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Redefining the Value Proposition: Is a Rolex a better value than an SKX?

Is your expensive watch more affordable than your cheapest watch?

Download Frank’s spreadsheet from this article. This is a Microsoft Excel file, but it can be imported into Google Sheets

The term value proposition gets thrown around a lot in the watch world. Often, a watch will have its components, reputation, appearance, and other qualities compared against this mythical gauge of other similar watches and their price. This is done to decide in the eyes of the consumer whether something is a good deal, bad deal, or something in between. Of course, there is an actual monetary value associated with a watch that can be described as the sum value of each component added to the design and assembly cost, but typically, that is not what people focus on. Objectively, these are not accurate numbers by which to measure the cumulative value of a single watch, either. For example, a major brand may produce a proprietary movement that costs $XXX,XXX to research and develop (R&D).

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The R&D cost must be spread out over the cost of each individual movement made for the lifetime of that movement’s production and an assumed quantity for the whole process to be profitable. The number of movements expected to be produced and the dollar amount spent on R&D is unknown to the consumer; therefore it is impossible without knowing the inner workings of a company to be able to achieve a full picture. To make the waters murkier, let’s look at an example in the microbrand space. Brand A is producing 500 cases and brand B is producing 200 very similar cases. Brand B is likely paying more per case than Brand A, but the perceived value of the said cases is not actually more than Brand A. Such scenarios make comparisons based on components alone impossible.

Forming an opinion on a watch’s value is not so simple as saying the crystal in this watch is worth $A, case is worth $B, and movement is $C, so the total cost should be around A + B + C. For this reason, I would like to abandon this method of deciding whether the watch you are buying at a given price is good value. We will be discussing an alternative approach to evaluating the value of a watch in this article, accompanied by self-collected data. The approach focuses on the value of a watch in terms of enjoyment versus its cost in dollars alone. Much time has been spent debating on how to quantify the enjoyment of a watch in a meaningful way. The goal is to justify my behavior as a degenerate watch addict, a plight with which I am positive the reader (assuming you are still reading) can get behind. First and foremost a definition of enjoyment must be established.

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Working definition of enjoyment: To enjoy a watch, you must wear it. This definition, of course, is not true. For me, the main enjoyment I am provided comes from the wearing and use of the watch, photographing the watch, and the community surrounding watch enthusiasm. For the sake of this argument and single article, they will be omitted. This discussion is aimed at individuals purchasing watches to wear who are constantly in the pitfall of “I am wasting money, what am I doing with my life, my spouse will most certainly leave me if I don’t sort this out”. This is NOT aimed at a hedge fund bro who was told watches are a great investment vehicle and recently discovered upstart brands like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Perhaps in a follow-up article we will delve into the quantification of enjoyment on a photographic level. Quantifying wears is a simple and easy to understand entry point.

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What I am proposing as a method of quantification of a watch’s value is simply averaging the cost of a watch over the amount of times you wear the watch during its lifetime. If your watch’s lifetime ends by you selling said watch, you would deduct that cost from the original cost multiplied by interest. The interest in this scenario will be a standard 8% APY if you had taken the initial cost of the watch and invested the money rather than purchasing said watch. Below is this described mathematically.

equation-1

For watches that have yet to be sold, however, simply remove the final cost (Fc) from the equation to be left with the below.

equation-2

This equation can be modified of course if perhaps you want to alter the interest rate. The above method of analysis was found to be sufficient for the purposes of the article. A simpler method would omit the potential interest gain had you put your money elsewhere, but what fun would this article be if we did not address the elephant in the room? That elephant being, of course, “Spending thousands of dollars on a watch is never a good idea and if you have that much expendable income it should be placed elsewhere.” We will prove that statement, at least partially, incorrect.

By inputting self-collected data and information regarding my personal collection for the above equation, an accurate cost per wear, or per enjoyment under the definition provided earlier, may be computed. The beauty of this equation as any mathematician can clearly see… regardless of the initial cost and final cost of a watch, eventually the cost will approach zero. The limit being that you will not live forever, nor will you be able to wear your watch infinite times. It remains true though, if you purchase a watch that will retain at least some of its value, the actual cost associated with said watch will be minimal when divided by the amount of times you wear it, IF you wear your watch. Without further ado, let’s dive into the data.

The Process

Notes for the reader on the data collection:

  • Collection began in February, 2021.
    • Yes, ownership of some watches predates the start of this study. Any wears prior to February of 2021 has been excluded. This yields a conservative value for the cost of each watch.
  • The number of wears of each watch added together does not equal the total number of days from February 2021 to now.
    • Days where loaners or review models were worn have been excluded from the study.
  • Only wears by the current owner of the watch are being considered.
    • It was found to be too complex to consider the enjoyment that multiple people gain from the watch being within someone’s collection. However, it is understood that when I am wearing one watch, my significant other may be simultaneously wearing a different watch in the collection.
  • Only currently owned watches are included in this analysis.
    • Watches that were sold and their final real cost per wear are outside the scope of this article. If there is enough interest a follow-up study directed at the final outcome of the watches sold may be produced.
  • For those interested in taking part in a similar study for themselves.
    • A copy of the spreadsheet with instructions for use has been included for your download. Some aptitude with Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel may be needed to adapt the spreadsheet to your exact needs; it is by no means dummy-proof.

Utilizing Google Sheets, a daily tracker was built. The following data was input for all watches in my collection.

  • The purchase price of each watch in US dollars.
  • The purchase date of each watch.
  • A single watch for a single day was tracked.

The daily tabulation of wears was sorted into monthly and yearly utilization. Utilization in the below pie chart was computed using the following equation.

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2021-Utilization-Fig-1
Fig. 1: 2021 Utilization

A full month-by-month result was computed and is available for your use but only the yearly utilization is shown above. Overwhelmingly the most-worn watch in my collection was my 216570 Explorer II.

This is in line with the monetary value of the watch relative to the collection; for that much investment it should be enjoyed as such. The watch with the poorest showing in 2021 was my Seiko SKX009, with a meager 2 wears. Much of the Seiko’s wears were stolen by a pair of G-Shocks in addition to fewer days spent climbing this past summer. Once the data collection has been completed, the formulas may be used to calculate the cost of each watch in terms of wear.

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Fig. 2: Cost per wear

The Theoretical Cost in the above figure was calculated using the below formula for cost. The definitions for each variable are provided earlier within this article.

equation-4

Below is the same data shown graphically.

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Fig. 3: Cost per wear chart

Despite what one may think when initially looking at my collection, the data illustrates a different picture. For example, the Seiko SKX009 has long been heralded as the ultimate value proposition for those watch enthusiasts just starting out. However, for me, it is clearly not a value proposition. The numbers show just the opposite. For the year of 2021 the most expensive watch in my collection was the Seiko SKX009. Yes, you read that correctly, the most expensive was not the Rolex Explorer II or the coveted and rare Doxa 750t GMT, but rather the humble SKX. In contrast, the watch offering the most value based on enjoyment was by far the Nodus Contrail II.

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Final Thoughts

What is the take-away from all the above data and nonsensical arguments about luxury timepieces? One theme prevalent throughout the data is clear: the watches that offer the best value proposition are the watches you like the most and will enjoy the most, regardless of price. Buy what you like, and wear what you like. If something you buy does not resonate with you, sell it and move on. Let us explore just that; does the information change if you consider selling?

None of the data above included the current market value of the watches as they were not for sale. For completeness, the current market value was gathered, and some tables and charts were put together under the assumption all my watches were sold.

Below is Figure 4, a table that contains the current lineup of my watch box. Positive values mean I made money each wear and negative values mean I lost money each wear.

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Fig. 4: Cost per wear

Using the above information and Equation 1 provided earlier, actual cost was calculated. Below is a bar graph of the above tabulated data.

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Fig. 5

The conclusion you could draw from the above information is that my choices when choosing watches have been good! This group of watches (on average) have even outperformed traditional investment. In fact, if I sold my watches right now, the collection EARNED $5 each day that I donned a watch above 8% APY of the initial cost. This information is not kept on a running calculator within the tracker for a reason, though. The future value of any given watch is a bit arbitrary in my opinion because it is impossible to predict. If you are purchasing for personal enjoyment, your tastes will not always align with that of the general population (this helps dictate current market value). If your tastes DO align 100% of the time with public opinion, are you really buying what you like? Or are you purchasing what the masses like? That all being said, based on all the information above, the argument can clearly be made that purchasing watches is a sensible thing to do. In the words of the most popular watch-related podcast in Malaysia, you should buy la.

P.S @xkenzie can I buy that Speedy now?

If you use the enclosed spreadsheet, let me know your results. I would love to hear from you. Did the results surprise you?


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