The Contrarian View: Why I will never buy a watch at full retail

Editor’s Note: The Contrarian View is a column submitted by the community. It is dedicated to taking an unpopular or controversial point of view and defending it. We invite readers to respectfully debate the proposition in the comments.

Resale value matters.  And that is why I refuse to buy a watch at full retail (with a few notable exceptions).

Frankly, I see few advantages.  Let me explain why:

First, let’s run the math. I read somewhere that “The average HODINKEE reader is about 35 years old with a yearly household income over $250,000. [1]” While it is unclear if this is still true (and if true, likely represents the wealthier target readers), allow me to use this example for effect.

As of writing, the cheapest Rolex Submariner (ref. 114060 aka no date ceramic) retails in the USA for $7,500 (before taxes). And while many are (or rather would be) more than happy to pay full retail given exceptional resale value; it is important to remember that this represents an “investment” of at least 3% of pre tax yearly household income of an “average” HODINKEE reader.

While I am not here to judge how readers should spend their money, I do think we can agree that this number is significant. For a lucky few, this percentage is inconsequential, but for the rest of us, resale value should always be considered.

Unfortunately, most watches do not hold their value as well as a new steel sports Rolex. It is not unusual for modern watches to trade well-below the original suggested retail. In fact, it is the norm. Yet another reason to not pay retail.

Some readers may balk and claim that resale value does not matter because a watch is an inherently emotional purchase and/or that they never plan to sell the watch. Perhaps, they want to support the brand (particularly true of independents). Maybe, they reject the idea of watches as an investment. Or that they simply want the experience of buying brand new.

I understand these points of view, however it is not reflective of what I actually hear. Collectors are constantly bragging about what they paid and what absurd offers they have received. And even how much their watch is worth relative to yesterday. I cannot fault them; everyone loves a deal.

Ask yourself, would you still enjoy your favourite watch as much if you had to pay double or triple what it is worth today?

Let’s stop pretending that resale value does not matter. In addition, perhaps we should be glad that certain brands are limiting supply and considering the value of their watches on the secondary market – another topic for another time.

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