

Your Ultimate Guide to Acquiring Your First Luxury Watch
A Guide to Buying Your First Luxury Watch
BY Gina Jones

Cast your mind back to 2021. Fresh from her success on Love Island, UK reality star Molly Mae Hague is named creative director of online fashion brand Pretty Little Thing, a job title few thought she could achieve. Her first celebratory purchase? A luxury rose gold Patek Phillipe watch, encrusted with 56 diamonds and a sapphire-crystal case back. The timepiece, worth a reported £46,000, was her way of telling the world, “I’ve arrived”.

In Molly Mae’s case - as for so many young people making their mark on the world - a luxury watch is a signifier of success. Kylie Jenner, once named by Forbes Magazine as the ‘youngest self-made US billionaire,’ reportedly celebrated her success with the purchase of not just one but a whole collection of designer watches, including a Rolex Datejust in 18k yellow gold with a diamond-set dial, an Audemars Piguet Ladies Royal Oak white gold model and a Cartier Ballon Bleu Serti Vibrant.

Credit: Photographer Michael Kazimierczuk

You don’t have to be a billionaire, however, to appreciate a good quality watch. Investing in a designer timepiece is a landmark for many of us, a way of elevating your look, going beyond fashion, and developing your personal signature style.

For many people, a high-end watch purchase is a coming-of-age experience. You might be celebrating a new job, a milestone birthday, or a special life event. It’s an item that literally and figuratively marks the passing of time. If you’re about to embark on your very first luxury watch purchase, we’re here to guide you through how to choose the ideal timepiece for you.

Understanding Luxury Watches

Before you dive into the world of luxury timepieces, let's explore the essence of what makes a watch truly luxurious.

Before we dive into the world of luxury timepieces, let's explore the essence of what makes a watch truly luxurious.

The first thing to note is the materials used; when you begin looking at luxury watches, you’ll instantly note the difference.

Credit: Hodinkee

Precious metals have traditionally been used in luxury watchmaking, with solid gold being the most popular. While this timeless style remains a classic, in recent years, steel and platinum have also been used to craft some of the world’s finest timepieces. A prime example is Rolex, which uses 904L stainless steel in all its collections, an incredibly hard-wearing material.

The success of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller in Rolesor white gold and steel has also ushered in an age of hybrid metal watches; although two-tone timepieces have historically been frowned upon by those in the know, watchmakers are now creating monotone bi-metal designs which are growing in popularity.

In recent years, watch bracelets have become a more popular choice for women, and these come in a variety of materials, including various kinds of gold, steel, and ceramic. Omega, Hublot, and Tag Heuer offer a luxury option for those who prefer a sportier look, while Cartier and Piaget’s offer more traditional feminine styling.

Much like in fashion, where we have haute couture, in watchmaking, the elite brands claim the pedigree of ‘haute horlogerie’, which means ‘the high art of watchmaking’. Big brands that make up this coterie include Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet, and, more recently, A. Lange & Söhne.

Another label that holds great weight in terms of popularity of brands nowadays is sustainability. In addition to the glamour and luxury of a designer watch purchase, consumers want to be assured that the brands they choose use ethically sourced materials.

According to Harvard Business Review, sustainability is now the primary driver of business innovation in the sector. Brands such as Cartier, Omega, Chopard, and IWC Schaffhausen are now signed up to the Responsible Jewellery Council, whose certification looks at an ethical supply chain covering gold, silver, platinum group metals, diamonds, and colored gemstones.

Top Luxury Watch Brands

While a luxury watch purchase is certainly a signifier of success and status, if you really want to make a statement, there’s no better way than investing in a vintage watch. A classic timepiece signifies a more understated elegance than its blingier modern counterparts.

Credit: Hodinkee

As well as buying the quality and style of yesterday, you’ll also be buying into its heritage. The best luxury watch brands all have a story; whether it’s the Cartier Tank worn by Princess Diana and Jackie O on the red carpet, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 101 daintily draped around Queen Elizabeth II’s wrist for her coronation, or the yellow gold Rolex Lady Datejust that Grace Kelly took wherever she went. Selecting the right vintage watch can imbue your modern wardrobe with a sense of bygone elegance and glamour.

The main horological legends to watch for are Rolex and Patek Philippe - these retain their value well, making them a safe investment. Mens mid-sized models have also gained popularity among female buyers, with designs like the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3800 and the 37mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak becoming much sought-after.

Credit: Hodinkee

Choosing Your First Luxury Watch

So, where do you start if you have no idea how to choose a luxury watch? Your first decision will be whether to opt for quartz or mechanical. Many of the most expensive vintage watches will be mechanical since quartz is a relatively recent invention dating back to the 60s. While quartz watches are generally more reasonably priced and, in fact more accurate, many timepiece connoisseurs prefer the more traditional, mechanical styles.

Your next big choice will be whether you want an everyday watch or a more luxe occasion piece. Sportier styles with leather or steel straps, such as the iconic IWC Pilot’s Watch or the Breitling Navitimer, lend themselves to a more rugged, everyday styling, whereas a metal braceleted style in gold, such as the Cartier Tank is a more refined look best suited for eveningwear.

Your wrist size will also be an important factor in your decision; a giant 40mm plus dial will likely swamp a smaller wrist, so trying on a selection of styles is a must.

Since a watch is so personal and something you’ll likely wear every day, you may want to splash out a little extra to personalize it.

There are countless ways to customize a watch; some brands, such as Undone allow you to create your own unique combination of case, bezel, dial, hands, and strap. For more classic brands such as Rolex or Audemars Piguet, you may need to rely on a trusted third-party supplier to inscribe a message or change the bezel or dial. Be aware, however, that any customizations you do may impact its resale value - always check with an expert before you buy if this is a concern for you.

Credit: Watchclub.com

Investment and Resale Value

Buying a luxury watch isn’t just a fashion statement - it can also be a smart financial move. For some, investing in a watch portfolio isn’t just about updating their look; it’s also a shrewd business decision.

Elite-level brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Söhne, and Vacheron Constantin retain - and sometimes even increase - in value when well cared for. Some of the more modern brands that may also become future collector’s pieces include Richard Mille and IWC Schaffhausen. In particular, watch out for limited edition collector’s pieces, as these will likely increase in value over time.

If you’re looking to make a luxury watch investment for the future, it’s important to buy from a trusted retailer. The resale value of luxury watches is also markedly increased by retaining the box, paperwork, and receipt.

Taking good care of your purchase is also essential for retaining resale value; regular cleaning and servicing by a professional horologist or watchmaker is recommended.

Credit: Hodinkee

Caring for Your Luxury Watch

Once you’ve acquired your prized timepiece, maintaining its allure for years to come relies on regular care and attention.

When it’s not being worn, store it in its original box, away from extreme temperatures, and, if it’s a mechanical watch, wind it daily, even when it’s not in use. (Stop when you feel resistance, however, as overwinding can cause lasting damage).

If your watch has leather straps, take care not to allow it to come into contact with liquids or grease - treat it like you would any other leather item to keep it soft and supple.

Cleaning should ideally be carried out by a trained professional, but in between cleans, you can use a dry microfibre cloth will get rid of smudges without scratching it. Never submerge a watch in warm water - even if it’s water resistant.

You should aim to get it serviced every three to five years - an expert who specializes in luxury watch maintenance will be able to do the fine-tuning it needs to keep it running smoothly.


So, for our final thoughts on your luxury watch purchase, we’re turning to one of the greats: Elizabeth Taylor, who was best known for her jewelry collection (but also famously popularised the Bulgari Serpenti watch) once said, “I’ve never thought of my jewellery as trophies. I’m here to take care of it and to love it, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”

The same could be said for your first luxury watch. While your timepiece today might be a symbol of your success or a token to celebrate a landmark occasion, a love affair, or the passing of time, it will also one day become an heirloom, a legacy you leave behind. Its horological grandeur will outlive today’s stories and fashions.

So yes, it’s an expensive extravagance, one of life’s little luxuries - but it’s also so much more than that. It will be part of your living time capsule, a gentle tick-tock that soundtracks your days, its rhythm carrying beyond you and into the future.