So you’ve decided you want to invest in a watch (or are planning on giving someone a really dope Christmas gift this year) and now you’ve just got to figure out where to buy it. The way we see it, there are four routes to take. Here, the pros and cons of each and a few leads to get you started down each path.
If You’re a Loyalist—The Brand Flagship
If you know what you like when it comes to watches, you’ll probably be able to narrow your search down to just a few brands. In this case—and if you can get yourself to a major U.S. city—you could go straight to the source. The store associates will be knowledgeable about the product, for one, and you’ll be able to see a wide range of iterations on the the styles you like, for another.
Madison Avenue in New York is home to some incredible brand boutiques. Everyone from Blancpain to Tourneau have flagships on the famous shopping street while 5th Avenue has an equally impressive roster. In Los Angeles, the shopping district in Beverly Hills is home to several West Coast watch-brand flagships. IWC Schaffhause and Jaeger-LeCoultre are side by side on Brighton Way, while Breguet is just down the street.
If You’re a Student—The Boutique
While flagship stores are harder to come by, every city in every state has at least one boutique that’s known for its selection of luxury watches. A boutique is not only convenient, it’s also a great way to see a wide range of options and learn more about what you like—should you not be hell-bent on a particular brand or style.
If you’ve only got around $1,000 to spend or you’re really only in it for the looks, a department store like Barneys or Nordstrom would probably suit you just fine. Otherwise, look to watch-expert sites like Hodinkee and A Blog to Watch for in-depth information on watch boutiques all over the country. From Shreve, Crump & Low in Boston, which has been in business since 1796 (not a typo), to Manfredi Jewels in Connecticut, which was the first authorized dealer of Franck Muller in the U.S, many of these stores have as rich a history as the watch brands themselves.
If You’re a Romantic—The Vintage Shop
You’ve got to know a thing or two about watches in order to go vintage—or you should, really—and you’ve also got to go a trustworthy dealer, since there are so many unknowns in buying a pre-worn watch (like whether the parts have been replaced). A reputable vintage watch dealer will likely be member of a major watch organization like the NAWCC or the WWT, occasionally be able to provide paperwork to authenticate what they’re selling, but most importantly be forthcoming and hospitable when you visit their store.
Some vintage dealers have storefronts, like Aaron Faber in New York and HQ Milton in San Francisco, while others, like Matthew Bain in Miami, do not. Still, all should have some type of online presence, so you can do your homework before your visit. When buying a vintage watch always ask about the dealer’s return and repairs policy, so you know whether the transaction is going to be a one-time tradeoff or an ongoing relationship.
If You’re a Futurist—The Online Shop
If your budget is under, say, $5,000, and you grew up using the Internet, you might be most inclined to buy something online. It also helps if you know what you want, if not the exact brand and style, then the general specs like the diameter and general aesthetic vibe.
Brand websites are a safe way to go, of course, as are authorized dealers with e-commerce sites (which you can find through the brand’s websites). If you want to browse a huge selection at once try Chrono24, which aggregates listings from dealers all over the world, or Shopstyle, which will scan all of the major department stores for you. It’s possible to find good deals on sites like eBay, just be careful of the bummer of all watch-buying experiences: getting ripped off.