Buying watches before the Internet

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Buying watches before the Internet

Post by mvlow »

I saw a post today on Instagram that showed pictures of F1 drivers advertising various products over the years, several of which were watches. It got me thinking about how different it is today to get the information you need to make a watch purchase.

Before the Internet we would rely on magazine articles and advertisements, and the slick sales people in watch stores to get our information on the quality and design of watches. We were basically at the mercy of marketing, with a sprinkling of technical articles in magazines to determine which watch to buy. Today with the Internet, we can do as much research as we like in order to decide if a specific watch is what we want to buy. Google, Youtube, Forums such as this one, Facebook etc. can all be used to compare and contrast brands and models. We can watch videos online that show how they are made with macro shots of every part of the watch.

Before the Internet we could have easily bought a Tag Heuer or other watch brand based on the endorsement of an F1 driver in a glossy magazine, without having much technical knowledge of the watch itself. Nowadays we can compare that same watch to any other watch in the world within minutes with a touch of a keystroke and make a more informed decision whether we want to buy it.

For us watch collectors the Internet has made us more informed consumers, but has also maybe added a little paralysis by analysis to our fun hobby. For those of us older WIS who purchased watches before the Internet, I wonder how different our purchases might have been if we had access to the information we have today.


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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by Bahnstormer_vRS »

Before the Internet?

Well, none of us would be here on the Forum to start with, and I'd have a collection of, probably, no more than a handful of watches.

I remember back in 1990 my wife bought me a Seiko SQ100 Sports Chronograph, after I'd seen it advertised in a magazine and she'd phoned a local jeweller to arrange the purchase.

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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by missF »

Before the internet I couldn't afford to buy watches! My 'scrolling' was wandering round the cases in H Samuel looking at casios, Bulovas, citizens, rotaries.
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by iain »

My wife offered to buy me a nice watch as an engagement present and set a healthy budget of £650, which 22 ish years ago would have bought me something pretty decent.

I had no way of knowing or researching what was available and lived in a town with only one or two jewellers. I just chose the watch they had in stock that I like the best and only spend about £170 of my budget.

It was an Ellesse watch. Ellesse are a sports wear manufacturer and it would be like buying an Adidas watch today. It was quartz, dated quite quickly, didn’t have a sapphire crystal so scratched up badly from daily wear and the bracelet broke with no way of repairing it. The watch now sits in its box with the battery removed and is only kept for sentimental reasons.

If I had internet access back then I could have bought something so much better and would have travelled or ordered on line to get the right watch. I would probably own something that I’d still be wearing to this day.
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by tikkathree »

Dixons for digital watches, jewellers for mechanical watches: that's my recollection. I don't think I knew there were independent jewellers and national/regional chains. Oh there were also "catalogues" which offered easy payment terms over 1 or 2 years.

Maybe that's partly why my pre-internet watches amounted to two.
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by Baser »

Before the internet I was too young to have a serious budget for watches so I had a couple of Casios from either Dixons (electronics store) or H Samuel (jewellery store).

My first proper watch in my mind was my Seiko Kinetic, it charged as you wore it, had an analogue face rather than digital and a metal bracelet not a rubber strap came from H Samuel. It was an easy choice with my birthday money and a small inheritance I simply went to the window and chose the one I liked the look of in my budget. I bought the watch in September 2000 so there was just about dial up internet but I didn't do any research.

My next watch purchase was from eBay about 8 years later.
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by RichM »

The watches section of the printed Argos catalogue. Heaven as a 15 year old boy (and before other printed publications, also pre-internet, became of unhealthy interest!)
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by Thegreyman »

It was the internet that fuelled my watch obsession, before that I was normal!
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by mvlow »

Thegreyman wrote: Fri Feb 09, 2024 3:03 pm It was the internet that fuelled my watch obsession, before that I was normal!
I think this describes most of us :D
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by iain »

Thegreyman wrote: Fri Feb 09, 2024 3:03 pm …….before that I was normal!

Let’s not get carried away. :lol:
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by missF »

At least before internet days the staff in H Samuel would have known that if you were looking but not buying it was because you couldn't afford it. Nowadays they must be resigned to the fact that you're going to try something on then go away and try to find a cheaper deal online... :problem:
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by Caller »

Well, my first bought watch pre-dates the quartz revolution. I was 17 and had no real knowledge of watches (still don't). I only had my first watch that my Dad bought for me, when attending school. It was a tiny gold plated Oris, in the day's when Oris were a cheap brand.

So, now 17, having been encouraged to leave school by my Housemaster (boo-hiss), and in employment and suited and booted daily, working in central London, I thought I deserved a new watch. Any watch adverts I may have seen, just passed me by, I wouldn't have known an Omega from a Rolex from a Timex in any case. I only knew that to buy a watch, I had to go to a shop that sold them! Too simple really, isn't it?

So one Saturday morning, I wandered into a no doubt well known chain, whose name escapes me, in Putney High Street, being the nearest shopping area to me. The brands meant nothing to me, I wouldn't have known an allleged good brand from a poor one. I just looked for something I liked. I ended up with a blue dialed hand wound Cronel - seems I liked blue dials even then. Cronel were one of those anonymous cheap Swiss brands, owned by a parent company with several brands under their management, using other companies movements, that quartz killed off. I loved it and wore it for a few years. Only mothers gift of a quartz Pulsar, one Chfistmas, saw it relegated to a box at a back of the wardrobe. Where ir remained in the no doubt soiled state it arrived in, I still have it. Never done a thing to it and it's in a terrible state. Back in 2014 I took these really poor pics of it. I wonder if it could be restored?

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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by rkovars »

When I was a teen in the early 80s it was whatever was in the local department stores. Mostly Casios. Later in the 80s I was definitely moved by the ads in Nat Geo and Skin Diver which is pretty much all of the print media I consumed. I also poured over catalogs from the big brands (back then it was pamphlets really). They looked like this:
gmt-ad.jpg
catalog.jpg
catalog 2.jpg

Except mine had prices written all over them. :lol:

When I was on my own in the early 90s I was lucky enough to be close to two ADs that also had very large 'estate', read second hand, collections. As well as one very good vintage watch shop. I have them to blame for my love of tool watches. They led me down the path of Doxa and Zodiac back when no one even remembered the brands existed. I also dogeared pages in the Navy Exchange catalog during this period. I still remember the prices like it was yesterday.

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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by thomcat00 »

Back in the eighties and nineties I was in my high school and in my university years. I was only looking at inexpensive watches. I’d wander into department stores or the occasional jewelry shop to browse. Most of my buying then was limited to digital and quartz analog watches. I went through several Armitron LCD watches in those years, not really finding one that was quite right but enjoying the browsing.

My first nice watch was a gift from my parents for my high school graduation at 17. While I knew of Omega (thanks to NASA), Longines (official sporting times sponsorships), Rolex (Dad and uncles) and Patek Philippe (from a lyric reference in “Touch And Go” by Emerson, Lake, and Powell), nicer tier watches were nothing I’d considered researching as they were way out of my league for at least a decade more. I didn’t really start accumulating watches until the Internet, say about 2000-2004-ish when work travel picked up and I had some down time on each trip but no family traveling with me.
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Re: Buying watches before the Internet

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia »

We saw adverts in the newspapers and magazines, and occasionally on the television or at the cinema. We went into actual shops, tried on whatever was available, and sometimes even saved up and bought something with a wad of cash.

And when I say we tried on what was available, you have to remember that some brands have always been very choosy and specific about where they have their bricks and mortar outlets. So depending on where you live, you might never get to see or even hear about some brands. Even by the time I joined this forum and began to be interested in watches, there were many brands, especially more prestigious ones, that I had never even heard of.

We probably only had one watch, or maybe a “nice” one plus something cheap in the drawer for when the main watch went off to have a new battery fitted. Yes, battery. I will freely admit that for many years I had pretty much forgotten about the existence of mechanical watches.

The Internet changed all that, but not until around 2008 when I was searching online for an 18th birthday gift for my goddaughter. I discovered a company called Christopher Ward, and the rest, as they say…
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