Watch prices are always a hot topic. In today’s world, the prices almost seem more important than the watches themselves. At the end of the day, for individual watch fans, it really comes down to the money you’re able to spend and the model that you can buy with that money. That’s one big reason why price trends are relevant on a personal level, but there is obviously more to the story. Luxury watches have been a hot commodity over the last five years. As a result of this huge rise in popularity, an increasing number of investors, collectors, and new sellers have entered the watch universe. When it comes to prices, the sky seemed the limit for a number of years, but things have taken a turn over the last twelve months or so.
The wild market prices that most people are talking about are largely driven by Rolex. The popularity of the biggest watch brand is unmatched, and demand is much higher than supply. As a result, Rolex list prices are far from gray market or pre-owned prices. This leads to the remarkable phenomenon that the list price is irrelevant for most consumers, because you can’t actually buy a Rolex for that price. Therefore, market prices are the leading prices instead of retail prices. The same goes for a few other popular watches like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo,” the Patek Philippe Nautilus, and some Omega Speedmaster models. Those are a few of the most sought-after examples, together with many Rolex models. If we compare overall price trends for 2023 based on the manufacturers’ suggested retail prices and pre-owned and gray market Chrono24 prices, we come across some interesting developments.
Retail Prices Trends in 2023
Let’s start with the retail prices. When it comes to retail prices of luxury watches, we often see an annual price increase of between roughly 5% and 10% for most brands. A quick side note: Price increases are not the same worldwide. They can differ by region both in terms of timing and amount. As such, it’s only possible to talk about more general trends, rather than specifics. This year, the majority of brands increased their prices by between 2% and 10%, but there have been steeper increases for specific models, some of which jumped by 40% or more. The reasons behind such steep price increases are up for debate; however, let’s not dwell on the extremes at the moment.
As mentioned, yearly price increases are a normal phenomenon in the industry. It has been happening for decades; that’s why you see huge differences between list prices now and ten or twenty years ago. But if you look at things in more detail, you’ll find that for quite a few brands, price increases over the last few years have been in line with rates of inflation. Of course, the problem with inflation for consumers is that you’re confronted with it across the board, not just when buying a watch. Additionally, with the towering demand for luxury watches over the last few years, there was money to be made. This means that brands can actually charge more, and many people will still want to buy despite the higher prices.
Trends for Chrono24 Prices Based on Popular Models
When it comes to the gray market and pre-owned prices, we’ve seen things come down. The huge spike in prices for popular watches from Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Omega, Vacheron Constantin, and a string of smaller independent brands lasted until April 2022. Come May 2022, we saw prices come down significantly for a lot of the most sought-after timepieces. If you put this in perspective, however, prices came down from two, sometimes three times the actual retail price. Some called it a slight correction of the market value, while others expected to see a normalization of the prices in line with retail prices.
While the slide in prices has stabilized somewhat, the prices themselves are much lower than they were in spring 2022. As a result, investing in watches is no longer the hottest topic in the industry. But that doesn’t mean discussing prices is no longer relevant. So, let’s take a look at some of the current list prices and compare them to gray market and pre-owned prices on Chrono24. This will give us a general idea of how prices have developed for some of the most popular timepieces.
If you want to learn more about some of these sought-after timepieces, be sure to check out our previous article about the most popular watches on Chrono24.
Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060
Let’s kick things off with the Rolex Submariner ref. 124060, i.e., the version without a date. The Submariner is one of the most popular watches in the world and currently retails for €9,100. Rolex introduced the current Submariner in 2020 with a new 41-mm case and movement. At its introduction, the Submariner had an MSRP of €7,700. So, in a little over three years, the price has increased by €1,400 which translates to an increase of roughly 18%.
The average price for a new Submariner ref. 124060 on Chrono24 is currently €12,400. In April 2022, it was €15,800, so prices have come down quite a bit. As you can see, there is still a significant margin between the retail price and the market price. A pre-owned version in very good condition is only marginally more affordable at €11,900. In short, the cheapest way to get a Rolex Submariner is still at a Rolex dealer, although that is a long waiting game that will only save you roughly €3,500. We all know that it can take a while, and there are no guarantees that you’ll even get to buy one from an authorized dealer.
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Ref. 310.30.42.50.01.001
Another tremendously popular watch is the current Omega Speedmaster ref. 310.30.42.50.01.001. This is the version with the Hesalite crystal that comes closest to the original Moonwatch. Obviously, there is also the sapphire crystal option, but let’s stick with this version for now. The watch was introduced at the beginning of 2021, and marked a huge step forward for the brand. It boasted a new design that is rooted in Speedmaster Moonwatch history, but featured a brilliant new bracelet and movement.
The price of the new Moonwatch increased to €6,100 initially. However, within just two and a half years, the price has now gone up to €7,500. So, like the Submariner, the Speedmaster Moonwatch has increased by €1,400, or 22%, but it happened through multiple steep price increases in a shorter amount of time. In fact, Omega has increased their prices across the board. If you want to try your luck on Chrono24, you’re currently looking at an average price of €6,000. That price has been pretty stable for over a year now, after a slight spike shortly after its introduction. A pre-owned version shaves off roughly €500, landing at €5,500. So, for the Moonwatch the average market price is lower than the current retail price.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Ref. 16202
Another industry icon is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo.” At the beginning of last year, Audemars Piguet introduced the 50th anniversary model of their popular watch that was created by the legendary Gérald Genta. With an updated design and a new dial and movement, the ref. 16202 is the perfect next step in the Royal Oak “Jumbo’s” history. At its introduction in early 2022, the watch cost €32,400, which was a step up from its predecessor, the ref. 15202. Currently, the list price is €34,800, so the watch has increased by €2,400 – a 7% appreciation.
As most of you will know, the scarcity of the Royal Oak together with its tremendous popularity and incredible demand skyrocketed market prices for a new ref. 15202 to €150,000 in February 2022. Presently, the previous generation goes for €84,000. While that is almost half as much, it’s still roughly three times the last retail price. Pre-owned, the watch goes for €71,500 if you choose the popular blue dial version. If we look at the current ref. 16202, the average price for a new one is €95,000. While that’s not three times the retail price, it still is a considerable price difference, but compared to the €200,000 we saw in mid-2022, it’s a huge step down.
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711
The last popular watch we want to take a look at is the Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711 in steel with a blue dial. This watch is no longer part of the current collection, as most of you will know. Patek Philippe said goodbye to the stainless steel Nautilus with a green dial as well as the Tiffany dial version – both of which have become highly sought-after – but the regular version was discontinued in 2021 and had a retail price just over €30,000.
Average prices for a new Nautilus ref. 5711 peaked in February 2022 at €220,000. That’s 7.5 times the retail price, which is ridiculous! The average price for an unworn watch has come down to €130,000, which is still roughly 4.5 times its last retail price. A pre-owned version in very good condition goes for an average price of €108,000, which is still more than 3.5 times the former retail price. While the retail price would have been higher now if the watch was still being produced, you still have to contend with a load of extra cash to actually get one.
Potential Future Developments
It’s interesting to see that while prices for some of these popular models have come down, they are still in high demand, and with limited availability, the prices are still far above the MSRP in most cases. If you go and take a closer look at prices for popular Rolex models, you will see the same trend. The latest generation of Rolex models trade for prices well above retail. The biggest question is whether they will eventually come closer. Demand outpacing supply is the biggest form of flattery for a brand, and it’s a magical spell that few would want to break. So, only time will tell whether gray market and pre-owned prices will ever come closer to the actual list prices.
It’s up for debate whether a quick scan of these popular models is really representative of the entire watch universe. While these watches are definitely standouts in the way their prices exploded (except for the Speedmaster), we see similar trends for many models. List prices go up, while market prices on Chrono24 come down. That is a trend we’re seeing across the board. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, the differences between retail prices and market prices are lessening.
Whether you need to pay over retail depends on the watch you would like to buy. While four of the five models mentioned above do trade for far above their retail prices, there are still plenty of current models that go for less than retail. Additionally, there are plenty of popular vintage or neo-vintage models (see What is Neo-Vintage?) whose prices have come down to a level that may pique your interest. In order to find these gems, you’ll still have to do your homework and seek out a watch you love. Only then will you be able to decide whether the going price is one you are willing or able to pay. At the end of the day, that’s what matters when it comes to price trends.