Unless you’re some kind of oenophile who can instantly tell the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Pinochet—I can’t—then you probably order wine at a restaurant in that socially awkward way I do. You look at the list, making intelligent-ish sounds—hmm, aaa, hmm, I see, ahhh—and then choose a wine that is exactly mid-priced.

You don’t order the cheapest—what are you? A homeless person?

And you don’t order the most expensive—you are middle class.

Later when the waiter brings you your carafe you sip it in a civilized fashion, cringe, swallow and say that it is “very nice indeed". And then the waiter laughs at you because you just drank from the malt vinegar bottle and now everybody in the restaurant knows you are a pretentious buffoon.

But “basic plus a little" is sometimes the only tool we have to choose from several buying options.

Buying watches can also pose such a “wine list" problem.

Say you’ve recently hit a windfall thanks to a new business contract or a salary bonus. You want to reward yourself with a new timepiece. For years you’ve wanted to own a timepiece made by a particular brand. Every time you walk past an exclusive store for that brand, you stop at the window, shuffle up to the glass, place your face against it, and moan softly. Often, on a plane, you’ll flip through an in-flight magazine and spot an advertisement for this favourite brand of yours. Suddenly you are elevated to a higher, wistful plane…

But now the time has come. You have the liquidity. You have the intention. You’ve made your choice of brand. You have the contact details of the exclusive dealer. So what model are you going to buy?

As soon as you enter the store you’re paralysed by choice.

The high-end collections, as expected, are vastly beyond your budget. The entry-level collections are much more affordable. And at a stretch you could buy something from the brand’s mid-priced collection.

So what do you do?

Many buyers may be tempted to “wine-list" it—and choose something that is a few steps above basic, but well below what car salesmen call “full option".

Wrong. In fact what you should really do is go back home and start the buying process all over again. This time start not with the question “What model of my favourite brand should I buy?" but with this more fundamental one: “What watch should I buy at all?"

Don’t ever walk into a brand showroom, even if it is your dream brand, without having some sort of answer for that second question.

Various brands approach the structure of their collections differently. Each watch brand has a different value proposition at each step on its price ladder. And buyers can be caught completely unawares by the sheer volume of choice.

Seiko is a great brand to highlight how at each point in the price chain the value proposition can be completely different. You could buy a different Seiko for every additional 1,000 or so in budget. At the entry level, Seiko makes the Seiko 5 automatic watches that can cost as little as $100 (around 5,900). In the middle, Seiko has a mind-boggling array of watches that range from the Sportura collection of sports watches, to the more classical Premier collection. And right on top there is the superb, high-horology Grand Seiko range, soon to come to India, that cost several lakhs each.

In India, Seiko’s mid-priced collection does very well. The FC Barcelona watch is one of my favourite sports chronos ever. But as you move up the ladder, the choice becomes more complex. Should you buy a simple Grand Seiko? Or save money and opt for an Ananta instead? But aren’t these two collections the most divergent you can possibly think of?

Few other brands have as broad a range as Seiko. But the problem is still ubiquitous. TAG Heuer, Omega, Rolex all offer wide collections with diverse value propositions.

So before you dive in at the deep end—oh my God there are so many Rolexes in the world!—think for a bit. What watch do you really want? Already have a formal one for work and a G-Shock for the rough and tumble? Looking to buy a sports chrono to wear on the weekends? Something with a steel bezel and a steel bracelet that doesn’t get drenched in sweat? Great. Now write all that down. Walk into the Rolex showroom and go straight for the chronographs. Look nowhere else.

Focus, my friend.

Also Read | Sidin’s previous Lounge columns

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