Opinion: Selling Points that Don’t Sell Me Part III – What We Value in Watches

In previous installments of “Selling Points,” contributor Nathan Schultz has examined the features of a watch that supposedly add value but aren’t necessarily needed, and watch related “deal breakers” that are widely expected in higher priced watches, but have little appeal to value conscious collectors. Here, in the third volume of the series, we open the topic up the wider roster of Worn & Wound contributors by asking what seems like a simple question: What do you value in a watch?

Nathan Schultz

Years ago, someone in a forum posed the following question: what do you look for in a watch? It’s a simple question, and my answer was equally straightforward. I quickly chimed in that I sought out the best spec per dollar ratio. Afterall, that was how I approached my entire life. I wanted the most reliable car for a reasonable monthly payment and the tastiest pizza on a Friday night without breaking the bank. It only made sense I would apply the same formula to watch collecting. Other responses did not share the same frugal sentiment. They focused on things like provenance and design- things I could have cared less about at the time.

Looking back at that time when a sub $300 NH35 powered diver was all I needed, my simplified answer represented a preliminary phase in my horological journey. Since then, my opinions (some unpopular, if you have read the first two articles in this series) have become more complex. I still appreciate watches that offer capable specs for reasonable prices, but it takes a lot more than 200 meters of water resistance and a sapphire crystal to draw me in. So what does excite me in this pickier phase of enthusiasm? If I were to answer that forum question now, I’d say I value anything original that moves the industry forward.

Recently, that has ranged from innovative complications at new price points such as the Bel Canto to industry shaking collaborations such as the Moonswatch, proving exciting progress comes at all prices. But just like my preferences, the needle for what constitutes horological headway is always moving. Even in the past year, integrated bracelets at affordable price points, a certain shade of blue, and vintage reissues have all progressed from piquing the interest of the entire market to being tired cliches. Thanks to a constantly shifting landscape, there will always be something new pushing the hobby to uncharted territories. I’m excited to be along for the ride, enjoying watches that represent time capsules of what I valued at the time, be that a PRX in 2021, a Miyota 9075 powered GMT in 2022, or whatever the most recent Swatch collab happens to be.

Zach Kazan

The concept of “value” comes up a lot in these pages, but I don’t know that any of us really spend a whole lot of time thinking about what it means. Because if we did, I think we’d soon discover (as I have, this week) that it’s an incredibly nebulous term. What we value in a watch doesn’t just change from collector to collector, but within a collection it can change from watch to watch. Looking at my own watch box, I see things I value in every individual piece, but they aren’t always the same things. I value the pure artistic expression and creativity of my Arcanaut, and if pressed I’d probably tell you that adventurous design of this type is what I value most, but then I look at my Black Bay, or any of my Citizen dive watches, and the word takes on a different connotation. These watches are undeniably “good values” (again, somewhat relative) but they might not be imbued with the watchmaking ideas I value personally. Yet I love them anyway. 


Part of the reason it’s hard to pin down what we value in a watch is because there’s something unknowable about it until you really begin to experience it. The inherent value in a watch can reveal itself over time – months or years spent wearing a watch regularly will transform the way you think about it. So it’s tough to identify a single characteristic in the absence of actual lived experience with a watch. 

This is why I’ve come to despise what I see as the most toxic avenue for watch criticism these days, practiced mostly in Instagram comment sections, and consisting of varying expressions “It’s not worth $XXXX,” with the dollar amount being literally anything from $100 to $100,000 or more. The idea of deciding, without having seen or tried on a watch, that it’s of some less significant value to you than a potential owner and broadcasting that publicly is just plain ugly. Watch purchases are emotional decisions, after all. And seeing something that speaks to you and buying into it is an emotionally dangerous thing if you stop to think about it. Respecting that the incredibly diverse world of collectors around you find value in a huge array of watches is not only good manners, it will probably open your mind to what you find value in over time. 

Brett Braley 

Coming from a menswear and luxury background in my personal life, I believe that being able to integrate a timepiece into my wardrobe seamlessly needs to be of the most importance when purchasing a new watch. While I’m a believer in buying whatever makes you happy, it’s hard for me to personally collect watches that won’t make it into my rotation easily. I guess, in a way, I’m a watch appreciator and perhaps not a collector in this way. 

Because my wardrobe is so simple, it would be incongruent to my personal style to have something too flashy or vibrant on my wrist. Instead, you’ll see me wearing a toned-down Tank or perhaps I’ll be a little adventurous with a Pepsi-colored Seiko. I think having a few pieces that integrate into my wardrobe versus buying for the purpose of owning makes me in the minority here, but this way, I know I’m getting the most cost-per-wear out of my watch as possible.

Christoph McNeill 

What do I value most in a watch? That’s a great question, and a fun one to think about. As a primarily vintage collector, the things that I value most on any given watch may be quite different from those of a modern watch collector. For me, for the vintage pieces I target for acquisition, it comes down to a few common denominators, with individual specifics sprinkled in. The common themes would include authenticity/originality, condition and availability/affordability. I’ll start with these and address the aesthetic specifics after.

Authenticity is the thing I value above all else when it comes to vintage watches, specifically that all the parts are original. Some things are more obvious like a repainted dial or replaced hands. However other parts might not be so easy to determine if they are original or not. Take the crown, for example. Many makes and models have signed crowns, but there are plenty of original unsigned crowns. You have to do research for any watch model to determine the correct crown, and for me that is a huge factor. Sometimes a replaced crown looks pretty decent, other times it sticks out like a sore thumb. The same can be said for crystals. For instance, Universal Geneve Polerouter crystals are signed on the underside in the middle with a tiny “U” symbol, and models with a date usually have a trapezoidal date magnifier. Since crystals are commonly swapped out over the years, it’s a huge selling point to have the original signed crystal on a Polerouter.

With vintage watches, condition and originality are everything, as they are with most vintage collectibles. Many people love varying degrees of patina, but for me I greatly prefer my vintage watches to be as mint as possible. The biggest factors here are no marks/patina on the dial, no missing lume in the hands (I hate that…) and an unpolished case. Having fallen hard for vintage King and Grand Seikos and the Grammar of Design cases they showcase, an unpolished case with sharp edges is a must. Polishing literally kills these beauties and is an absolute deal breaker for me. Sometimes I can find a desired model quickly, and sometimes it has taken me many years to get one in the right condition, but it’s always worth the wait. 

Now, the last of my points is a pretty obvious one: Availability! With vintage watches, I may desire a specific model, but can I actually FIND one? And can I actually afford to buy it if one does present itself? Sure, I’d love to own the Bulova prototype UDT diver, but they are more rare than hens teeth and are pretty much Unobtanium. So, while I love the hunt and don’t mind waiting and seeking out a specific model, I do value the availability of watches so that I can eventually procure the model I’m after.

So, with all that said, what are the individual design elements that I value in a watch? Well, that’s a long story but here’s a short version. I’m a sucker for divers, especially those with acrylic bezel inserts, like vintage Squales. I’m also quite fond of 1950’s-1960’s sporty or dress watches that have a steel case and silver dial with steel hands and applied markers. Ironically, this was not something that I sought out intentionally, but rather a common theme I found running through my collection as it grew. 

Chris Antzoulis

If you’ve read some of my articles or follow me on Instagram, you likely anticipated me talking about the individuality of my watches. I can’t express enough how much I enjoy being a vibrant individual, both in appearance and personality. Blending in is not my thing. I look for my watches to be an extension of this personality. I hunt for color, but more importantly I get jazzed over intentional and artistic design. It’s why I love watches like my Studio Underd0g Watermel0n, Brew Espresso Retrograph, Moels & Co. 528, and my Farer Cayley Verde. Each one of these watches are purposely crafted to be exactly what they are, and for me that’s wearable art – something that will evoke an emotion, but also, something that will offer insight both on the brand itself and on me as the wearer.

The Studio Underd0g Watermel0n may be unusual in color and concept, but the way the branding is divided and not covered by the chrono seconds hand is brilliant, and so is the use of vibrant contrasting colors. If it appears together in nature, how could it be wrong? It’s fun! And so is the person who wears it. This will substantiate the proclamation that “I am fun” on my online dating profile. 


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The Brew Retrograph is one watch in an entire brand lineup where all you’d need to show me is a silhouette, and I’d tell you “That’s a Brew.” Its case shape, the reasoning behind the chronograph function, the color, it’s all meant to evoke the mood we’re in when we take that first sip of coffee – a fresh and relaxing start to a new day. 

The Möels & Co. 528 is art on the wrist. The horizontal rectangular case is not common and add to it an asymmetric dial configuration with radiating sunray indices, and you have yourself a piece that begs for you to lean in and look closer. 

Finally, my Farer Cayley Verde is an intentional reinterpretation of a traditional flieger. Still quite legible but injected with some subtle and not-so-subtle flair. If you take a close look, you’ll notice that it has the slightest of crosshair indentations making the dial a sector dial. But you’d have to get beyond the blaring green coloration, and the huge California Roman and Arabic numeral mixture to even notice. It’s an artistic twist on the traditional pilot’s watch. 

My style is very much me. Very much on purpose. And I use these watches for their own artistic design, to amplify who I am, and hopefully to shape the way I want to be seen. 

Marc Levesque

Would it surprise anyone if I said accuracy and precision? Of course, these are very high priorities in my book, however, they are not the only aspects I value. In fact, a watch can be both precise and accurate, but if the watch is not comfortable or the fit is not right, then it is all for naught.  

Ultimately, a watch should be worn to be enjoyed. That is not to say you cannot enjoy an unworn heirloom or a collectible. I am sure many people do, but in the end these tiny marvels are meant to be on your wrist, as you go through life forging memories. Unfortunately, if your watch has sharp edges or hot spots, is too top heavy, or even pulls hairs, it could easily detract from the wearing experience.

As a bracelet person, believe it or not, sound or the lack thereof, is important to me. Unlike many who enjoy the sound of a rattly watch bracelet, I simply cannot stand it. I could potentially live with it on a vintage watch, but on a contemporary timepiece, it is wholly unacceptable. Even the squeak from extremely tight tolerances annoys me, but the latter can be easily remedied. I cannot even describe the joy I get out of a well crafted watch bracelet. Think IWC. 

Now that I have covered 3 of the 5 senses, on to taste and smell. Oh, come on now, I am just kidding. One does not taste watches and if your watch emits a foul odor, the issue may not be with the watch.


Tanner Tran

We watch enthusiasts find ourselves in a curious state. We find great enjoyment in analyzing specifications, reference numbers, and what “good value” means, but how many of us are letting Excel crunch the numbers and decide what we ought to buy? In a world where we have more options than ever, it seems our core motivations and reasons for choosing one watch over another are not quite as straightforward as we may have thought. Perhaps we are trying to quantify and justify that which can not be measured.

I am a sentimental person, a hopeless romantic at heart, yet I find certain tropes about watches overdone (did you know that watch went to space? Did you??). In my own self-assessment, I prefer discretion and understatedness – but something about that gold Rolex is totally irresistible. Even on an emotional level, apparently, we can be full of contradictions. So if I don’t choose a watch solely on the strength of its spec sheet or its clout, how do I go about it?

The answer is both a cop-out and the truth: what I value most in a watch is how it makes me feel. I suppose that means “all the reasons” and “none of them” at the same time, but we are talking about an inexact science after all. I have an Explorer 124270 that is supremely comfortable, basically perfect, and makes me feel like I’m wearing a true insider’s choice. But it’s a little boring sometimes, no? Other times I’ll reach for the relatively bulky 14060 Sub, an imperfect, slightly dated watch that was a priceless wedding gift from my parents. It is engraved, immediately recognizable – which is part of the fun – and in my view is the most important wristwatch of all time. Both make me feel cool when I wear them for entirely different reasons.

As the kids would say, I’m currently in my Sports Watch Era and loving how it feels. But things can change, and I’m happy to follow that enthusiasm where it leads. Tribalism and the all-powerful influence of social media have certainly homogenized our tastes to some degree (beyond even watches), but navigating that is also part of the proverbial “journey.” By all means, embrace your contradictions, guilty pleasures, or contrarian taste. As a wise forum member once said: “Buy what you like.”

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