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Why You Should Invest in a Watch

Here's how to find a timepiece that will live on long after you

Macro photography of the mechanism of a clock inside

An old-school watch is an odd thing to purchase in 2023. It’s antiquated and mostly unnecessary — don’t we all have phones, fitness trackers and “smart” watches that tell time and so much more? — and in terms of investment, it’s probably not the smartest place to put your money. If you’re looking for something to flip for a profit, a watch is a lot less reliable than real estate.

Instead, think of a watch as a deeply personal heirloom. Don’t think that has any value? Well, Christopher Walken didn’t smuggle a stock portfolio in his rectum back to the son of a slain friend in Pulp Fiction, did he? And Ryan Reynolds didn’t cling to his late dad’s cryptocurrency shares in The Adam Project. When movies want to demonstrate how much a character loves and misses his dad, it’s never about money. It’s usually something tangible, like a watch.

My grandfather died two years before I was born. But on my wrist, as I write this, is his old watch. 

It’s a mechanical Roamer Anfibio. I found it a few years ago when we were cleaning out my grandmother’s house after her funeral. While the Roamer’s leather strap had long since cracked away to nothing, the watch ran when I found it. All it took was a few twists of the crown to set the second hand ticking. 

It had probably sat in that drawer for more than 30 years and it had certainly never been serviced in my lifetime, yet it still could keep perfect time. 

While my grandad’s Roamer is by no means an icon, it still looks great on my wrist whether I’m wearing a T-shirt and jeans or a suit. It’s the only connection we can share: He wore it, now I wear it — and think of him.

And someday, when I’m no longer here, I’d love for there to be someone wearing an old watch — and thinking of me.

Watches 101

In general, mechanical and automatic watches are considered more desirable because of the craftsmanship involved and because they can last for decades without needing much in the way of maintenance, but there are some awesome quartz watches available too that will still last years.

While all still telling the time, watches come in a few different styles: “Dress” watches are elegant and minimalist, “dive” watches are chunky and waterproof, “field” or “military” watches are hard-wearing and have large, easy-to-read dials.

As for those extra features, they’re called “complications.” The simplest complication is just a date dial, but on some super-high-end watches you’ll see wild things like world timers, which show the time in every time zone at once, and moon-phase indicators. 

Now that everyone’s in sync, to get some advice on how to buy a watch that will last more than one lifetime, I talked to Saori Omura, the senior shop manager for vintage watches at Hodinkee.

Stay classic

Few things last as long as a mechanical watch. Not only do they keep working, but the classic models are still timelessly stylish. Well-dressed men have been rocking the likes of Rolex Datejust, Patek Philippe Calatrava, Omega Speedmasters, and Cartier Tanks for decades.

“Classic pieces are classic for a reason,” explains Omura. She recommends people go with “straightforward watches that have withstood the test of time.” 

Don’t go too big

While a big, bold watch can make a statement, it might not work for everyone. “A case size between 37mm and 42mm is the most versatile range,” says Omura. “These are the most wearable sizes for both men and women.”

Still, it all depends on how it wears on your wrist. Omura recommends trying on any watch you’re considering buying. That way, you can see that it fits you correctly and that you like how it all looks. 

Checking out a watch in person also gives you the opportunity to try on watches you might not have otherwise considered. I’ve loads of photos of me wearing different watches that I might someday buy — if, say, I become a multimillionaire. 

Get it serviced every few years

“Watches are made with daily wear in mind,” says Omura, so as long as you are reasonably careful, it should keep ticking just fine without too much maintenance. “For a mechanical watch, generally having it serviced every three to five years is recommended. But this all depends on how well the watch is running.”

Keep it about you

Even if you’re planning to buy a watch you can leave to your kids one day, it still has to be your watch. If you love the outdoors and go camping every other weekend, a dress watch probably isn’t right for you. Instead, a durable field watch — or even a dive watch — can stay on your wrist for your adventures while not looking out of place at a nice dinner.

“An heirloom piece is about the future,” Omura notes, “but it's also about enjoying the present. I suggest going with something you find pleasure wearing today.”

Follow Article Topics: Money-&-Career