PARKERSBURG- Like many other products today the watch has seen prices skyrocket over the years, with some carrying price tags of $1,000 or more; some can cost $10,000 or more. However, many watches are available for less than $50, but for a quality product the price can be much steeper.
Justin Shuman, who is a goldsmith and designer at Mel's Diamond House in Vienna, said prices for watches are wide-ranging
"We have carried everything in watches - we have less expensive lines like Pulsar and Caravelle and the most expensive is the Accutron, they start at $650 up to $1,350 to $1,500 depending on features," he said. "Swiss watch is the biggest driving point especially in this area."
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Justin Shuman, who is a goldsmith and designer at Mel’s Diamond House in Vienna, works on a watch.
Shuman said a lot people buy them because of Swiss movement.
"In the more expensive watches the crystal is made of better materials instead of glass," he said. "More expensive watches have sapphire that are break and scratch resistant and will stay in good condition longer. Many times the price comes down to that."
While many of the less expensive watches are made in China, he said, Seiko from Japan is a good brand of watch because it is accurate and reliable.
"Some Seiko watches hit prices of $69.95 up to to $800 for higher lines of watches," he said. "Many top line watches have perpetual calendars which is like a small computer and it marks the day, month and year and accounts for leap years and sets it forward for daylight savings time."
Many watches, Shuman said have different energy saving systems.
"Kinetic movements recharged the watch by movement and light," he said. "The rechargable motion of the wrist typically winds many watch but this movement has an automatic generating system."
Dallas Wingrove, owner of D.J. Wingrove and Sons, in Parkersburg, said where the watch is made and the quality will determine the price. He said the highest quality watches can cost up to $15,000 or more.
"There is one American-made watch left," he said. "Belair Time is the only one, the last true American Watch maker. The watch industry has changed a lot since the department stores got involved."
Wingorve said the parts for the watches are made in either the United States or Switzerland and assembled in the U.S. Wingorve said in 2011 the other American watch maker Jules Jurgensen, a company dating back to 1740, closed since they could no longer compete against the watches coming from India and China.
"They were the oldest," he said. "They could not compete with the market. The movement away from Swiss watches began around 1968 from Japan with companies like Seiko."
Wingrove said many old watch makers like Elgin, Waltham, Hamilton and others, old standard American-made watches, have gone out of business and the names have been bought by foreign manufactures. He said the family of the last owner of Jules Jurgensen has refused to sell or license the name.
Wingove said Belair Time watches are priced between $150 and $750 and most watches are in the $300 to $500 range for men's watches and in the $300 range for women's watches.
"Switzerland still makes the best watches, whether it's automatic wind, manual wind or quartz," he said. "Quartz because of the accuracy, is the movement for almost every watch except for the high end watches. Most quartz watches have a battery or a charge system."
Wingorve said the charge system can be form light, movement of the wrist or both, called kinetic. He said the quartz is the most accurate, up to seconds in a month while the best manual wind watches are accurate up to minutes in a month.
"Everybody, even Belaire, has kinetic watches out of Switzerland," he said.
One way the price of a watch can be controlled is by the watch strap.
"Leather instead of metal straps is where you can cut down on the price," he said. "A good leather strap will run $25 to $30 while a good stainless strap is going to run from $65 to $100."
Larry Hall, certified gemologist appraiser at Baker and Baker, Marietta, said the lower priced watches are more electronic than mechanical.
"What happened over the years electronic circuits and printed quartz mechanism have replaced the balance mechanism," he said. "There are a lot of plastic parts and circuit boards in the quartz stimulated by a volt.
"The difference between a fine watch is mechanical and has thousands of parts movement of 17 jewels usually a fine Swiss compared to a piece that has hundreds of parts connected to the circuits with only moving hands."
Quartz oscillates at 32,768 times per second that's where precision comes in Hall said. He said that is from where the accuracy comes.
Another factor in the price is the casing.
"Basically entry level watches like Casio, Timex use base or plated metals," Hall said. "Rolex and Patek Philippe, the Rolls Royce of watches made since 1830, has a complicated with sapphire crystal front and back, about $39,000, or $124,950 for ladies.
Hall said there are many good watches at many different pice levels.
"Many of the others are nice time pieces," he said. "They have gone from practical applications to a fashion forward status symbol or statement."