Watches are bought for various reasons. The best reason would be that you just want to own a nice watch, and one that will last a lifetime. Perhaps even to give it to the next generation when the time has come. The worst reason – in my opinion – would be buying a watch solely for the recognition from others that it is an expensive piece.
Then, there is a group of people who buy watches as an investment. Not an investment as in buying stocks or bricks, but a watch that will most likely increase in value over time or at least keep its value after buying it. I could be really short and simple in this article about watches as an investment and point my finger to almost any stainless steel sports Rolex out there. However, it would be interesting to see whether there are any patterns behind watches that have proven to be a solid investment.
With Rolex, it isn’t that easy anymore, as it seems now in retrospect. The original Rolex Explorer II and the four-digit reference numbered Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, for example, were hard to sell when they were put into the market. Even the original Milgauss wasn’t a strong seller. If you want to buy one of these watches now, you really have to bring some cash with you. However, will it be the same with the current modern Milgauss and Explorer II timepieces as well? The demand for the Daytona has always been high, and you can’t do much wrong with it, but will the value of a modern Rolex Daytona increase as steeply as the models (< 1988) from the past?
So, in order to prevent misunderstandings, let’s divide the watches that have a good chance in gaining value over time into a few categories.
This is perhaps the most difficult category to predict any winners. However, like I wrote above, a stainless steel sport Rolex like a Submariner or Daytona are likely to gain in value as the annual increases are quite steep on the catalog prices (and the value on pre-owned watches increases just as much). So after taking a bit of loss on the list price at first, after a couple of years you will at least be able to get your initial investment back.
Other brands do not have the same status as Rolex, to be honest, so you should go brand-by-brand and model-by-model to discover the ones that will keep their value and hopefully increase. Take a good look at the catalog prices of the past few years to see which ones increased and whether the prices of pre-owned watches also increased. Also take a look at the next category.
Whether they are new watches or pre-owned watches, watches that fall into the category of being an icon (or cult watch) are most likely to retain value and perhaps even to increase in value over time. A great non-Rolex example is the Patek Philippe Nautilus – either the original 3700/1A or a modern 5711/1A – as this watch is unlikely to be found in stock at a dealer, but rather always on order.
A stainless steel Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (15202 or one of its predecessors) might also be a good pick but only as a pre-owned watch, for the list prices are relatively high and there is a bit of space between market value and the price in the catalog. However, when bought for the right price, this is a keeper as well. The Patek Philippe Calatrava is another example of a watch that is slowly creeping up in value when bought new for a good price.
A lot of brands create limited editions. There are actually a lot of brands that seem to have more limited edition models in their collection then regular production models. Be keen about this. Also try to track some of the limited edition models from the past and compare (then) list price to the current market value. Interesting and affordable some limited editions are the Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI editions that are brought out every 5 years.
Try to get a Apollo XI from 2009 under the list price at the time of introduction or actually try to find this year’s Apollo XI at a discount. A great example of a limited edition Speedmaster Professional is the Snoopy Award model. In the early years (2003 and so on) they were piled up at retailers, and suddenly, they were gone. Even though the production number was relatively high (5441 copies), the watch is difficult to come by and at a much higher price than it once was new.
Low Production Watches:
I don’t aim at the limited production series of 300 Hublot watches or 30 IWC watches, but at watches that are really low in production number and mainly from independent watchmakers. Watches that are perhaps not even made in series. Once the production of these watches stops, there will be no more of them. When that happens, it is the collector who really wants to have such a discontinued watch. How much he will pay for it? Since there are so few of them, even personalized, the price can go up in a crazy way. As long as there is no real supply of these watches, the prices are subject to how badly someone else wants to have that watch.
An interesting way is to search for some of these watches on Chrono24, see if there is a single result. If there are none, or just one or two with a ‘Price on request’ label, then you might be on to something. However, this also might not be the safest way to buy a watch as an investment since the target audience is also really small.
A very large subject area, it would be better to describe the character of the investment, timeframe, cash/finance, country etc.
Have the Omega James Bond related watches shown to be a good investment? As a fan of both I’m tempted but I’d like to know if I should by new or look for one in the aftermarket. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Dear Mr. Ken,
there are multiple factors responsible for the market value of a watch and your investment.
What price was paid for the watch? How many were produced and is it still in production? Does the brand have a good reputation among customers and collectors?
And of course ultimately is it a beautiful perfectly executed timepiece?
Then it’s very important to look at your expectations, do you expect and value growth or are you already happy if your watch keeps it’s value?
Concerning previous Omega James Bond Special Editions we suggest to take a look at the current offers on our site here:
Apart from investment, we think the new Omega Seamaster “Spectre” limited edition is simply a fantastic watch.
What do you think about Ulysses dual time executive with the company’s great history I think it’s a wonderful investment and maybe a family future keepsake?
Dear Mr. Shlomi,
Thank you very much for the interesting question.
It’s very difficult to predict the future value developments of a specific piece.
A simple look at performance in the past would say only Rolex and Patek Philippe watches are worth investing in because of their auction records and their price stability in the market.
A more detailed look might show there is also room for smaller brands that have a great potential for the future.
But it’s always certain models that get the attention from buyers and collectors which again, is very difficult to predict.
Apartfrom investment reasons, the most important point for buying a watch should clearly be if you like it on your wrist.
With best wishes
I do think it’s smart to collect watches like Rolex, nice to ware, have and leave as time passes. I’ve invested in Tudor subs which I love the look, keeping of time, and the values have tripled in the last 20 years on a couple of mine making the ownership of several watches really pleasant.
It’s so beautiful and lovely amazing but how I can buy one likes omega or Rolex tag hour
I have been following FP Journe watches for some time and really impressed with quality and aesthetics.
Any comments on this company from collection stand point
In my experience, the only watches that I haven’t lost money on (and sometimes make a bit) are Rolexes. The demand is always there.
I also own Zenith, JLC, Breitling, IWC, Audemars, Panerai and Cartier, but my faves are Rolex and Panerai, where I think I can still get my money back and enjoy wearing them. I was recently offered a Patek Nautilus with a white dial at a very good price, but I can’t get my head around the cost for steel and I think it will be hard to re-sell in future (and the dial colour!!).
What do you think of roger dubuis watches? Great for investment?
I purchased a Breitling Montbrilliant Legend limited a few years back in Spain. There doesn’t seem to be allot in North America – is that because they are thinner than others? Do you think this is a good investment? I also bought at the same time an Omega Seamaster Limited edition which I love and wear daily. Do you think this was also a good investment? Finally – what about Montblanc watches – I have a few – are they a good investment?
Dear “Banker with a watch”,
congratulations to your interesting collection.
If a watch is a good investment is a complicated topic and at the same time can be very simple.
Is a watch a good investment from the money/resale value-perspective depends on many factors. One of the biggest is the popularity of the brand and the model which basically tells something about potential buyers.
since Breitling and Omega clearly belong to the top 10 most popular luxury watch brands on the planet your watches are already in a good spot. Montblanc has introduced fantastic watches in the past few years but the brand still have to prove if buyers will look for them also in the future.
But looking at it from a different angle:
If you like and enjoy your watches every day then it already was a good investment.
Just remember to ask a lot of questions to determine their knowledge and don t be afraid to take some pictures of the watch so you can research it at home and then return to buy it. I ve often found that most places will hold a watch for the day or at least a few hours. That gives me enough time to be able to perform some due diligence and determine if the watch is worth the investment.
With the markup commanded by most watchmakers today any watch new is a losing business proposition unless ridiculously limited (i.e. Patek worldtimer enamel). Most of those so called limited editions are prohibitively expensive for a regular watch nut to even fancy. Valuable limited editions from mid tier(Omega and above) runs 10K+ already, and even those premiums tend to bubble down quickly after the initial outburst. If you really want to make an “investment” on watches then take the time and effort to research vintage watches- there are still real value to be made outside the inflated vintage Rolex and Patek market and, with enough knowledge, a collection can be established for fraction of the cost of those ever-depreciating contemporary watches.
It is nice to have a cake and eat it too. Is it possible to buy full retail 2-3k watch wear it for 2-3 years and resell it for profit? Definitely no.
What to consider buying your future collectible.
Brand name. Starting price. Movement. Limited production.
Nothing you paid full retail today will bring you any money within next 5 years.
You need to look for in house movements or really heavy modified top grade complicated Voljux or ETA.
Limited series of popular models is a good bet as long as you can buy that watch under retail price. It should be real limited preferably related to something significant watch and not just different dial color limited watch.
Your best bet is to buy 50-100k Patek preferably discontinued or something else already collectible and pray.
Other then that only Rolex guaranteed good short term resell value. You won’t break a bank but it is possible to wear Rolex for 3-5 years and resell it without loosing any money. Tho I think that trend might be on its last leg considering current Rolex prices. I think watchmakers totally lost conchies and ties to the real world. 10% price increase year over year should stop sooner then later. Opening boutique on every corner will not help in a long run.
Too many brand names, too many watches, prices are crazy, less and less people actually wear watches every day.
I am constantly monitoring used watches prices on Ebay. First time in last 5 years I see some used watches sold at discount comparing to same time last year. That is not a good sign for the industry.
Personally I see some potential in few relatively inexpensive watches. Omega 126.96.36.199.01.005, Sinn 910 Anniversary, ETA Tudor heritage black bay.
The best investment watches has been and will be the vintage ones Have a look at the big auctions houses. An investment watch needs preferably a case of at least 35mm (ladies watches are not a good investment )and an in house movement ore an upgraded movement from a manufacture with a reputation in long time making watches. Not a Mont Blanc or Franck Muller etc. The only exceptions are Panerai and Lange ,but they have an old history they can lean on.
Patek and Rolex are of course the most save investments ,but the smaller old marks are doing quite well. Look at Universal The value of an old Tri-Compax tripled the last two years .What is getting more important ,is the condition of the vintage watch you buy .Is everything original ? Is the overall condition good ? There are still some watch jewels to be found on the vintage market .
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