When time is serious money

When time is serious money AAP  –  Thu, Aug 21, 2014 12:01 PM NZST

watches A first car has been a rite of passage for decades but for future generations of high-rise, screen-bound Australians, the first big purchase might be a Rolex.

fake watches Not everyone gets the whole luxury watch thing, but there is a growing market for flash wrist furniture, whether it's a Rolex for $10,000 or a rare Greubel Forsey for $1 million.

replica watches Lifestyle changes are driving this interest.

best replica watches Aussies are less active, richer, dressing better and spending more time indoors, while many young urban types are shunning car ownership.

replica watches That translates into a luxury timepiece market that is growing at 13 per cent a year, says watch writer, aficionado and collector Bani McSpedden.

fake watches "The demand is coming from both young men and from women," Mr McSpedden says.

"The growth in the interest in watches mirrors an overall change, without wanting to sound too grand, in how Australians present themselves.

"Traditionally we've been a fairly happy-go-lucky country, and it's Europe that has a reputation for style.

"But what has accelerated things here is Asia. You travel through Asia and people pay a lot of attention to their appearance and a watch is part of that."

As mobile phones have rendered timepieces redundant, the watch has morphed from a tool into a luxury item.

It is also, says Mr McSpedden, one of the few acceptable items of jewellery for men.

"For some reason that tiny mechanical object has captured people's imagination," he says.

Mr McSpedden, who declines to reveal how many watches are in his collection ("Too many"), refers to his passion as `the illness'.

"There are a lot of people who seem to have an illness when it comes to watches - they can't resist," he says.

Mr McSpedden is the watch editor of Fairfax Media's Australian Financial Review Magazine.

In October, he and Fairfax launch a new online venture, Watch-Next.com, billed as "Australia's first independent and authoritative website for watches".

Market research indicated 85 per cent of AFR Magazine readers plan to buy a watch worth an average $4,200, while Switzerland, home of the luxury watch industry, sees Australia as a growth market.

Switzerland exports about 2 billion euro worth of watches every month, so the $200 million-worth of Swiss masterpieces imported by Australia each year is small.

But the Swiss think that is "about to gather pace", Mr McSpedden said.

So who are these people prepared to pay the price of a small car for a wristwatch?

Lawyers and financiers feature strongly in the ranks of watch lovers: Hong Kong and Singapore are financial hubs and the world's biggest watch markets.

"I've often thought that the popularity of watches has mirrored the growth of the finance industry," Mr McSpedden says.

And in the past, outdoorsy Australia has not cared to sit inside and admire the detail of things, as their Asian and European counterparts do.

That's changing as more life is spent at work and online.

"In young urban males the car has become less important: you can't drive it to work, you can't park it because it's too expensive," Mr McSpedden says.

"The car has become less able to be enjoyed so what's come up on that young man's list is two things: one - bicycle and two - watch."

THE LUXURY WATCHLIST

- Luxury watches are deemed to start in the $5,000 to $10,000 range

- Australia's most popular "entry level" models are from Rolex, Omega and Tag Heuer

- A diamond-set Gruebel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes is for sale in Sydney at just over $1 million

- The most expensive watch of 2013 was a $55 million diamond-encrusted timepiece by English diamond house Graff


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