Grail Watch – 3 Reasons Not to Buy One


Ladies Nautilus on wrist 7

Start with this: only the pure of heart will ever wear a Grail watch. Which is why you don’t see Indiana Jones wearing one in The Last Crusade. So really, you don’t deserve a Grail watch. That said . . .

You probably think you do. Anyway, your unworthiness isn’t one of the three reasons not to buy a Grail watch.

Before I lay it out, let’s be clear which watches qualify: the steel Patek Philippe Nautilus, steel panda-faced Rolex Daytona and the steel Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The Holy Trinity.

Feel free to add any other watch you consider Grail-worthy – as long as it’s not the OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional. They’re too easy to acquire for reasonable money. Which brings us to reason one to take a GW off your bucket list.

1. A Grail Watches is Too Expensive

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Here in the United States, a steel Patek Philippe Nautilus (reference 5711/1A-010) retails for $30,620. Your garden variety steel Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (reference 15500ST.OO.1220ST.01) msrp’s at $20,400. The steel, panda-faced Rolex Daytona (reference 116500LN) lists for a mere $13,500.

Rolex Daytona

As you know, these numbers are meaningless. To buy a GW at that price, you have to be closerthanthis with an authorized dealer. There’s only one way that’s gonna happen: you have to buy a shit ton of other watches from the dealer. More than a $100k worth. Maybe a lot more.

Even money may not be enough; you have to be “the right sort of person.” The kind who promises to wear your GW, so that other people will covet it. Even if you pass muster, you’ll have to wait your turn for the privilege of subsidizing your dealer’s Cuban cigar collection. A long time. Years. Which is another kind of price, too.

If you can’t be bothered sucking-up to an AD and waiting for Godot, you can buy a new Grail watch from a “flipper.”

Grail watch - Patek Philippe Nautilus

There’s a new-in-box Patek Philippe Nautilus on for $81,999. An NIB Audemars Piguet Royal Oak can be yours for $38,500. A new steel panda-faced Rolex Daytona is also available for just $27,499.

Hang on. What happened to all that ass kissing, kowtowing and endless anticipation? You mean any old yutz can buy a GW? A yutz with deep pockets. What if that’s not you? What if it is? At that point, why not? It’s only money, right?

C’mon man! Even if the Chrono24 payout is chump change for you, Grail watches are a waste of money. Here’s why . . .

2. A Grail Watch Makes You A Sheep

You could argue Grail watches are Grail watches because they’re proven classics with important historical provenance. If you do, I’m outtahere. The last thing I want to hear about is a watch about which I’ve heard everything there is to hear.

Grail watch - Daytona

You may think wearing a Grail watch shows your taste and sophistication, your devotion to timeless timepieces. For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right. At the same time, a Grail watch is a status symbol. More subtle than a Rolex President, sure. But the same thing. There’s a reason #royaloak has 626,467 posts.

Are you really so shallow, so ego-deficient, that you want to wear a watch that makes you feel special because watch nerds, colleagues, friends, lovers, dry cleaners and other clued-in members of the gen pop consider you special for wearing it? Of course not! Yes but –

Even if you own a GW because you like it, other people think you own your Rollie or Nautilus or Royal Oak because you’re rich and you want the world to know it. You may not care what other people think about your taste or financial status, but on some level, yeah, you do.

Ferrari F355B

Take it from a guy who used a Ferrari F355B as a daily driver, no matter how great a thing is in and of itself, the public perception of the thing can be a major pain-in-the-ass. As in “I swear I’m not that guy.”

There’s no getting around it: perception is reality. Humans are social animals. We can’t escape other people’s perceptions. Other people’s reality.

Grail watch - Audemars Pigue Royal Oak

Bottom line: wearing a Nautilus, Royal Oak or Daytona betrays a lack of confidence. If not that, imagination. Not to put too fine a point on it, these watches are an expensive cliché.

If that doesn’t strike a chord, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at yourself. Specifically, the timepiece on your wrist. Bringing us to reason three not to buy a Grail watch.

3. There Are Better Watches Than a Grail Watch

If money’s not an issue and you really couldn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about you, buy a watch that truly expresses who you are. What’s that you say? The Nautilus, Royal Oak or Daytona fits the bill? Think again.

Vacheron Constantin Malte on wrist

All three watchmakers offer far more dynamic and interesting pieces than their Grail watches, with the possible exception of Patek Philippe and Rolex. You’re a dynamic and interesting person! Someone who appreciates perfectly realized design and unimpeachable craftsmanship. Someone with real joie de vivre.

I submit that there are timepieces that have just as much workmanship and a lot more oomph than the GWs. I’m looking at you Jaeger-leCoultre, A. Lange & Söhne and Vacheron Constantin (assuming we’re staying at the Grail watches’ real-world price points).

Jaeger-leCoultre Polaris Memovox - new Grail watch?

And that’s just for a start. There are plenty of less expensive watches that do the Grail watch thing – excellence on every level. In the main, they lack one thing: cachet. Can you live without it? You can and you should.

I refer you to a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson in my novel: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

If you like your Grail watch you can keep your Grail watch. If you like yourself, buy something else.


  1. a grail watch makes you a sheep. haha. quite the truism. thank you. but try telling that to the wannabe scene queens. good to luck to them of course, but individuality and a sense of ones on flair are far more important to some and can be had for a far more reasonable price.

  2. Grail seekers remind me of that old teen movie trope of the boy vainly lusting after the same unattainable, vapid cheerleader as everyone else while ignoring the true connection girl next door that is interested, available, and at least as good looking. Group think cab be a real bitch.

  3. Love this article!

    Here’s my problem. I’m a very “against the grain” guy and avoided German luxury cars and rolexes. I hated that I couldn’t talk about getting a nice car or watch without someone assuming it would be a mb/Audi/bmw/Porsche or a Rolex watch so when I had more than enough money to buy whatever, I still chose to NOT own those brands.

    Fast forward, I own a Porsche and my favorite watch is a Rolex explorer I. They may not be the grail models everyone wants but I denied myself the brands and the love that made them great.

    Sometimes when you avoid the crowd, the only person you’re punishing is yourself.

    Patek 5990 is my grail. I love oddly shaped watches from the 70’s and own a bunch that are not a nautilus or royal oak. Many have a a nautilus type look, made before the nautilus came out. However, this model embodies that love with a sport watch I could really wear over them all.

    • Back in my days at the track, I LOVED it when the Porsche guys would come up to me (and my car in the paddock) scratching their heads…. asking me what I had done to my Subaru STI, since they couldn’t keep up. Of course, it was bone stock. 😀

      I’m a bit of a nonconformist myself. But, yeah… I have a Rolex (wifey bought it for me).

    • So a $100k watch floats your boat. Well good for you! It’s a bit too complicated for minimalist me but I understand the appeal.

      The problem with this Nautilus, for me, isn’t it’s quality, for sure. It’s that it’s old-fashioned in a new-fangled sort of way. But thank God we live in a world where people can buy what they like, like what they buy, and not give a fuck what some watch blogger says about it.

      As for Porsche 911, oh yes. Yes, yes, yes. The issue for me there is that the newer models are BIG. And the nannies have solved all the problem with the engine behind the rear axle issue. Those changes make it less dangerous to drive like your hair’s on fire – which takes away some of the fun. For some of us, a LOT of the fun.

      If you get a chance, drive an AMG GTc. Or a VW Golf R. Just sayin’.

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