Watch Snob Explains Why Picking a Watch You Like as a Gift Is a Mistake
Watch Snob on Going Big With the Cartier Tank
My wife has hinted that she would like a Cartier watch as an anniversary gift. She has a preference for larger watches and I was thinking about getting her a Tank Solo XL which is marketed as a men’s watch at 41mm diameter. To be honest I’m also tempted by the automatic movement — I don’t understand why similar quartz models for both men and women cost the same. Should I get the 41mm or is that too large? Also am I missing a trick with the quartz/automatic pricing at Cartier?
Hello sir. I’m not entirely sure I follow your question about “similar quartz models for both men and women costing the same.” It seems to me that it would naturally follow that with similar, or even possibly identical movements, in similar models, you would expect to pay about the same — the pricing of watches partly has to do with the movement, with mechanical timepieces almost always commanding a premium over quartz as mechanical movements are more expensive to produce.
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As far as the size of the watch is concerned, in this case I would be guided by your wife’s preferences (the same goes for automatic vs. quartz). Some people prefer a more traditionally sized so-called ladies’ watch but as I stagger around this benighted planet of ours, I notice that a number of women prefer larger watches as they make a more direct style statement. I myself, an aging gent with little to recommend me from a style perspective, happen to think the Tank is a happier thing to wear in a smaller size but if the lady wants a bolder look, why not? You’ll both be happier.
Finding the Right Dealer
I am a beginner watch collector. I own a Rolex , Tag Hauer and Breitling. However I have a friend that has a huge collection, I mean huge. He buys one or two per year. He told me he goes to a dealer that sells a lot of watches [and who] has all of the top brands. He also has a lot that are new but they are not the latest models. Maybe two or three years old but still new so he gets them at a great price. Like a end of the year car that didn’t sell. I always ask him about the dealers but he won’t tell me. It’s the one thing he has over me. So my question is where can I find watch dealers like this?
My dear sir, your friend didn’t find his obliging retailer, he cultivated a relationship with him. You mention that you are a novice collector and that he is an experienced one, with a “huge” collection as well. What this means, of course, is that he has invested heavily in building his collection and very likely spent a good deal of not only time, but also money, cultivating a relationship with his retailer. It would be the gesture of an altruistic gentleman for him, having devoted so much time, energy, and effort to building this relationship, for him to allow you to drink from the same well, but this would not be a realistic expectation of human nature.
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Retailers very naturally give preferential treatment to their best customers. This naturally is a source of frustration to someone in your position, especially if you want to acquire an in-demand piece associated with a long waiting list, but you can’t blame retailers for being pragmatic in this respect — certainly, the best ones love watches passionately and share that with their customers but they also have a business to run, and not showing due deference to those who support them the most is cutting their own throat. I suggest that rather than hope for your friend to unbend, you put your energy into building a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with a retailer — you might be in a position to benefit materially from the effort sooner than you think.
I am, I must confess, a novice in the world of watches. Having grown up working class with a father whose favorite timepiece was an antique Favre-Leuba, I garnered an appreciation for swiss watchmaking without having the ability to buy at the very top-end of that industry. Having built a career of my own, I am now in a position to buy the watches I previously coveted (albeit with some effort in saving up for it). In the first instance, I bought a Rolex Datejust which, though I appreciate is somewhat run of the mill, is in my opinion probably the leading marque watch of our time capable of being worn everyday and still drawing attention of others. I followed this up with the JLC Master Calendar. I am now looking to buy another watch, and this time have a hankering for something more extravagant.
I have read with interest your suggestion that making watches in steel is a current fad which may come to an end. My first, more philosophical question is whether a watch’s worth should be in its making or in the materials used to make it. By that I mean, should one pay several thousands for a watch because of its unique and fascinating watch movement, the stature and history of the watchmaker or because the movement is encased in platinum or gold? For someone like me, with a genuine fascination in what is inside the case, the trend towards steel has opened up a world I would not otherwise be able to access. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a banker’s son and have never (regrettably) rented a Lambo.
My second question is watch specific. You have never expressed an opinion on the watches of Jacob & Co and I would love to hear your thoughts. At the top end, the watches are extraordinarily fascinating and luxurious. At the other end, (referring back to my point above) I think the five time zone has some very interesting technology. My problem with that watch, which is of interest to me, is ruined by being a bit too blingy.
Last question: do you have any other suggestions for a casual, unique watch akin to the Five Time Zone which would be considered a statement watch without being “in-your-face”?
Well, three interesting queries. As to whether or not one should value case material over the movement, or vice versa, this is a highly personal matter and one is not wrong to value one over the other. You have actually already made your decision, it seems to me, and if you find that a watch with a superlative movement is not affordable in gold or platinum, but is so in steel, and there is no loss to you in enjoyment because of a less precious case material, no one can call you wrong (well, they can but they would be mistaken in doing so).
To your second question, I find Jacob & Co rather weirdly fascinating. There are certainly some pieces in his collections that do not especially appeal to me (the Epics are epically forgettable, at least if your tastes correlate at all to mine, though I suppose someone must be buying them if he keeps making them). Where his work is most interesting is in the domain of high complications, in my view. I don’t necessarily find things like the Astronomia Tourbillon much to my taste either, but it is also a kind of watchmaking that very few if any other brands can afford to do or are interested in doing — exceedingly exotic watchmaking fantasies that are really all about seeing just how far the possibilities of mechanical watchmaking can be pushed.
Now I have just said that I find some of his work more stimulating than others and I am compelled to reply to your third query, by saying that the Five Time Zone watches are to me completely uninteresting. I suppose with a revolver to my temple, I would also be compelled to admit that they are icons of watch design of some sort, but I find them horrendously dated at this point and I do not think the design has aged especially well. If Jacob ever reads this, which I sincerely doubt, he would probably reply that he is as they say, laughing all the way to the bank which would be perfectly fair. As you can imagine, since I don’t care for the Five Time Zone watch, I am not the person to ask for some less “in your face” equivalent either. The whole point of the Five Time Zone watch is to be in your face, and anything that is not, is another kind of watchmaking entirely.
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