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The Royal Treatment

On a quiet corner of Bloor Street, behind an unassuming stone façade, you’ll find some of Toronto’s most gorgeous, awe-inspiring sights. For decades, Royal de Versailles has stood firmly as the city’s most reputable source for luxury wristwatches. Everywhere you turn in its gleaming, modernist showroom, you’re faced with a dazzling array of timeless classics and statement pieces alike from 17 of the world’s top makers—the likes of Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Hublot and Vacheron Constantin, just to name a few.

Purchasing a new timepiece can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task, but that’s never the case at Royal de Versailles—between their friendly expert staff and plush private viewing suite, you’re bound to have an experience worthy of their finely-tuned goods. We sat down with store manager Tyler Markoff to discuss everything you need to know before you buy your next watch.

How much should a first-time luxury watch buyer—a young professional, let’s say—expect to invest? What kind of watches should they be looking for?

That’s a subjective question in the sense that the numbers I’m going to throw at you are, for the average person, a lot of money. Most people are probably used to spending around $500 on a watch. But when you’re buying a luxury timepiece, something of the caliber we carry here in the store, you should expect to spend at least $5,000 to $7,000. That price point will open you up to a really nice selection in terms of makers and styles.

Your first watch is something you’re going to have forever—it’s a moment in your life that is really special. If you look at a brand like Rolex—in terms of longevity, history, quality and durability—in my opinion, that’s going to be among the most solid watches you can buy.

The nice thing about the Rolex collection, too, is that there really are options for everyone. If you’re a 25-year-old professional, for instance, something like the Submariner or GMT have a sportier element but are still appropriate for the workplace, and it’ll remain a classic pillar by the time that person turns 40. There’s also the Datejust series, which is a little dressier and more elegant, but is still very hardy and waterproof up to 100 metres, so it’s also the type of watch you can do everything with.

Beyond budget, what are the main considerations a buyer should take into account when choosing a watch?

You have to look at your lifestyle. If a guy is a real avid sportsman who wants to really enjoy the watch and have it become part of him, he won’t want something on a leather strap that he’s always going to have to take off and worry about. If a guy is always in business attire and that’s his main focus, then you can go with a more delicate, dressier piece. You really have to narrow in on what you’ll be using this watch for and how often you’ll be wearing it—once you have those parameters, we’ll be able to guide you in the right direction.

What are some lesser-known watchmakers that buyers should be familiar with?

I don’t like to use the phrase “lesser-known,” because that can equate to “not as special.” There are a lot of brands that people aren’t as familiar with that are truly unique and do incredible work.

Some of the watchmakers we work with have been around for centuries: Audemars Piguet, for instance, was founded in 1775. They’re still privately owned and one of the pinnacles in the watch industry, with very limited production every year. Vacheron Constantin is another great brand we carry that started making watches in 1755. Once you begin to appreciate the history behind all of these companies and the highly intricate instruments they produce, you can begin to figure out which ones best represent your tastes.

Are there any true differences in the ways men and women approach choosing or purchasing a watch?

There was a time when women were more drawn to watches simply as beautiful jewelry, but today there are more and more ladies are interested in having finer mechanical movements, true complications and larger-sized watches as well. A lot of manufacturers are now finding that balance between providing the elegance and beauty in design that some women desire with the more technical aspects that they previously only used on their men’s timepieces. It’s a really exciting time for women’s watches in general.

For a person who isn’t necessarily a collector, how many watches would you recommend having in his or her rotation, and what would those watches be?

I think the more the better. [Laughs.] You definitely need a minimum of two watches. That’ll give you the flexibility to wear something a little more distinctive for, say, a black-tie event—something sophisticated on a leather strap, with a gold or platinum case that’ll carry you through special occasions.

At the same time, a lot of our clients also need something cool—something with that rock-star look—which they can do everything with, and not have to worry when they’re on their boat or driving a nice car down in South Beach. They need something that has some cachet and will make a powerful statement on their wrist.

Tell me a little about complications: what are they, why are they coveted, and what should we look for?

A lot of high-end manufacturers specialize in complications, which are intricate, elaborate details that truly elevate the watch to a work of art. Complications can take watchmakers in excess of a year to make a single piece. Some of these watches are comprised of over 1,200 parts that are as fine as a human hair. Nothing is done by machine—all of the components are meticulously hand-assembled by masters of their craft in Switzerland.

There are watches like the Tourbillon, which was invented by Breguet and was originally designed over 175 years ago to counteract polar gravity. By today’s standards, it’s still one of the most complicated timepieces for a watchmaker to produce.

Or there are other watches called Minute Repeaters, which have a chiming gong on the side—you can push a lever, and it’ll strike out the hour and minutes in quarters. That principle was invented when there was no electricity, so that people could tell what time it was in the dark. Today, is it really important to have a watch that does that? No, but it’s a truly beautiful technical achievement.

That’s what complications are all about. There aren’t many makers left that are capable of delivering that kind of engineering, which is what makes them so desirable and special.

In terms of maintenance, what would you recommend for owners that want to take the best possible care of their investments? How often is it necessary to bring in a luxury timepiece for a tune-up?

For any luxury watch—whether it’s mechanical, automatic or manual—the consensus across the board with our suppliers is that a tune-up is necessary about every five years. They’ll take the watch completely apart, re-lubricate it, bring it back to factory standards, and it’ll be good for another five years.

In terms of care at home, watch longevity really comes down to basic common sense. Be respectful to the watch—it’s a very fine piece of art. Treat it with respect and store it properly in a safe place. Don’t leave it on top of the fireplace, because the heat might warp the case and prematurely dry the oils within. One thing I’d recommend is that if you have multiple timepieces and wear one more frequently than the others, on a bi-monthly basis just wind your watches and let them cycle through their movements. That’ll prevent any of the lubricants from drying up and keep the watches going and going.

What are some of the hottest trends in the horology world to look out for?

For us, our clients generally aren’t terribly concerned with what’s trendy. They’re looking for something truly exceptional and distinctive, and thanks to the good relationships we have with the watchmakers we carry, we’re often able to deliver highly desirable pieces that are extremely limited in production—sometimes, there will only be 20 of these watches available in the world, with only two allotted to North America. That’s what we specialize in, and we take great pride in being able to accommodate our customers’ demands for remarkable timepieces.

What would you say a person’s choice of watch reveals about them?

Sometimes people will wear a watch that has flash, and they’ll drive a flashy car. Sometimes, a guy might be wearing a $100,000 platinum watch on their wrist, and someone will look at that and go, “Oh, I like your stainless steel watch.” Some people like to fly below the radar, and others are looking for something a little cooler and stylized. It really speaks to your personality; there’s a true correlation between your lifestyle or mannerisms and the watches you wear. Whether you’re sporty, conservative, fashion-forward—we’ve got something for you.