And probably in the last 5 years have recognized the importance of going to an AD and building a relationship with them. In the near term you may be spending a little more, but if you feel like watch collecting is a long-term game, then it’s worth building a long-term relationship with a dealer. It certainly helps to get access to more exclusive models, but in any case, I think I really enjoy the “surround sound” of the luxury brand experience, that goes beyond the financial transaction of the watch buying experience you may get with a grey dealer. Certainly there is a hidden underground of exclusive events, release dinners, holiday gifts, and many other perks you get. You also get the security and pedigree of the AD / Brand, and the possibility of extended warranty and free maintenance. All in all, I have shifted my habits to going full AD now.
There are of course a few exceptions, which I think applies to many folks:
A) Availability: if I really cannot get the “limited model” from the dealer, then grey market actually is the only choice. This remains a huge pet peeve and deserves its own thread - the worst is when you see a newly released watch already on the websites and/or on the wrist of some Instacelebrity whose there to flex but doesn’t appreciate it (note there are a few that definitely are outliers so does not apply to all). Simple solution, manufacturers could just make more.
B) Vintage: of course, if an older model is not produced, there is probably no other way to acquire the watch other than the secondary market. Only hope is a re-issue, and this has happened more frequently lately, but certainly not the same.
Good luck with your situation - I’m totally with you about going AD all the way