5 minutes

Have prices for some popular watch brands spiraled out of control?

By Jorg Weppelink

Rolex and other high-end watches are getting continuously more expensive, making them less affordable for the majority of watch collectors. If you haven’t been living under a rock these past couple of years, you probably already know that the biggest topic of discussion among watch enthusiasts is rising prices for pre-owned and new timepieces. We have seen prices for some of the popular brands skyrocket to ridiculous levels. There is great demand for brands like Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe, and with limited supplies at authorized dealers, prices continue to go up. It’s the simple law of supply and demand. However, in the world of luxury products, scarcity isn’t just a result of limited production capacity; it’s also actively used by brands to create desire. The appeal of exclusivity works wonders for popular brands. Tools of the trade like releasing limited editions and making certain pieces accessible only to top clients have been working their magic for years.

Hype Watches vs. Newbies: The Rise of Indie Brands?

At the moment, however, rising prices are not just limited to the brands mentioned above. Some of the smaller independent brands have also become increasingly popular among watch collectors. As a result, watches from brands like Richard Mille, F.P. Journe, H. Moser & Cie., and Czapek Genève have also become increasingly more expensive. You would think that the rise in prices would have to stop at some point because people just aren’t willing to pay infinite amounts of money to get their hands on an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, a Rolex Daytona, or a Patek Philippe Nautilus, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Current asking prices on Chrono24 are sometimes 3 or even 4 times the official list price – and that’s not even considering price levels for vintage pieces. Has this madness of rising prices spiraled out of control?

It all depends on how far you are willing to go to get the watch you want. Roughly speaking, there are three types of consumer out there, each of which handles the situation of rising prices very differently. Let’s take a look at the three types and find out which category you fall into.

Watch Collector Type 1: The List Price Type

The first type of watch collector is the one who lives by list prices for new watches. If it is not for sale at the official price set by the brand, it is simply not the right watch. This is a very straightforward and clear approach to collecting, but it also means that you probably won’t be able to get your hands on the majority of watches from Rolex, or popular models from other brands like Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, F.P. Journe, and a string of other brands that release watches in limited numbers. As a result, you will have to turn to other brands to find watches you love and can actually buy. On the plus side, you will probably get way more watch in terms of complications and quality for your money.

The downside of collecting list price watches is that you will most likely never own one of the popular models from any watch brand in high demand. The upside is that there are plenty of other cool options out there. While it may seem that a Rolex, or an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, or a Patek Philippe Nautilus is the watch you need, the reality is that there are tons of other cool watch brands producing amazing models that are just as much fun as those from more popular brands. Not to mention, isn’t finding a watch that not everybody is after a lot cooler anyway?

Pays nothing but the official list price

Watch Collector Type 2: The Set Budget Type

The second type of watch collector is the one who is willing to pay over the list price, but only by a set amount. So, you are willing to chase the watch of your dreams as long as it is within financial reach. Depending on the watch you would like to buy and the budget you have set, this could mean some of the popular choices are already out of reach. Hopefully, a current stainless-steel Rolex Daytona ref. 116500LN starting at $45,000, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15202ST starting at $100,000, and a Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711-1A starting at $180,000 weren’t on your list to begin with.

But setting a budget to buy the watch of your dreams could still work well for you. This collector type might be interested in the current Rolex Submariner ref. 124060, for example, which can be purchased for around $18,000. That’s less than twice the official list price of $9,500. If you accept that the market requires you to pay more for popular timepieces, you may be able to come to terms with the fact that you will be paying more than the list price – that’s just the reality of today’s watch market. The upside is that quite a few Rolex models can be yours apart from the really popular models. The downside is that with ever-increasing prices, you risk having to adjust your budget upwards over time. It can be tricky business, especially if you have to save up for your watch. At what point do market prices become insane? That’s up to you to decide.

Doesn’t want to spend a fortune on their dream watch, but a bit over the list price is OK

Watch Collector Type 3: The Whatever-It-Takes Type

The last of the three types is the watch collector who accepts that prices are going up and still buys the watch they want anyway. You’ll do anything for that favorite watch and the pleasure it brings once you finally have it. For this consumer, market prices are a fact of life; if you want something, you simply go for it. There is, of course, one limitation: the amount of money you can actually spend rather than the amount you are willing to spend. People with limited financial firepower obviously can’t get every timepiece they might want, but that is just another fact of life.

The upside of this approach is that you basically chase what you want, even if it’s a $6.5 million Patek Philippe Tiffany Nautilus – well, maybe if you win the lottery. This approach gives you access to a lot of great watches that others might find too expensive given their list prices. List prices for this watch collector are imaginary numbers that don’t influence the decision of whether or not to buy a watch – you simply pay what you have to pay for the watch that you like. The downside is that you have to constantly keep up with market prices and, with prices rising so rapidly, some timepieces will become far too expensive, even for you. If you do not have that limitation and are willing to spend what the market demands, more power to you. You will be able to enjoy some of the watch industry’s greatest icons whose values will probably rise to even greater heights.

So, which of these three watch collector types are you? Do you only pay list prices? Do you keep a set budget for your watches? Or is the sky the limit? Whichever of the three it is, happy hunting!

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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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