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Value is everything and nothing
Warning: this article contains watches which is a subject I know that many of you have no interest in, but the main focus is about something much more generic. I should add that when I merged Lost In Mobile and Snowflakes & Shields into MCGST the latter had more visitors so potentially more watch people are reading this, hence my continuing coverage of the topic.
About 4 years ago I remember spending £360 on a Seiko watch and feeling that I had spent a lot of money on a product that merely told the time. I was just starting to become interested in the world of watches and I have followed a path travelled by many since then.
A few weeks ago I spent £1,320 on an Oris watch, reduced from £1,650, and felt that it was inexpensive and a perfectly reasonable purchase. How times have changed.
The Oris replaced a Tudor Black Bay which had cost £2,850 and which was my most expensive purchase to date. I sold it because it felt too big over time and I could not rationalise wearing such an expensive piece. I felt that I somehow did not deserve it despite pondering a specific Rolex model from time to time.
The Oris represented a level that I was comfortable with and to date I am very much enjoying it. There is no sense of showing off and no sense of ‘I should wear better’ which leads to a happy medium. It is subtle enough to not stand out, but there is a hint of quality which is exactly what I wanted.
The point of this article, however, is how we view value. 99.9% of you reading this are thinking that more than £1,000 for a watch is crazy money and completely self-indulgent, but for someone who loves watches this is considered budget area for many, it really is. For that money I potentially get a watch that I can wear for the rest of my life and one that will do what it needs to with reasonable servicing costs.
Most watch people would argue that the Tudor Black Bay is better value at double the money because it has an in-house movement, is what is considered to be a much better brand (Tudor is a part of Rolex) and better finishing on the case etc. It also holds it value to near 100% currently, but when I consider these aspects I realise that for almost everyone none of this matters. If they have a watch that keeps time accurately (hence the dominance of quartz) and that works for many years they are happy. All of the little details do not matter to them or to anyone they meet for that matter. An expensive watch is only noticed by other watch collectors, apart from maybe a Rolex which everyone is aware of (and many people presume every Rolex they see to be a fake anyway).
The same applies to cars as well. I see many people driving flash cars and presume that the majority are doing so to impress strangers, who have no idea who is in the car anyway and who only get a mere glimpse of the driver. Some love cars and buy a particular model because of how it is built and the way it drives and these people are similar to those who genuinely appreciate high-end watches. For the majority, however, a car is a car and as long as it does the old A to B thing they are happy.
We make judgements on value based on the practical aspects of a product (will it work as intended and reliably?), the brand and it’s reputation, and for certain objects such as cars and watches the kudos of owning said product.
I suspect that for the near future the value of products will lose the invisible nature of the kudos as we start to reassess what is important, and that cost will be the overriding factor. The little things that add so much to the price of luxury objects will be recognised for what they are, little things, and so they be diminished. This could affect the watch industry and luxury cars in particular, but also products such the iPhone and high-end smartphones which many view as far too expensive. My value judgements have changed a lot this year and I hope they stay that way, and that I can continue to survive wearing a budget watch like the Oris;)