To read Part II of this article (featuring data), click here.
One of the most asked questions we receive at Crown & Caliber is what watches best hold their value. Before jumping into that question, here is an important rule of thumb: never buy a brand new watch as an investment. Just like a new car driven off of the lot, new watches almost always immediately lose value once you walk out of the store with it on your wrist. Finding watches that increase in value are few and far between.
Collectors are more educated than ever and are increasingly paying record prices at auction for collectible vintage pieces. Notable examples include vintage Panerai watches, like the reference 6154. The CEO of Panerai purchased one for €2,000 only 15 years ago, and the same watch sold at Christie’s for $143,839 in May 2009 and again at $326,000 in December 2012.
We once bought a Patek Philippe reference 2526 (the first automatic Patek Philippe) from a truck driver who found it at an estate sale. He purchased the watch for very little and was able to turn around and sell it to us for a tremendous profit. As a result of the public’s growing interest in vintage watches, it’s become harder to procure a rare, collectible watch such as this.
These stories are notable exceptions, however. If you want your watch to retain its value, your best bet is to buy pre-owned and buy a recognizable brand. Factors as fundamental as the watch’s movement can greatly impact its value. Two solid gold Rolex Day-Dates, the 18038 and 18238, are $1,000-1,500 different in value due to the latter’s more desirable dual quickset movement, which was introduced in 1988 and is still used today.
That being said, different models of watches retain value better than others. The Rolex Submariner generally holds its value better than any Rolex Cellini, and although the TAG Heuer Aquaracer holds its value pretty well, it tends to decrease with each new Aquaracer unveiling. Typically, the less bizarre the watch is, the better it will maintain its value. Similarly, the stronger the brand the greater the after-market demand, and therefore the less depreciation the watch will endure. Also, another factor to consider is the “bling.” Watches flooded with diamonds or designed with strange shapes and colors are typically more trendy and difficult to sell, meaning a lower value in the long run. In general, if you want your watch to hold as much value as possible, buy a conservative style from a recognized brand.
Brands That Tend To Depreciate The Least*
|Brands That Tend To Depreciate The Most*
|* Assuming brand new with minimal precious metals content, as such can cause increased after-market depreciation.|