Apr 3, 2020
 6 minutes

Are watches really a good investment?

By Jorg Weppelink
Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi 126710BLRO, Image: Bert Buijsrogge

Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi 126710BLRO, Image: Bert Buijsrogge

People make personal connections with watches that few other products can match. We use watches every single day. They are functional, can make a fashion statement, and often have an emotional value that draws in their owners. Those elements combined are what make wearing a watch such a pleasure.

Obviously, the amount of money you invest will also contribute to your feelings about your timepiece, but what if we take away the emotional aspect for a minute and focus purely on the money? People are constantly looking for different ways to invest their hard-earned cash. Are watches a good investment? What about in times of economic uncertainty?

It’s not a simple yes or no answer. Let’s take a quick look at different types of watch investments and what they would mean for you as a buyer.

The Holy Grail

Similar to the vintage car and furniture markets, the watch industry has seen an increase in the number of investors trying to make money buying and selling watches, mostly at high-profile auctions. The most notable example is the 2017 auction of the Rolex Daytona Paul Newman that was previously owned by Paul Newman himself. This watch sold for an astronomical 17.75 million USD. The auction featured a selection of 50 watches that pretty much all sold at incredible prices.

Does this mean every watch sold at auction will appreciate in value going forward? Not necessarily. Only a few watches will double or triple in value in the near future, and many speculative prices are based on the hype surrounding certain models. There is no rational explanation for the prices paid at these auctions, but as the saying goes, “a fool and his money are soon parted.”

Patek Philippe Nautilus Perpetual Calendar, Image: Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Perpetual Calendar, Image: Patek Philippe

Most of the watches sold for enormous sums come with a story such as “this watch was owned by a celebrity, the first watch in space, or the only one of its kind.” They’re all generic stories without any personal link to the investor, however, it’s these exact stories that increase the value of already expensive watches that are only accessible to a select few. To even have a chance of buying one of these exclusive timepieces at auction, you need to have deep pockets and good connections. Hopefully, you can then make an emotional connection to your timepiece beyond its monetary value. These emotional connections are what make the watch industry so unique. Who gets emotional about exchange-traded funds? Watches are not only tangible but also carry sentimental value, which is why they are less susceptible to economic ups and downs. Time moves more slowly in the watch world, and sometimes that ends up being an advantage. The financial markets have no effect on nostalgia. This is especially true for coveted vintage models, which are limited in number. Collectors who have gotten their hands on such precious timepieces are far less likely to sell them out of panic.

A Sure Shot

Perhaps you’re looking to invest in a nice watch that you will actually wear. In that case, you’re probably interested in buying in a more accessible price range and finding a timepiece that will at least retain its value. There are only a few watch brands—more specifically, watch models—that will see an increase in value based solely on their scarcity and/or because they are proven classics.

These watches are not considered classics without reason. They are all testaments to excellent watchmaking, have become icons for their brands, represent a significant shift in the watch industry, and make up the best stories that link people and watches.

Rolex sports watches are the most famous example. If you’re trying to get your hands on a new Rolex Submariner, Daytona, Sea-Dweller, or GMT-Master II, you will have to wait in line with everyone else. If you are looking for a vintage Rolex sports watch, however, you will find they have held their value or increased in value over time, almost without exception. Needless to say, they are a pretty safe long-term investment.

Another watch that has seen a steep increase in value is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, especially the Royal Oak Jumbo and its successors. Royal Oaks are in high demand because they represent a revolution in watch design and technology, and are everything a luxury sports watch should be. When it was introduced in 1972, the Royal Oak didn’t make a huge splash; however, opinions have slowly but surely shifted over the course of the last five decades, and now this watch is one of the biggest icons in the luxury watch industry.

A vintage Omega Speedmaster Professional is yet another good investment. Also known as the “Moonwatch,” it comes with the most inspiring and impressive story a watch could possibly ever have. Not only is its story proof of its technical excellence, but it’s also one of the most famous in watchmaking history. Prices for vintage Speedmaster Professionals have risen gradually, meaning they are still very safe investments.

Two other technically excellent classic watches worth investing in are the Patek Phillippe Calatrava and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. However, it’s worth noting that some investigation will be required to understand which specific models are unique and likely to be highly sought-after in the future. That being said, the research is exactly what creates a special relationship with watches and makes people appreciate them even more. It’s where a large part of the pleasure of owning a watch lies and is ultimately even better than knowing you’ve made a sound purchase.

The Possible Classics

The next group is made up of potential classics that may increase in value over time. It’s incredibly fun to speculate about which watches will turn into iconic classics and, therefore, generate demand that results in rising prices. This requires a lot more study and imagination than the other groups we have discussed so far. You will have to familiarize yourself with each brand, their models, and what makes their designs and technology unique.

Obviously, popular watches from well-known brands are often relatively safe and stable investments. At worst, you will take a small loss. At best, you will earn a sizeable chunk of money. Some potential examples include the IWC Portugieser Chronograph, the Omega Seamaster, the Panerai Luminor, and the TAG Heuer Carrera.

This group of watches will take you on an adventure that the other groups can’t offer. On this journey, you will create your own outlook on which watches will appreciate in value going forward. Go out and find a gem that no one else recognizes as the perfect watch, and then enjoy if you hit paydirt.

While that may sound grand and exciting, it also requires patience. Watch prices don’t usually dramatically increase over a matter of months or even years. If you believe in a special watch, you’ll need to hang on to it for a long time before you can get a return on your initial investment. But if you make a good prediction, it will undoubtedly bring a smile to your face.

Overall, it’s important to have realistic expectations when you are looking to invest in watches. Be prepared to not only invest money, but also a lot of time familiarizing yourself with the brands, watches, and their stories. Making a smart purchase means finding a great watch that will retain its value (should you decide to sell it one day), while also enjoying it for yourself for years to come.

Read more

Three Patek Philippe Models To Invest In And Wear

Vintage watches: sometimes a good investment – always unique stories

A New Tool for Watch Enthusiasts – The Watch Collection


About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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