Your watch may tell the time, but does it tell you how much it’s worth?
How many of us proudly wear a luxury watch but are unaware of its current market value? If purchased brand new, the chances are it has dropped, but there are some watches that this doesn’t apply to. If purchased pre-owned there’s a higher likelihood that it’s held its value or even appreciated, but again, it would need to be a savvy buy. Here at Tempo & Time, we pride ourselves on only selling what we would own ourselves, and the majority of those pieces will not only boast outstanding time-keeping, craftsmanship and functionality, but also solid investment value. With some research in market trends and model popularity, and a bit of sound advice from industry experts like ourselves, buying the right watch at the right time can result in remarkable appreciation and resale value.
Simply put: when you buy smart, there’s money to be made. So, here are our top five insider tips to buying beautiful watches while keeping a profit in mind…
1. Brands matter
Despite a common misconception, not all watches made by luxury manufacturers hold their value, not to mention appreciate.
There are surprisingly few brands of watches whose products hold their value well, furthermore, you’ll have to dig deeper into specific models within the brand’s range to single out the pieces that will actually increase in value.
You’d be forgiven for assuming that watches made by widely popular brands such as TAG Heuer, Hublot and Breitling for example, would hold their worth due to mass appeal if nothing else.
Or that timepieces by such prestigious makers as Breguet, Vacheron and Zenith could even increase in value over time because of their fine craftsmanship and superlative in-house movements.
However, as ever, value – particularly on the pre-owned market – is dictated by demand and exclusivity, and we’ve found time and time again that it’s the powerhouse brands of Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Omega and Patek Philippe that can’t be beaten when it comes to return on investment.
2. Steel is the new gold
One of the most liquid assets available, gold holds a measurable market value across the globe and has traditionally been the luxury watchmakers’ material of choice for building the finest of timepieces.
The world’s third most precious metal boasts desirability and durability, making it a perfect material for both internal watch parts and outside casings and bracelets. However, it is a common mistake to purchase a gold watch with the assumption that it will hold its value purely because of the material it’s made from.
Gold watches will always be relatively valuable, as long as gold remains a scarce and desirable metal, however wearing a watch of such recognisable expense isn’t to everyone’s taste – particularly with the case of yellow gold – and can often be seen as ostentatious.
Therefore, it’s gold’s strong and silent distant cousin that really holds its worth: stainless steel. Affordable, robust, corrosion-resistant, and often most importantly: discreet.
Steel watches continue to carry significantly more universal appeal than the same products made using precious metals. Easier to repair and refurbish, steel models serve as functional, everyday wearers – or ‘tool watches’ – simply making them a much safer investment and easier to sell on.
3. Limited editions
Keeping abreast on the latest industry news can pay off handsomely when looking to buy for short-term appreciation. Like most luxury brands, watch manufacturers often release limited runs of certain models, either in association with another brand or retailer, such as the recent Tudor Black Bay ‘Harrods Edition’ or commemorative pieces like Omega’s Speedy Tuesday or Rolex’s 50th Anniversary Submariner.
Considering only a select amount of these watches are ever made, these limited editions can make great investments, rapidly rising in value as soon as the run has been snapped up. And, if the watch happens to bear an engraving indicating its low manufacture number, then you could really be on to a winner.
4. What are the rumours?
Let’s face it, watch fans love a bit of gossip, whether it be predicting a brand’s new line-up before Baselworld or that another Paul Newman Rolex Daytona was sold at auction for an unfathomable price.
As fascinating as these topics can be, there are two pieces of priceless news that the astute buyer should always be listening out for: when a price hike will be coming and what’s being discontinued.
Most major watch brands adjust their retail prices due to inflation on an almost annual basis, and often change prices region by region depending on the market value of its currency.
If you happen to buy a popular watch model just before a price increase (which can be as high as 10% at times), your watch could well jump up in value overnight.
To add even more worth to your wrist, buy a watch that is strongly rumoured to be decommissioned by its manufacturer, and if luck is on your side, you could suddenly be in possession of an exclusive timepiece that will never be made again.
5. Not always vintage
It’s every dealer’s fantasy to happen upon an extraordinarily rare, one-of-a-kind, desperately collectable antique watch at an afternoon auction in a small sleepy village, pay a sweaty-palmed winning bid of next to nothing for it, and then hastily sell it on for a never-have-to-work-again fortune. We can but dream.
In reality however, vintage watches often come with a long list of complications – and not of the watchmaking kind. Does the watch have all of its original parts? Was it made in a specifically desired year? Is it still in exceptional condition? Does it have the very particular manufacturer’s dial markings? Does it have a desired patina? The list never ends.
Unless you really know your stuff on an obsessive level and your little black book of buyers is bulging with deep-pocketed vintage collectors, we suggest simply sticking to watches that were preferably made this century (or at least close to it) and have strong appeal and exclusivity.
The Top Performing Timepieces Of Recent Years
Model: Rolex Submariner ’50th Anniversary edition’
There’s certainly no shortage of Submariners peeking out from countless shirt cuffs around the financial district of any big city, but when you catch sight of one that has that elusive black dial and green bezel combo, you’d be forgiven if your eyes turned a similar colour with envy. Released to commemorate 50 years of the Submariner, the ‘green bezel Sub’ was only produced for five years, from 2004 to 2009, immediately making it a great investor piece. With the watch becoming increasingly difficult to find in recent years, its pre-owned market value has exponentially increased. £4.5k could buy you a nice example with its original accompaniments about five years ago, but now the ‘Kermit’ has leapt up to just shy of £12k in Europe, with its rare, misprinted ‘Flat 4’ iteration commanding at least a few thousand pounds on top of that.
Model: Rolex GMT Master II ‘Batman’
Since its launch in 2013, the demand for the GMT Master II BLNR hasn’t slowed down. Affectionately nicknamed the ‘Batman’ because of its distinct black and blue bezel colouring, it instantly became one of Rolex’s most in-demand watches. With the ‘Batman GMT’ on Oyster bracelet now having been discontinued and replaced by the updated version on jubilee bracelet (Ref: 126710BLNR), the original black and blue GMT master is soaring in value. Unworn, mint condition examples of the 116710BLNR are now trading for up to £15K, over double the current retail price of its predecessor.
Model: Rolex GMT Master II ‘Pepsi’
Originally launched back in 1954 in collaboration with Pan American Airways for use by their pilots and navigators, the GMT Master has long been one of the most iconic watches in the Rolex line-up. Over its 60 plus years, the watch has enjoyed several reinventions, from its original 1675 reference to this year’s new much-hyped stainless steel on jubilee bracelet iteration. Traditionally coming in three different bezel colours, it’s the red and blue, or ‘Pepsi’, version that continues to see a massive surge in popularity, particularly the 16710 reference. In the past 5 years alone a full set ‘Pepsi GMT’ has gone from a modest £4k to a staggering £10k+ in the current pre-owned climate.
Model: Rolex Daytona
When the latest steel and ceramic Daytona was announced at Baselworld 2015, watch fans around the world scrambled to get their names on a retail waiting list. However, it was the collectors who invested in the all steel 116520 Daytona just before it was discontinued later that year who made the shrewdest buy. Those who got their hands on one of these endangered models would’ve paid a retail price of little under £9k. Today, if they’ve kept it locked away, unworn and as a complete set, they could expect to sell for around the £21k mark, pocketing a whopping £12k profit.
Model: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Often seen as a natural graduation from Rolex for any city executive, Audemars Piguet is as synonymous with prestige and luxury as it gets. Despite offering a vast selection of beautiful watches, for most collectors it’s the Royal Oak range that lures out that credit card. With its unmistakable Gérald Genta designed octagonal bezel and almost tank track-like bracelet, the all-steel 15300st and 15400st models are by far the most popular, with great investment appeal. However, the ‘Jumbo Ultra Thin’ 15202st (pictured above) stands head and shoulders above any AP for appreciation performance. As recently as 2016 these very exclusive blue dial pieces were trading for around £15,000, but on the current secondary market, a similarly unworn, factory condition example would set you back over £30,000 – an incredible 100% appreciation.
For expert industry advice on watch investments, contact us now for a free collection consultation or see our Collection Curation page for more information about our services.