People make personal connections with watches that few products can match. We use watches every day. They are functional, a personal fashion statement, and often have an emotional value that bonds their owner to them. All those elements combined are what bring people pleasure and enjoyment when wearing a watch every single day.
Obviously, how much money you have invested will also contribute to how happy you are with your timepiece. But what if you took away the emotional aspect and focused purely on the money? Just as banks have deviated from their original purpose, people are looking for different ways to invest their hard-earned cash. So, are watches a good investment? It’s not a simple yes-or-no answer, so let’s take a quick look at different types of investments and what they would mean for you as a consumer.
The Holy Grail
As with vintage cars and vintage furniture, 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 owned by Paul Newman himself, which sold for an astronomical 17.75 million dollars. The auction featured a selection of 50 watches that pretty much all sold for incredible prices.
Does this mean all watches sold at auction will continue to increase in value going forward? Only a few watches will double or triple in value in the near future, and many speculative prices are based on the hype surrounding them. 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.’
Most of the watches sold for such enormous sums come with a story: ‘This watch was owned by a celebrity.’ ‘This watch was the first in space.’ ‘This watch is the only one of its kind.’ They’re all generic stories without any personal connection to the investor. However, it’s these exact stories that increase the value of already expensive watches accessible only to a happy few. This exclusive group requires deep pockets and good connections to even have a chance of buying a watch at auction. You then have to hope you will make an emotional connection to your timepiece beyond its monetary value.
A Sure Shot
Perhaps you’re looking to invest in a nice watch you will actually wear that sits in a more accessible price range and will at least retain its value. There is a limited number of watch brands—more specifically, watch models—that will see an increase in value based solely on their scarcity and/or because they are the proven classics everyone should own.
They’re 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 are parts of the best stories that bond people and watches.
Rolex sports watches are the most famous example. Try to get your hands on a new Rolex Submariner, Daytona, Sea-Dweller, or GMT-Master II and you will have to wait in line with everyone else. If you are looking for a vintage Rolex sports watch, you will find they have held their value or have 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, technical brilliance, and are what 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 probably ever have. Not only is it’s 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 a very safe investment.
Two other technologically 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 what specific models are special and will be highly sought-after in the future. That being said, all that research is exactly what creates a special relationship with watches and makes people appreciate them even more. It’s where a big part of the pleasure of owning a watch comes from and is ultimately even better than knowing you’ve made a sound purchase.
The Possible Classics
The next group is that of potential classics which might increase in value over time. It’s incredibly fun to speculate as to what watches will turn into the 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 so unique.
Obviously, popular watches from well-known brands are often relatively safe and stable investments. At worst you will take a small loss, and at best you will have earned a sizeable chunk of money. Some 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 view as to what watches will be worth a lot of money one day. Go out and find a gem that no one else recognizes as the ultimate watch, and then enjoy when you hit paydirt.
While that all sounds grand and exciting, it also requires patience. Watch prices don’t increase over the matter of months or even a couple of 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. Just know it will give you a big smile because your prediction was right.
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—time familiarizing yourself with the brands, the watches, and what about their story makes them special and maybe even speaks to you. Making a smart purchase means finding a great watch that will retain its value (should you decide to sell it one day) while getting to enjoy it for yourself for years to come.