5 mistakes people make when buying their first branded watch, according to Singapore Watch Club’s chairman

Watch expert Tom Chng speaking at a watch exhibition held by Maxi-Cash, a pawnbroker that trades and sources rare second-hand luxury watches.
Maxi-Cash

According to watch experts, more millennials are now looking to own branded watches. In fact, watches are among the first few luxury items that working adults – particularly men – aspire to own, for the refinement, social status and wealth they convey.

But picking a watch to buy among the hundreds of choices can be daunting, as these luxury investments can cost buyers months of their hard-earned pay.

Business Insider spoke to Tom Chng, luxury watch collector and chairman of the Singapore Watch Club, for five big mistakes first-time buyers make in the big purchase — and how to avoid them.

#1. They don’t do detailed research and buy what’s in trend.

The Franck Muller Master Square Casino and the fashionable Rolex Cosmograph Daytona in Rainbow.
Maxi-Cash

First, buyers need to research watch models until they see something they like. Even after identifying the desired brand and model, buyers should research down to details like which model iteration they’d like. Not knowing this could mean getting confused between different watches.

Chng advises buyers not to buy watches with extra large or extra small watch faces, but go for “safe and conservative” models. If not, they risk ending up with their watches looking dated after the fad has passed.

#2. They focus too much on the technical aspects of the watch.

Luxury watches have a number of technicalities, including movement, winding systems, and power reserves of different lengths.
Maxi-Cash

It’s easy to get caught up considering factors like in-house movement, dates on the watch face, manual or automatic winding, length of the power reserve, and the number of jewels. But it’s not necessary to think too deeply about these yet.

“This is a mistake I made when I first started collecting watches: trying to get the maximum number of features in it,” says Chng. “Your taste will change, so don’t get too fixated on technicalities. Just buy something that speaks to you.”

#3. They spend over S$10,000.

While lovely, the S$198,800 DeLaCour Reflect Tourbillon far exceeds the recommended budget for first-time watch buyers.
Maxi-Cash

A first-time buyer is still figuring out what they like, so they shouldn’t see their first purchase as a potential heirloom, but something to start off with and upgrade in the future.

Chng suggests buyers spend between S$4,000 and S$10,000 on their first watch, and also consider buying a second-hand piece. This way, in cases when the watch sells for a loss on the resale market, starting off with a cheaper model can make the loss less painful.

“This is the learning phase,” he says. “You don’t want to pay too much for a costly mistake.”

#4: They don’t want to buy iconic watches.

The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch and the Rolex Submariner.
Maxi-Cash

While most millennials might not like the idea of getting a watch everyone else has, it’s better to play it safe, says Chng. In particular, he advises buyers not to write off getting a Rolex, even though it might be regarded as a common brand.

“I understand people wanting to have something special and unique for their first luxury watch,” he says, “but it’s a mistake to not look at Rolex models. When it comes to resale value, they’re probably the best and can even make you some profit.”

Unfortunately, the only way to know what sort of watch you like is by wearing it and interacting with it, and a person’s preferred watch weight, size, and design will change over time. It’s best to start off with an iconic model like the Omega Speedmaster or Rolex Submariner.

That way, you can use the watch to figure out what you like, and then sell it off easily, since there’s always strong demand for these models.

#5: They rush to get their first watch.

If there’s a model you have in mind, it’s best to wait for it to become available instead of settling for something else.
Maxi-Cash

While many people are in a hurry to slap a luxe watch on their wrist to celebrate that they’ve made it in life, Chng says you should not compromise on the watch you have in mind.

After researching and deciding on a model – however rare or hard to find – don’t settle just because a similar model is available or the one you want is hard to find.

“You cherish the watch more in the journey that you’ve gone to read about it, to look at the ones in shops and at the ones your friends have, and realising what you like about that particular watch,” he says.

“If you’re seeking a special model, there’s a reason why that watch has spoken to you, and you should wait for the it to come along. If you settle for something else, you’ll still be thinking about that watch.”