Unexpected Benefits Of Buying Watches From Authorized Dealers And Brand Boutiques
Did you know that there are valuable benefits to buying watches at authorized dealers and brand boutiques that aren't typically advertised, and that you very well might not know about? It's true, and while our goal isn't to tell people where to buy their watches, there is an infrequently discussed story here to share with watch lovers.
As a consumer, your job is to get the most value for your money. Smart consumers spend less to get more, and when people overpay, we look down upon them. These natural tendencies of consumer behavior aren't abandoned when it comes to buying luxury goods such as watches. The point of this article is to show certain "hidden areas of value" that might very well change why and where people make their watch purchase decisions. I first want to put this whole article into context, because people without a lot of experience buying watches might not understand all the places where watches are available, and their various pluses and minuses.
There are official and unofficial ways of getting a watch. Official places to purchase new watches include authorized dealers who carry a range of brands, as well as brand boutiques that carry products from just one brand. Some watch companies make their timepieces "officially available" for purchase online (either directly on their site or via third-party authorized dealers) and some don't. Unofficial ways of buying watches include a host of "gray market" dealers who aren't authorized dealers but acquire timepieces in a range of ways.
A discussion of the gray market and why it exists is really for another article. Because gray market dealers aren't bound by pricing policy rules from brands, they can discount a lot. It should be noted that gray market dealers are different from pre-owned watches dealers, who specialize in re-selling used watches. The common sentiment among many watch buyers is that gray market dealers have two main benefits. One is making it easier to purchase watches because they operate mostly via websites, and thus people can buy from anywhere. Second is price. Gray market dealers often offer prices that authorized dealers cannot beat.
Price discounting at authorized dealers does often exist, but it isn't very deep. Further, at most brand boutiques, no price discounting is allowed by the brand. So, assuming products are available at gray market dealers and all things being even, it makes a lot of sense why consumers often want to purchase their watches at gray market watch stores. In fact, one of the only "published" reasons watch brands offer to encourage people to purchase at authorized dealers and boutiques is warranties. Watches purchased at gray market dealers do not come with official warranties, meaning that if there are issues with the watches the consumer will be forced to pay for repairs that would otherwise fall within warranty coverage – or, in some instances, the grey market dealer will offer their own warranty.
To be honest, most watch warranties aren't that great to begin with. They can "save" you in many instances, but customer satisfaction when it comes to watch brand warranties and servicing isn't that high - but of course, that also depends on the brand... and things are getting better. Nevertheless, if you have a good relationship with an authorized retailer that you purchased a watch from, and you have a legitimate mechanical issue with your watch, then you will be "taken care of" properly.
Are warranties the only benefit of paying full or close to full price for a watch? No. Over the years, I've learned of a lot of other interesting benefits that watch customers get from buying timepieces at authorized dealers and/or single brand boutiques. These are benefits that vary by store, city, and brand... as well as the consumer. So I can't really promise that any of these benefits will apply to you if you buy a watch directly from a brand or at a brand boutique, but there is a good chance at least some of what I am about to discuss will be a welcome surprise when buying a watch through an "official channel."
In preparing this article, I sent out questions and interviewed a lot of people. I wanted to offer specific examples of the unexpected benefits people might get from buying watches at authorized dealers or at brand boutiques. A lot of brands, while happy to discuss the matter with me off the record, didn't really want to be specifically mentioned or to have me share what they do for their consumers in this article. That seems strange at first, but it really has to do with protecting the exclusivity of their events and services, as well as not wanting to step on the feet of their authorized dealers. You see, some benefits only exist when you purchase a watch from a brand boutique, while others exist whether you purchase the watch from a brand boutique or an authorized dealer.
That brings me to the second major reason why the brands aren't willing to be too public about these benefits - they don't apply to all consumers or at all stores. So, while we can't make promises, I'd like to discuss some of the likely things you can expect if you decide to purchase watches at authorized dealers or at brand boutiques. The value of these things vary, but are not insignificant – and added up, might very well make up for paying full retail in a lot of instances.
In addition to getting the basic 1-3 year warranty most timepieces come with, buying watches from authorized dealers as well as particular brand boutiques can come with extended warranties. It isn't uncommon for buyers of watches from high-end brand boutiques to receive warranties as long as 5 years in length. These warranties often cover just the movement or major defects, but depending on your relationship with the retailers, warranties can be extremely valuable. In the worst case scenario, a faulty timepiece can be completely replaced with a brand new one. Compare that with no warranties at gray market retailers, who also often have "no return" policies that can infuriate purchasers who receive problematic watches. Most brands further offer zero recourse to consumers who complain to them after having issues with gray market dealers.
Opportunity To Purchase First
Looking forward to buying that hot new watch as soon as possible? Interested in getting your hands on a hard-to-get limited production timepiece? Retailers tend to keep track of what their customers like and also keep waiting lists. They can also make specific requests from a brand headquarters when one of their customers makes it clear they want a particular model ASAP. This doesn't just apply to when an impatient customer wants a new model, but also in instances when limited production or limited edition models are going to be very difficult to get. Brands like Patek Philippe are famously picky with who they sell their "Grand Complication" models to - and in many instances, they must "know" who their customers are. Other brands simply want to reward their frequent customers that they sell directly to or via authorized dealers. So if you are in the market for a hard-to-get new watch or want to be among the first to get something right out of production, you'll want to purchase watches the official way.
More and more watch companies are offering exclusive products at particular authorized dealers or only at their brand boutiques. These are often limited edition models, but they can also be desirable non-limited models. A good example of the latter are steel watches. While a particular timepiece might have precious metal versions available at a range of authorized dealers, the less costly steel or non-precious metal models will be exclusively available at authorized dealers. While this does not matter to some customers, it is increasingly the fact that more and more appealing watches are available exclusively at particular locations or solely at brand boutiques.
Brand Swag & Gifts With Purchase
The value of brand swag and gifts that customers get with a purchase can vary, but often extend beyond just the watch purchase itself. While a lot of brand boutiques and authorized dealers can't really discount, there are a lot of cool exclusive things customers can get as a gift - and we personally encourage would-be consumers to ask dealers what types of gift they can get with a purchase. Depending on the value of watch being purchased, customers can expect to get things like branded luggage, pens, clothing, watch winders, and things like watch travel cases. In select instances, if the purchase price is high enough, brand boutiques might even include a free watch (such as something for a customers spouse) or an included trip to Switzerland to personally pick up their timepiece when it is ready.
Entering the world of a watch brand is a sure way to fall in love with it. Many customers enjoy the idea of visiting a watch brand's manufacture in Switzerland, but not all have an opportunity. Watch brands are often closed to the public, and visits must be made via arranged tours. In many instances, known customers of a brand have access to a manufacture and are welcome when planning in advance. In some instances, a brand might even pay for your trip to visit them. Actually, trip invitations are one of the most valuable part of buying watches from an authorized dealer or brand boutique.
Trips To Brand Events Around The World
Watch brands take personal pride in saying "thank you" to their most loyal (or big spender) customers. These thank you gifts often manifest themselves by including those customers in a sort of exclusive club of brand owners. While these clubs aren't often official, their members feel as though they are part of an exclusive group. Members will frequently get exclusive wearables even if they are as simple as shirts and hats, but will also get invited to events. In some instances these events are all-inclusive trips to interesting places around the world.
You've probably noticed that a lot of watch brands participate in or sponsor events. Want to go to those events as a guest of the brand? By no means is that out of the question if you are a known customer, and to be honest, it makes the ownership experience of a high-end watch much more valuable. Investing in a luxury timepiece can sometimes be a lonely thing if you don't have people in your life who can appreciate it. Watch brands want you to feel like part of their world and to also mingle will like-minded watch lovers. To do this, they invite customers several times a year on a range of events all over the world. Sometimes, these trips are even more valuable than the watches themselves, but only those buying watches via the official authorized channels or directly from brands at their stores are considered for invitation.
Local Event Invitations
Sometimes event invitations aren't trips to exotic places or events, but rather more local, at a store or at various locations around where you live. These events allow to you to share time with other watch lovers as well as learn about what the brands are up to. In the process, you'll get treated to fabulous dinners, meet celebrities, receive gifts, and feel like a valued customer who the brands really want to have a relationship with. Depending on where you live and the brands you like to purchase from, these events can be quite frequent, and also really fun. Their value should not be underestimated, and again, if you don't purchase watches in an "official manner" you'll never be included.
Personally, I have to say that while I don't like spending more money than I need to, the value of these above unexpected benefits, in many instances, can make up for the discounts available at gray market retailers when you want to buy a new watch. In a sense, each time you purchase a high-end timepiece, you are designating yourself as part of a elite group of people who have the appreciation and resources for luxury items. Not being able to share your passion with others can remove pleasure from those purchases, and at the same time, there is a lot of value in having a close relationship with a brand that will give you a lot of free stuff just for purchasing watches in the official way.
We continue to have a policy that we don't really like to tell people where to buy their watches, even if we have various retailers or boutiques that we have positive or advertising relationships with. More specifically, we want consumers to make intelligent and informed decisions about where to buy their high-end watches and what those experiences might be like. In a sense, it is a shame that watch companies don't advertise these benefits, and none of these things have been expressly mentioned to us as part of a news release. Instead, my personal interaction with brands and consumers alike has allowed me to learn about all this stuff, which I feel is important to watch buyers because it can, in many instances, make buying a watch at full price worth it.
Do you have experience with unexpected benefits when buying a watch from an authorized dealer or brand boutique? If so, we'd love for you to share them in the comments below.