It’s the shopping season, and that probably means at least one thing – you are stressed out from shopping. The last thing any of us wants to do is visit more stores, so good thing the internet has us covered. In the context of luxury watch sales (for the purpose of this article I mean watches with a retail price of $5,000 and up), more and more brands are launching official e-commerce boutiques this year, which means you can buy safe and buy direct. Even though the sale of wristwatches online is anything but new, the luxury watch industry itself has only recently “officially” entered online sales in an appreciable way. Let’s take a look at some of the luxury timepieces that you can buy direct from the company this holiday season.
First, a few thoughts on authorized e-commerce sales for watches in general. The most important thing to know is that for the most part, you’ll be paying the full retail price. Though doing so yields some unexpected benefits of buying directly from a brand. It is true that (especially in the past) many brand new luxury watches could be purchased from various online discounters. For those of you accustomed to getting great deals on new luxury watches, the reality is that those days are ending. As a consumer you were benefiting from a broken distribution system that the watch industry is increasingly trying to clean up. I say this because while in the past, it might not have made sense to spend full retail and buy directly from the brand, moving forward you’ll see a lot more price consistency online – whether you buy a watch direct from a brand or an authorized third-party retailer.
Few brands are putting all their available watch models for sale online, and at the same time there are going to be more and more watches that you can exclusively buy online direct from a brand’s website (or a brick & mortar boutique). I say this because there will continue to be special or very high-end models that are not available to purchase online. In fact, a lot of brands are only putting their “core collection” products online, with limited edition or other harder-to-get watches being available in other ways (though a phone call to the brand’s customer service number usually helps you buy what you are looking for).
At the same time, you’ll increasingly see watches being sold directly from brands online that will not be available in other places. Watch companies know that exclusivity is an important factor in you making a decision about what watch to get, and where you get it. Their hope is that by offering certain models direct to the consumer (without first being sold to a third-party dealer), they will convince enough people to shop directly from them.
Finally, many luxury watch brands are still experimenting with how they communicate with their consumers, offer incentives to shop directly on their websites, or in general, manage an effective e-commerce platform that you as the consumer want to use. Consider the next few years to be a sort of transitional period when traditional watch brands accustomed to older ways of doing business finally introduce the convenience of e-commerce that so many customers have been asking for. Allow me to also note that concurrently to brands offering their watches direct to consumer via their own e-commerce stores, many are also allowing their third-party brick & mortar retailers to sell online (at presumably the same or similar prices). Note that some watch brand e-commerce stores are still available only in particular markets (such as the USA).
Chopard L.U.C XP
Chopard has among the more developed luxury watch e-commerce stores out there, servicing the US along with a number of other major markets. Even though not all of their timepieces are available to purchase online, they offer more extremely high-end and complicated watches via e-commerce than most other brands I can think of. This includes much of the celebrated L.U.C collection. While it is nowhere near the top of what they offer, the recently released 40mm wide Chopard L.U.C XP in steel with the blue fabric cashmere strap (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here) is a lovely dress watch with an exciting in-house made automatic movement. Price is $9,250 USD. chopard.com
Panerai Luminor Due 3 Days Automatic
Panerai just recently launched their official e-commerce boutique in the US for watches, but have been selling straps and other accessories for a while. Panerai has a loyal following of collectors, who likely enjoy the ability to get their timepieces online with ease. The Panerai Luminor Due (aBlogtoWatch review here) is among the new Panerai watch families and is distinguished by a familiar look but a thinner case (about 40% according to Panerai) and an in-house made automatic movement. The pictured model has a 45mm wide steel case with a retail price of $10,500 USD. panerai.com
Held by the utilitarian case, which itself features a good caseback and miniaturized crown, is a vintage-inspired, curved sapphire crystal that resembles the oil crystals of the past. Beneath this is the watch’s detail-packed dial using a B-Uhr pilot-style triangle at the 12 o’clock position, a red inscription toward 6 o’clock position for “Military Type,” and artificial patina accents throughout. The timepiece comes with an outer second track with big printed indices and Arabic numerals climbing in increments of 5 at every hour mark, using a subtle, spherical date window at the 4:30 position hiding in plain sight. Powering the watch’s different hand configuration is your automatic Caliber BR-CAL. 302, which is based on the Sellita SW-200, also shops a 38-hour power book. The item is currently available online and via boutiques worldwide, priced from the brand at $1,990. One of the clearest historically derived particulars, you’ll observe the stainless steel case with simple satin-finishing, sized at 38.5-mm — which can be at least 5 mm larger than the WWII-era watches it appears to be paying homage to, but still a dimension comparatively restrained in comparison with the typically huge watches created by the brand. You’ll also notice the pilot’s-watch-style 12 o’clock hour marker, a feature initially developed in the late 1930s on German B-Uhr bits and which find their contemporary descendants in the Big Pilot and Mark XVIII from IWC, the Stowa Flieger Klassik, and several other watches. The final major vintage-inspired feature is in the small red inscription toward the base of the dial, a detail which was more common in afterwards, post-war military watches such as the Heuer-developed Bundeswehr 1550 SG (picture above, via FratelloWatches) discussed in our coverage of the 1950s-derived Junghans Meister Pilot. In all, the contemporary watch appears to be borrowing key attributes from ancient pilots watches such as the B-Uhr and Mark 11 (picture below), while also taking on other military watch influences like those in the “Dirty Dozen” WWII pieces and later military chronographs.
IWC Portugieser Chronograph Classic
Sporting an in-house made automatic chronograph movement and (as implied by the name) a classic look, the IWC Portugieser Chronograph Classic is a sensible, and versatile luxury watch designed to go most places you want to take it – and like most other IWC watches, you can get it direct from the brand. IWC has continued to refine its Portugieser (Portuguese) watch collection for years, a design that was originally inspired by ship deck clocks. The Portugieser Chronograph Classic has a 42mm wide steel case, alligator strap, and attractive (plus legible) blued hands and hour markers. Retail price as pictured is $12,100 USD. iwc.com
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Co-Axial Master Chronometer
Omega just recently launched their own e-commerce shop to join many others. I like the newly updated Seamaster Planet Ocean collection, that has a series of important upgrades which make it better than ever. Available in a range of sizes and styles, the three-hand 43.5mm model is a relatively fresh addition, and now contains a Co-Axial Master Chronometer movement (which you can see through the sapphire crystal caseback). The pictured model with the orange accents easily has the best mix of personality and fashionable versatility. As pictured in steel on the bracelet, price is $6,550 USD. omegawatches.com
Longines Master Collection 40mm Gold 18K Chronograph With Moon Phase
Unlike some watchmakers, Longines has a totally separate (which can be confusing for consumers) website area for e-commerce, aside from the basic longines.com. Value-laden Longines timepieces are a good option when you want a reasonable price for a solid-gold watch (among other types of pieces) such as this Master Collection 40mm Gold 18K Chronograph With Moonphase that contains a Swiss ETA Valjoux 7751 automatic movement. The 18k gold case is paired to an alligator strap, and the overall composition of the timepiece is intentionally timeless by design. It is as straightforward as the retail price, which is $10,250 USD. shop.us.longines.com