Regular readers of 5YP will know watches have been the blind spot my 5YP thus far. I’ve upgraded every other part of my wardrobe apart from my watches. Indeed, I cannot recall ever buying a good quality watch. At least not a new one. The one good quality watch I own I bought used from a boot sale. I have a vague memory of a watch I owned my 20s when I was earning quite a lot of money but can’t really remember where I bought it and whether it was a good quality watch. I suspect it was not.
On the one hand, this is not a bad thing. I am a man of modest means, after all, and I am very keen on a bargain. So, given that watches perform the same task whether they cost £5 or £5,000, there seemed little to be gained by spending a fortune on a watch. So apart from my good quality used watch I have tended to buy watches that looked good but cost under a tenner.
On the other hand, buying cheap watches is not a great thing either. One of the things I love about my wardrobe at the moment is that I am gradually Improving the Quality. Quality clothing brings its own pleasures: the way it looks, the way it feels, the satisfactory ways in which you interact with it.
So I’ve decided that the time has come to improve the quality of my watch collection. So I’ve ordered my first decent quality watch. I’ll write about it in a later post. Sometimes it makes sense to pay a bit more in pursuit of better quality
This is a lesson I learned when I bought my first car at 21. It was a Suzuki Swift, selected because it was inexpensive to buy, to run, and to insure. I loved it and lavished it with attention and with after market accessories. However within 12 months it was beginning to irritate me. The car ran perfectly and did all that I asked of it. However, it felt unnecessarily cheap. Every time you closed the door or went over a pothole it sounded tinny like I was driving canned goods.
Within 18 months I had upgraded. The new car was hardly the lap of luxury, it was a Mazda 323F, a fab car. It looked great, handled like a dream, and had an unusual interior in my favourite colour: blue! But most importantly of all, it had a greater feeling of solidity in all of my interactions with it. It felt like a better quality product and it was a more pleasing ownership proposition as a result.
Premium car manufacturers have recognised this and therefore spend money on improving what is described as perceived quality. So the difference between a Ford Mondeo and an Audi A4 or Mercedes C Class, or indeed a Ford Focus, Audi A3, or Volkswagen Golf, is not the quality of engineering. The Ford will be as well engineered as the Audi, Mercedes and VW. Indeed most Fords drive better than the equivalent VW or Audi, and as well as the Merc.
However, few of us actually interact with the engineering. We interact with the interior, with the steering wheel and pedals, with the stereo controls and infotainment systems. And premium manufacturers have worked out that spending extra money in those areas gives a better impression of perceived quality. There are surprise and delight features included which create a more pleasing ownership proposition.
The consequence is that despite the fact that the Ford is meant to be the value proposition and the Mercedes C Class and Audi A4 or BMW 3 series are meant to be the more exclusive options the reality is that far more of each of these premium cars are sold. BMW sells more 3 Series per year in Britain than Ford sells Mondeos. Put another way, a Mondeo is now more ‘exclusive’ than a BMW or Mercedes because there are fewer people out there driving one.
More truthfully, there is a a great deal of overlap. We spend more money on perceived quality because the purchase is not exclusively or even primarily about the function. Very few people buy a car or watch simply in order to have transport or to tell the time. Given that we need a new car or a watch we prefer to buy one that is a pleasure to interact with, one that has surprise and delight features. Within certain budgetary constraints most of us go for the better perceived quality item.