Quartz or mechanical movement?
In an electronic watch, an electrical charge is passed through a wafer-thin piece of quartz, which causes it to vibrate 32 768 times per second, making it accurate within a minute a year. These are the more common, cheaper options. Most horologists and watch collectors grudgingly admit that quartz watches are very accurate, although they wouldn’t consider them to be investment pieces. “The glacial near perfect frequency of a quartz watch leaves me stone cold even if the watch case is exquisite,” explains Arzul. “Quartz watches have a shorter lifespan than their mechanical siblings, but offer the advantage of being more accurate at a much lower price point,” explains Bester. Most investment watches are mechanical though. They use the gradual unwinding of a mainspring to move the hands and can be either self-winding or automatic (where the mainspring is wound using a rotor that oscillates when you move your arm). With both options, you’ll need to know what the power reserve is. This will tell you how long it can go without being wound manually or moved around to generate more power. Most mechanical watches lose roughly an hour a year. “The more complex the movement, the higher the asking price will be,” says Bester. “If properly maintained they can last for decades and may even be passed down from one generation to the next, increasing their sentimental and monetary value.” Some of the most intricate mechanisms can only be crafted by a select handful of master watchmakers, and as a result, are very pricey. Arzul’s advice when it comes to choice of calibre? “I would tend to opt for well-proven, classic systems.” His personal choice? A 1969 vintage chronograph – the “Moon Watch” (a classic Speed Master) by Omega. Bester wears his Rolex Sea-Dweller most of the time, but has a Jaeger LeCoultre for formal events. “Both are understated and iconic,” he says.
What size and shape?
A pure taste decision, you need to decide just how big you want your ticker to be and what shape you want the case to be (square, round or rectangular). The popularity of diving watches has grown in the last 60 years and because of that more men are chosing thicker, larger watches that look masculine and powerful. In the past, very few watches broke the 40mm diameter, now there’s a huge range of chunkier pieces. Diving watches are a very popular watch category, which could mean a safe investment if you’re looking to buy. “For example, had you bought a steel Rolex Submariner-Date in 2005 it would have cost you for R36 000. Now a 2012 model will cost you R74 000,” says Bester. “If you sold your 2005 model today you will easily get your initial investment back, and you would have had the pleasure of wearing arguably one of the best watches in the world.” Just keep in mind that a larger watch isn’t always practical. If you’re a man who spends a lot of time in suits and jackets, a larger face can catch on sleeves and cuffs. A watch with a slimmer, thinner profile might work better.
This comes down to what’s practical, what suits your lifestyle and the image you want to project. Want to show a little status? Rose, white and yellow gold will reveal just how well you and your investments are doing. If you’re more of a practical, outdoorsy kind of guy, try titanium, stainless steel, ceramic or even carbon.
What features and functions do you need?
This is where you need to be brutally honest. Do you put on pinstripes in the morning, or are you more comfortable in a wetsuit? Do you find happiness in a tide-counter, or do you revel in the measure of split second lap improvements? The more options you tick, the more complicated your watch face becomes. Decide whether you need a perpetual calendar (good for all calendar changes, including leap years, until 2100), moon-phase indicator or split-second chronograph. Not only do they take up real-estate on your watch, but they’re labour-intensive to create and require hundreds of tiny, extra moving parts. This also means your watch will start to become massively expensive, so if you aren’t using them, there’s no point in splashing out.