Growth of the Vintage and Pre-Owned Watch Market

As the country’s premier purchaser and consignor of luxury watches, we are entrenched in watches all day, every day. We receive all different kinds of watches from the vintage to the brand new, from the less expensive to the ultra expensive. Needless to say, we are very knowledgeable in the watch market. One trend we find interesting is the increased interest in the vintage and pre-owned luxury watch market. We did some research on the demand of vintage watches and thought we would share some of it with you.

Ulysse Nardin Crown & Caliber

All watches must start out as new. The fact that the watch industry is growing is very evident. In 2012,  over $20 billion brand new Swiss watches were exported throughout the world. This is almost an 11% increase from 2011. Also in 2012, Baselworld, the world’s largest luxury watch trade show, built a $460 million facility to accommodate the rapid increase and interest in it’s show and luxury watches in general. Because of this increase in demand for luxury watches, luxury watch brands are constantly coming out with brand new watches, resulting in more and more watches moving from the “New” category to the “Used” category.

These brand new watches are making all of the headlines. But why isn’t anyone talking about the older, pre-owned, vintage watches? Most publications want to feature the news coming from each specific brand, whether it is Rolex, OMEGA, TAG Heuer, etc. For the most part, these big retailers do not sell pre-owned watches. The big retailers are the ones who steal the headlines with their new watches. The smaller retailers, such as mom and pop shops that do sell the pre-owned watches, do not get the coverage that is given to the big name brand retailers.

The pre-owned watches reside in a smaller, some-what mysterious, secondary market that is extremely fragmented. This is why we created Crown & Caliber. Selling a watch can be stressful and often very difficult. While places like Craigslist are fine for selling smaller, cheaper items, that is not the place you want to sell a $10,000 Rolex watch. Crown & Caliber provides luxury watch owners with a secure, easy, and rewarding way to sell a watch. Our company has grown significantly in the past 18 months, evidence to the fact that the pre-owned luxury watch market is strong and growing.

Not only is there an increased interest in purchasing pre-owned watches, but, specifically, vintage watches. In the last year, there has been a 21% increase in watches listed on Google as “vintage.” Take a look at Sotheby’s sales from the past three years. Total watch auctions have gone from $22.7 million in 2009 to $85.8 million in 2012.

Sotheby's Watch Sales

What is the reason for the increase in interest for pre-owned and vintage watches?

There have been several stories recently of vintage or pre-owned watches selling today for more than they were purchased for years ago. Here are a couple of examples:

  • In March 2013, a Panerai 6154 watch sold for $326,500 at Christie’s, which was the highest price ever paid for a Panerai watch. In 2009, a similar Panerai model only sold for $143,839 at another Christie’s auction. 
  • On September 18, 2013, a Heuer 3646 so at Antiquorum for $20,000, when the same reference number sold for $3,500 in 2011 and $3,000 in 2009.

Stories such as these generate excitement for vintage and pre-owned watches. However, these stories are exceptions. Most watches, like a car, depreciate in value once they are purchased from the original retailer. However, these facts do little to take away from the excitement like the stories above can generate.

Another reason why watch enthusiasts are interested in the vintage, pre-owned watch market is because these are the watches that come with stories. The Patek Philippe Calatrava 2526 is one of the most iconic vintage watches and is a watch that every true watch collector dreams to own. The 2526 was Patek Philippe’s first automatic watch and was made in the 1950s.

Patek Philippe 2526

What about the “Paul Newman” Rolex Daytona? Paul Newman is said to be the most famous person to ever wear a Rolex Daytona. Most of these watches were made in the 1960s and are sold today for record-breaking prices. In May of 2013, Antiquorum held an auction where two Paul Newman Rolex Daytona’s sold for record breaking prices. Rolex Daytona ref. 6263 sold for a world record price of CHF 841, 300. Watch enthusiasts are interested in vintage watches such as these because they come with a history and a story.


We have purchased countless vintage watches. Each come with character and interesting stories. Here are just a few that we currently have for sale:


According to the evidence listed above, interest in the vintage, pre-owned watch market is growing. Vintage watches are more difficult to value than a typical mainstream watch, which is why you want to make sure you go to the right place to sell or purchase a vintage watch. Crown & Caliber’s easy processes allow us to cut down on over-head costs, allowing us to offer more for each watch. Our staff is knowledgeable in the new, pre-owned, and vintage watch markets and are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and information necessary to sell the watch for an appropriate and fair price. Learn more about our process.

What are your thoughts on the vintage and pre-owned luxury watch market? Do you agree with our findings?

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Crown & Caliber is the smartest way to buy or sell a luxury watch. As an exclusively online marketplace for pre-owned timepieces, Crown & Caliber exists to ensure that when it comes down to the final transaction, buyers and sellers can both win. For sellers, we do all the legwork of valuating, marketing, and selling—for buyers, we put trust back into the act of purchasing sight-unseen with our servicing and authentication process. By emphasizing transparency and placing value on quality, Crown & Caliber has become the preferred marketplace for watch collectors and casual enthusiasts alike.

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