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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Apologies in advance for the rambling here...

Another thread got me thinking about the mercurial nature of what constitutes "luxury" when it comes to watches. It occurred to me that none of the definitions I've seen, or even any I've personally used, really seems undefeatable under scrutiny. Observe...

"Anything over $X (say, $1000, because that's the limit on what we here consider to be 'affordable')"..

The problem with that definition is this - ask 100 randomly-chosen non-watch-enthusiasts what they consider "affordable" or "luxury" in a watch, and you're likely to find that the vast majority think the number is much, MUCH lower than $1k.

"Anything more than the lowest amount you could possibly spend for a watch which is tells time with reasonable accuracy."...

The problem there is that there's almost no bottom-limit to how low that number could be. What if I get a free quartz watch as a gift for stopping by a trade-show booth? Does that mean that ANY amount spent on a watch makes it a "luxury"?

"As soon as you're willing to pay more for something simply because of how it looks, or the name brand, it's a 'luxury'."...

So...if I'm willing to pay $50 for a watch I like, instead of $49 for a watch I don't, the $50 watch is a luxury? Really? C'mon...

So...if I'm willing to pay $600 for a "Hamilton", because I like the history of that brand, it's a "luxury", because I could get a similar watch for less than $600?

"The FHS (Swiss watch federation) define it as over $X..."

And? They're the authority? Why? Whatever numbers they use, those would seem to be an arbitrary way of defining differences which are mostly semantic anyway.

"The point at which increases in quality come at a disproportionately higher cost."

This is one I've frequently used, because it at least seems "logical" on the surface. The idea is to consider how production costs (and thus, prices) increase with quality.

The relationship starts out fairly linear, whereby a 1% increase in quality likely increases costs by LESS than 1%, but there's a point at which the curve goes parabolic, and a 1% increase in quality increases costs by much MORE than 1%.

See graph for visual representation:

Rectangle Slope Plot Font Parallel



The problem here is - does this REALLY define the transition point between what is and what isn't "luxury"? Where, exactly, is that point on this curve? I would think that someone might argue it's far to the right, whereas someone else might say it's somewhere close to the left.

What if the increase in quality and cost stems from something that also brings an increase in utilitarian value, such as the switch from mineral to sapphire crystal, or from steel to titanium, or the addition of some coating which hardens the case, or prevents oxidation of the markers and hands?

But there again, so what if the cost increase does stem from something which increases the capability or durability of the product, if we the consumers aren't likely to actually find a use for that added utility? Like, I'm never going to dive to 200m, much less 300m, or 500m, or 3,000m. GTFOH. I doubt I'll ever go deeper than 15 feet.

So, in that way, is the increase in utility itself a "luxury" if it's something we don't actually "need"?

And, if we answer that last question in the affirmative, doesn't that then compel us to admit that most of us aren't likely to damage a mineral crystal enough to warrant paying more for sapphire? Once we start down that road, it seems like it just leads back to "anything above the lowest amount you could possibly spend"...

This all hurt my head, so I literally (I $hlt you not) Googled "luxury goods definition". It's okay to laugh at me. I laughed at myself, especially when I saw this:

"In economics, a luxury good is a good for which demand increases more than what is proportional as income rises, so that expenditures on the good become a greater proportion of overall spending."

I had to read that twice, and read the numerical example, before it made a lick of sense. The numerical example was pretty straightforward - if income goes up by 1%, yet demand for a good goes up by 2%, that good is considered a luxury good.

There was also a bunch of stuff about demand "elasticity" that I read (also twice). The gist is that whereas demand for basic goods goes up and down more or less in direct proportion to income, demand for luxury goods goes up and down MORE than income. I think that means that people who earn less supposedly spend a lower percentage of their income on luxury goods, whereas people who earn more spend a higher percentage of their income on luxury goods, which I guess makes sense.

Okay, fine, fair enough, economics, but how does that apply to watches? Is there some theoretical way we could survey every watch enthusiast, asking for both their income and their personal definitions for "affordable" and "luxury", and graph those, which would show us....what?

I think such a graph would, at best, show us that economics professors are correct - people who make more have higher definitions of "affordable" and "luxury", but that wouldn't seem to answer the central question here in any sort of definitive way, for all enthusiasts.

The answer would seem entirely dependent on an individual's income, in that scenario. Imagine someone asking for the definition of "affordable" or "luxury", and someone else posting a pic of that graph in response, "well, see the graph, find your income level, and there's your answer..."

And while that sort of seems logical, on the surface, it doesn't entirely square with what I've personally observed among watch geeks. It seems to me that some folks of more modest means will somehow justify spending more, whereas some other folks with deeper pockets can be surprisingly tight-fisted.

I think the best definition of "luxury" I can offer when it comes to watches is, "anything more than you're comfortable spending", which is entirely subjective for each individual, and I'm still not sure if I couldn't come up with a counter-argument for it.

Anyway...feel free to agree or disagree with any of the above. Curious to see how others view this.
 

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It's complicated ... hehe... And nebulous.

Mostly it's brand power.
Tudor is a commonly considered a luxury brand. Yet you can buy a Tudor for £1600. Fortis or Sinn are not commonly considered luxury brands yet you can pay +£5000. My point being that brand is more important than cost in defining "luxury".

Otherwise I'm with doc
 

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I just posted about this a few hours ago in the thread you referenced. My own feeling is that "luxury" is the absence of compromise--the level at which you get exactly what you want. Obviously this is a moving target and will mean different things to different people.
 

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I have yet to spend more than $500 USD on any watch. All of my watches are either Seiko, Citizen, Bulova and the like. The only "luxury" watch I've ever wanted would be the Breitling Navitimer, but at 5 grand-plus if I were to buy it now, I wouldn't be sleeping in bed with my wife. If I'm lucky, it might be a cot in the garage. At worst, a tent in the backyard. I have 5 kids and they all go to Catholic school. And I make good money. But someday, I'll have that watch on my wrist.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It's complicated ... hehe... And nebulous.

Mostly it's brand power.
Tudor is a commonly considered a luxury brand. Yet you can buy a Tudor for £1600. Fortis or Sinn are not commonly considered luxury brands yet you can pay +£5000. My point being that brand is more important than cost in defining "luxury".

Otherwise I'm with doc
I thought about exactly that, too. Is a $3500 Sinn as "luxurious" as a $3500 Tudor?

Maybe? They're both "tool" watches, and yet, in my gut, I feel like the Sinn is less "luxury" than the Tudor, regardless of price, and maybe even if the Sinn isn't demonstrably any more capable than the Tudor.

I asked my wife, and she started to wax on about the higher quality leather used in some of the luxury-brand accessories she's owned (among other things she said - I wasn't entirely paying attention...)

But there again, if the higher price isn't just for the "brand", but at least partly due to the higher quality of the materials, then couldn't we argue that the higher price is appropriate, to the extent it's a reflection of the higher production cost of said goods?

I'm not disagreeing that there is such a thing as a "luxury brand", I think there is, but I think some luxury brands offer better value than others, because their price-to-quality ratio is more favorable.

Which makes me wonder - is there a point at which that ratio gets so good that it decreases the "luxury" of the product? Is it even worth consideration?

I just posted about this a few hours ago in the thread you referenced. My own feeling is that "luxury" is the absence of compromise--the level at which you get exactly what you want. Obviously this is a moving target and will mean different things to different people.
But what if someone can get exactly what they want in a $10 Timex? Does the fact that it's exactly what they want make it a luxury for them, whereas for someone else, it wouldn't be, because they want something "more"?

Here's an alternative definition that just came to me - if luxury is the opposite of necessity, then perhaps the less you truly need something, the more of a luxury it is.

The problem there is that it doesn't really work as a definition once I become a "collector". Even if I could successfully argue that I "needed" a $500 watch, once I have that watch, then any subsequent purchase would seem a "luxury", at any price.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have yet to spend more than $500 USD on any watch. All of my watches are either Seiko, Citizen, Bulova and the like. The only "luxury" watch I've ever wanted would be the Breitling Navitimer, but at 5 grand-plus if I were to buy it now, I wouldn't be sleeping in bed with my wife. If I'm lucky, it might be a cot in the garage. At worst, a tent in the backyard. I have 5 kids and they all go to Catholic school. And I make good money. But someday, I'll have that watch on my wrist.
My immediate thought is that for some on this forum, even $500 is exorbitant. It's certainly exorbitant for most people in my extended family, none of whom are into watches, yet many of whom make a lot more than I do.

I really want to make a pragmatic argument that $500 is very reasonable, and $5,000 is very extravagant, regardless of income, but I don't think I could. It really seems specific to everyone's individual circumstances.
 

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Welcome to the world. All numbers are arbitrary and made up as a catch all for all. Age of consent, drinking age, driving age, speed limits are always a good one. So 55 is safe and legal but 56 is unsafe? Really? Just gotta roll with it and really don't stress over trying to understand it.
 

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I thought about exactly that, too. Is a $3500 Sinn as "luxurious" as a $3500 Tudor?

Maybe? They're both "tool" watches, and yet, in my gut, I feel like the Sinn is less "luxury" than the Tudor, regardless of price, and maybe even if the Sinn isn't demonstrably any more capable than the Tudor.

I asked my wife, and she started to wax on about the higher quality leather used in some of the luxury-brand accessories she's owned (among other things she said - I wasn't entirely paying attention...)

But there again, if the higher price isn't just for the "brand", but at least partly due to the higher quality of the materials, then couldn't we argue that the higher price is appropriate, to the extent it's a reflection of the higher production cost of said goods?

I'm not disagreeing that there is such a thing as a "luxury brand", I think there is, but I think some luxury brands offer better value than others, because their price-to-quality ratio is more favorable.

Which makes me wonder - is there a point at which that ratio gets so good that it decreases the "luxury" of the product? Is it even worth consideration?



But what if someone can get exactly what they want in a $10 Timex? Does the fact that it's exactly what they want make it a luxury for them, whereas for someone else, it wouldn't be, because they want something "more"?

Here's an alternative definition that just came to me - if luxury is the opposite of necessity, then perhaps the less you truly need something, the more of a luxury it is.

The problem there is that it doesn't really work as a definition once I become a "collector". Even if I could successfully argue that I "needed" a $500 watch, once I have that watch, then any subsequent purchase would seem a "luxury", at any price.
I'm in agreement with you. I think it's one of those concepts which we can't define or explain, but everyone knows what it is when they see it. (Everyone here being wis of course).
 

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I thought about exactly that, too. Is a $3500 Sinn as "luxurious" as a $3500 Tudor?

Maybe? They're both "tool" watches, and yet, in my gut, I feel like the Sinn is less "luxury" than the Tudor, regardless of price, and maybe even if the Sinn isn't demonstrably any more capable than the Tudor.

I asked my wife, and she started to wax on about the higher quality leather used in some of the luxury-brand accessories she's owned (among other things she said - I wasn't entirely paying attention...)

But there again, if the higher price isn't just for the "brand", but at least partly due to the higher quality of the materials, then couldn't we argue that the higher price is appropriate, to the extent it's a reflection of the higher production cost of said goods?

I'm not disagreeing that there is such a thing as a "luxury brand", I think there is, but I think some luxury brands offer better value than others, because their price-to-quality ratio is more favorable.

Which makes me wonder - is there a point at which that ratio gets so good that it decreases the "luxury" of the product? Is it even worth consideration?

But what if someone can get exactly what they want in a $10 Timex? Does the fact that it's exactly what they want make it a luxury for them, whereas for someone else, it wouldn't be, because they want something "more"?

Here's an alternative definition that just came to me - if luxury is the opposite of necessity, then perhaps the less you truly need something, the more of a luxury it is.

The problem there is that it doesn't really work as a definition once I become a "collector". Even if I could successfully argue that I "needed" a $500 watch, once I have that watch, then any subsequent purchase would seem a "luxury", at any price.
When I was in college at The Ohio State University around 1990, I worked at a fancy luggage and gift store in a downtown Columbus mall. I was a commissioned sales person and an older woman of wealth came in and bought five pieces of Hartmann luggage worth $2,500 back then. That blew me away because you could get the same Samsonite pieces for about $250.

That Hartmann luggage was tweed with high quality leather. We also sold Mont Blanc pens and Zero Halliburton briefcases. Using my store discount, I had a Tumi briefcase and a Bosca wallet.
 

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Things dont just fall into categories of "luxury" and "no luxury". How luxurious something is perceived to be is more of a gradual scale. Trying to find a specific point where you can start referring to something as "luxury" is as pointless as pondering how long a stick has to be before you can consider it "long".

Besides, luxury is an idea that companies try to sell you. The perception of luxury allows companies to increase profit margins. It is why Bremont make up a ridiculous origin story. It is why the AD is so stuffy and chique. And it is why the idea of exclusivity is always being pushed even for mass produced products.

Since so much of the perception of luxury relies on complete BS it makes it even less interesting to me. It has no more real meaning than the word "fancy" for example. Which makes this in depth discussion (of which I am now a part, I admit) somewhat comical.
 

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I'm not disagreeing that there is such a thing as a "luxury brand", I think there is, but I think some luxury brands offer better value than others, because their price-to-quality ratio is more favorable.

Which makes me wonder - is there a point at which that ratio gets so good that it decreases the "luxury" of the product? Is it even worth consideration?
I agree on the ratio point and grey sellers make it even better with good offerings at bigger discounts. On your second point about decreasing luxury, I often read here what I consider snobby replies to a degree regarding how people put down discounted watches as if the product wasn't good anymore for the mere fact. To that point, luxury sometimes becomes whatever the emotion or biases behind the brand is.
 

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Hmm.. The pragmatic element in me places luxury in opposition to necessity. The snag to this theme is that none of us really need a watch, which places a 6$ quartz within that parallel along with a $80,000 AP. Flawed? Maybe.

This feels like something that would be driven by perspective, which makes it nebulous. Humans like categorizing things, which is where a simple dollar amount makes it easier to categorize luxury across multiple paradigms. Of course that dollar amount means different things to different people depending on how many of those dollars a person is willing to spend. This is where a Damasko becomes a “luxury” watch to some, or an AP could be a common good amongst some lucky few jerks.

The trick might be to aim to appeal to as many individuals as possible within a given target market, and forget the outliers? Let the definitions be argued by the market?(see modern Crown vs 25 year old Crown)

Interesting mind activity.


Sent from bizarro world via Tapatalk
 

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And, if we answer that last question in the affirmative, doesn't that then compel us to admit that most of us aren't likely to damage a mineral crystal enough to warrant paying more for sapphire? Once we start down that road, it seems like it just leads back to "anything above the lowest amount you could possibly spend"...
I don't think this is accurate. I've definitely damaged mineral crystals myself to the point I wouldn't consider anything other than sapphire. And it's not that it'd break it was just covered in scratches from treating it like a tool and not babying it. It's pretty mainstream now- even the apple watch is sapphire.
 

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But what if someone can get exactly what they want in a $10 Timex? Does the fact that it's exactly what they want make it a luxury for them, whereas for someone else, it wouldn't be, because they want something "more"?
An important question. If there is such an enlightened being, who actually does get everything they want (not just everything they need) from a $10 Timex, they probably aren't perusing watch collecting forums! Cutting out the aspirational element of watch enthusiasm would be great for the wallet, at any rate. But all I mean is that the abstract idea of luxury, I think, is to be able to point at something, acquire it, and feel there is nothing wanting in it; that you are not "settling." Not quite the same as the idea of "luxury goods," but certainly related.
 

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Luxury to me is a point where price of a watch starts widely exceeding basic utility and cost of manufacturing. Alternately, when price is driven more by marketing and resulting public perception, than manufacturing and overhead.
 

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luxury isn’t when the product is exactly what I want. It’s when it delivers something more than I wanted. It’s a step - an unnecessary step - beyond expectations. It offers something I didn’t seek out, because it’s next-level nice, niceness that I don’t need, but appreciate nonetheless
 
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