What's in watch price guide

Pay day comes round and you’re ready to splash some cash on a new watch but vast variations in price can be baffling. Find out why making the choice between a quartz or mechanical timepiece could govern whether or not you’ll be scrimping for the rest of the month.

Congratulations – you’ve made the happy decision that you need a new watch in your life. What now?

Whether you opt to pour a glass of Pinot and kick start your search online or throw on your Chanel trainers (well, a girl can dream) and take to the high street, the range of must-have watches available can be overwhelming at first, with vastly varying price tags adding confusion.

So what justifies those extra zeros? It’s not always obvious at first glance so being armed with knowledge is imperative when choosing which watch to buy.

There’s no doubt us women care very much that the piece adorning our wrist looks fantastic and makes a positive statement about us, but a watch is so much more than a good looking dial and beautiful strap.

Beyond a stunningly iridescent mother-of-pearl dial, or glossy colour-drenched enamel finish, nestles the answer to what’s behind the price tag.

Where budgets are slightly tighter, quartz watches command a lower price point than mechanical watches. Often equally as easy on the eye, and arguably offering greater precision, quartz watches are powered by a battery or, in the case of watch brand Citizen, solar power.

Although you’ll need to change the battery every few years with most quartz watches, these timepieces are less high maintenance than an automatic or manual-wind mechanical watch. They also benefit from handy electronic features – think illumination and compasses – handy when you’re looking for that wine bar for last drinks.

Although reliable and high quality, the low maintenance of quartz watches comes at the cost of the majesty of a mechanical timepiece and the craftsmanship and skill that is implicit in its construction.

Mechanical watches, whether automatic (one with an in-built rotor so it winds itself) or manual wind (one you wind yourself), house a breathtaking intricate engine of cogs, gears, springs and weights – among other minute yet essential components – that work together in harmony.

Manual must-haves

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 7200
Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 7200
This self-winding mechanical wonder combines poetic watchmaking with a brand name with clout, which is particularly likely to impress in the company of watch connoisseurs. Free from complications, don’t let its minimalism fool you, the intrinsic craft, materials and brand name are reflected in the price tag (view our watch video review of a Patek Philippe).
RRP: £19,690

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Lady Steel & Rose Gold Diamond Dot 34mm
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Lady Steel & Rose Gold Diamond Dot 34mm
The harmonious coming together of two metal tones gives this piece with classic flair a modern edge. Style comes courtesy of the 18ct rose gold and steel of the watch bracelet, partnered with the sophistication of a dial peppered with 11 diamonds, while the substance behind the dial is a Tag Heuer Calibre 5 automatic movement (see a Tag Heuer watch review).
RRP £3,795

Hermès Arceau Petite Lune
Hermès Arceau Petite Lune
Not only does this mechanical, self-winding piece come with cool-brand credentials but this update iconic model update has the additional complication of a moon phase display. A feminine yet substantial 38mm diameter steel case has the bold look of asymmetrical lugs that create the shape and curve of a stirrup – it’s a motif that has become synonymous with Hermès and simply serves to heighten the got-to-have factor.
RRP £4,850 (steel version with white mother-of-pearl dial on a blue indigo alligator strap)

Tissot Luxury Automatic
Tissot Luxury Automatic
A manual automatic watch, the Tissot Luxury Automatic has the low maintenance benefit of an 80-hour power reserve, thanks to its Powermatic 80 movement, giving it three days of life. As well as the brawn under the bonnet, the timepiece has also has appearance with appeal owing to the polished and satin finishes that playfully contrast (watch our featured video review of the Tissot Luxury Automatic).
RRPs range from £525 to RRP £990

Master watchmakers invest a lifetime of training to painstakingly build these pieces of art to not only track time, but they also create no end of complications – aka functions – such as a chronograph that measures time intervals. This adds extra capabilities to the watch, as well as zeros to the price tag. Don’t be surprised too if the brand name also contributes to the cost of your mechanical timepiece – many of the Swiss watchmakers that produce these pieces have established a name that packs a punch of prestige and requires some extra spend.

“Complications add most value as they often take time and human skill to produce,” confirms Kyron Keogh, director at jeweller Rox. “Brand heritage and prestige are also contributing factors. However, younger brands like Hublot don’t necessarily have the heritage and rely on innovation, marketing and brand ambassadors, which all in turn add to the price tag.”

Where your watch’s movement comes from will also have an impact on price. If the dial bears the two words “Swiss Made” then, thanks to the stipulations of the Federation of the Swiss watch industry that 50% of the movements components must be made in Switzerland to bear this description, the price will definitely be at the higher end of the spectrum.

However, the myriad good Chinese and Japanese movements on the market does mean that a mechanical watch, if you don’t mind about it not being Swiss Made, doesn’t have to cost you a couple of months’ wages.

While quartz watches can offer style and precision with an affordable price tag there is something truly special about buying and wearing a mechanical watch.

Quartz corkers

Accurist LB211
Accurist LB211
A watch that can be worn from the squash court out to dinner, this striking quartz model from Brit brand Accurist features a stone-set steel case, with a comfortable silicon strap and you can even choose from either a white or brown option. With some extra functionality, this watch offers plenty of bang for your buck (view Accurist watch video review).
RRP £150

Casio Sheen SS14 Mixed Metal
Casio Sheen SS14 Mixed Metal
Whether you’re choosing your outfit for a summer wedding or simply accessorising your spring work wardrobe, Sheen’s SS14 designs come in a veritable rainbow of metal hues. The ceramic sapphire dial and Swarovski elements perfectly complement the metal tones that are as warm as a hug from Ryan Gosling (featured Casio Sheen Reflection watch video review).
RRP: £180

Guess W0073L2
Guess W0073L2
Youthful fashion brand Guess is au fait with using curb link chain-style bracelets and this latest version would look right at home on a catwalk. The all rose gold-tone treatment of this simply boosts its trend-setting kudos.

Citizen Bella Diamond EM0120-58A
Citizen Bella Diamond EM0120-58A
For the girl who enjoys glorious glamour with easy care requirements and optimum precision, Citizen Watches provides the complete package. Diamonds continue to seduce and this elegant Bella model from Citizen combines star quality looks with the brand’s solar-power Eco-Drive technology, which means that you don’t even have to change a battery (see Citizen watch video review).
RRP £289

“A mechanical watch is a nostalgic luxury, pure and simple,” says Lloyd Amsdon, co-founder and brand director of Watchfinder. “Like any interest, the enjoyment of a mechanical watch is not based on logic, but emotion. Knowing that a watch is powered solely by delicate gears, levers and springs is something that either appeals or it doesn’t.”

Quartz or mechanical; Swiss or Japanese – all these things are important when it comes to weighing up how much bang your getting for your buck, but, when it comes to buying a watch the most important criteria is whether you love it or not.

Our selection of timepieces gives just some insight into what’s out there and will hopefully help ensure that the watch that you select – or selects you – is your perfect partner and doesn’t break the bank.

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