Factory-Set vs Aftermarket-Set Watches: What’s The Difference?

As timepieces evolve, watch enthusiasts are faced with an array of choices, including whether to opt for factory-set or aftermarket-set watches. Understanding the difference between these options can significantly impact your investment, influencing its long-term value, durability, and aesthetic appeal. 

Understanding The Definitions

To adequately explore the difference between factory-set and aftermarket-set watches, we must first define these terms:

What Are Factory-Set Watches?

Factory-set watches are timepieces manufactured and finished by the original company or its authorised workshops. These watches are designed and embellished according to the brand’s standards, ensuring that the final product embodies the company’s reputation for quality, durability, and design. 

What Are Aftermarket-Set Watches?

Aftermarket-set watches, on the other hand, are originally factory-set watches that have been customised or modified by third-party companies or independent jewellers. These alterations can range from changing the strap or dial to more dramatic changes, like adding precious stones or engraving. 

Factory-Set Watches

The creation of a factory-set watch involves multiple stages of designing, moulding, assembling, and testing, all under strict quality control. Factory-set watches are crafted by expert watchmakers, ensuring that every aspect, from the movement to the aesthetics, meets the brand’s specifications.

Characteristics & Benefits Of Factory-Set Watches

Factory-set watches are typically synonymous with quality and authenticity. They are guaranteed to perform optimally, offer high durability, and exude the unique design signature of the respective brand. The original manufacturer’s warranty also covers them.

Examples Of Popular Factory-Set Watches

Examples of popular factory-set watches include timepieces from Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Omega, among others. Each of these brands carries its signature style, quality of craftsmanship, and inherent brand prestige.

Aftermarket-Set Watches

The process of creating an aftermarket-set watch involves modifying a factory-set watch based on the client’s preference or the third-party company’s design. This could include changes to the dial, bezel, strap, or even adding diamonds or other precious stones.

Characteristics & Benefits Of Aftermarket-Set Watches

Aftermarket-set watches allow for personalisation, uniqueness, and sometimes even increased visual appeal. They provide owners with the ability to express their personal style or stand out from the crowd.

Examples Of Popular Aftermarket-Set Watches

Popular aftermarket-set watches often include diamond-encrusted Rolex or Audemars Piguet models, or unique, colourful variations of otherwise standard luxury watches.

Comparing Factory-Set vs Aftermarket-Set Watches

Quality & Craftsmanship

While the quality of a factory-set watch is often higher due to the brand’s rigorous quality control, an aftermarket-set watch’s quality can vary based on the skill of the third-party customiser. It is crucial to consider the reputation and craftsmanship of the third-party company when opting for an aftermarket-set watch.

Impact On The Value Of The Watch

Generally, factory-set watches retain their value better than aftermarket-set watches. Modifications can sometimes diminish the value of the watch, particularly if changes are extensive or if the third-party workmanship is subpar. However, certain unique or high-quality customisations can potentially add value, depending on market demand.

⌚️ More information: How To Increase The Value Of Your Watch.

Warranty Implications

Usually, any modifications or customisations performed by unauthorised third-party companies void the watch manufacturer’s warranty. However, some aftermarket companies may provide their own warranty to cover their work.

Making The Choice: Which One Is Right for You?

Your choice depends on your preference for authenticity, individuality, budget, and risk tolerance. If preserving the watch’s value and warranty coverage is critical, opt for a factory-set watch. Conversely, if expressing personal style or standing out is more important, consider an aftermarket-set watch.

Purchasing Tips For Factory-Set & Aftermarket-Set Watches

When deciding to purchase a watch, whether it’s factory-set or aftermarket-set, it’s crucial to consider several key factors to ensure the authenticity, value, and quality of the timepiece.

  1. The reputation of the seller or customiser: Always ensure that the seller or customiser is reputable and has a history of delivering quality products or services. Check customer reviews, ratings, and any available information on their previous work. This is especially important when purchasing an aftermarket-set watch, as the quality of modifications can greatly vary.
  2. Documentation: For factory-set watches, it’s vital to ensure they come with the original papers, box, and manufacturer’s warranty. The paperwork should match the watch’s model and serial number. This helps confirm the watch’s authenticity and could be crucial if you ever decide to resell the watch.
  3. Quality of modification: If you’re considering an aftermarket-set watch, inspect the quality of the modifications. Poor quality work can not only devalue the watch but also compromise its functionality over time.
  4. Aftermarket warranty: Given that third-party modifications often void the manufacturer’s warranty, it’s advisable to seek an aftermarket-set watch from a customiser who provides their own warranty. This provides a level of protection for your investment.
  5. Return policy: Always check the seller’s or customiser’s return policy. In case the watch does not meet your expectations, a clear, hassle-free return policy can be invaluable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do aftermarket customisations always devalue a watch?

No, aftermarket customisations do not always devalue a watch. While it’s true that modifications can often decrease a watch’s resale value due to a deviation from its original design, certain high-quality or unique customisations can add value.

For instance, a rare modification or one done by a highly respected third-party customiser could potentially increase the watch’s worth. However, it is essential to remember that this depends heavily on market trends and the preferences of potential buyers.

Can a factory-set watch be converted back after customisation?

The reversibility of customisations on a factory-set watch largely depends on the type of modification done. Simple changes, like strap replacements or dial swaps, can be reversed easily. However, extensive modifications, such as engraving or adding diamonds, are often permanent.

If you’re considering customising a factory-set watch, it’s crucial to weigh the permanence of the change against its potential impact on the watch’s value and serviceability.

Can an aftermarket-set watch be serviced by the original manufacturer?

Typically, original manufacturers only service factory-set watches or those altered by their authorised service centres. Any modifications made by an unauthorised third-party company could void the manufacturer’s warranty and render the watch ineligible for servicing by the original manufacturer. However, some reputable aftermarket customisers offer their own servicing or have established relationships with skilled watchmakers to provide this service.

Is the quality of an aftermarket-set watch inferior to a factory-set watch?

Not necessarily. The quality of an aftermarket-set watch heavily depends on the skill and reputation of the third-party customiser. Some customisers provide high-quality work that closely matches, and sometimes even surpasses, the work of original manufacturers. However, this isn’t standard across all third-party customisers, so it’s essential to do your due diligence before deciding on a customiser.

How can I ensure the authenticity of a factory-set watch?

Verifying the authenticity of a factory-set watch can be done by checking the accompanying documentation, matching the serial numbers, confirming the model specifications, and sometimes through an inspection by a trusted watchmaker or an authorised dealer. Also, purchasing from a trusted seller or a certified dealer can help ensure you’re getting an authentic piece.