When investing in classic watches, we expect them not only to show time but also to reflect our style and grow in value over time. Unlike smartwatches, classic timepieces don’t get obsolete with the advent of new technology and are even in higher demand over the years.
For the time being, whatever is your primary goal in buying a classic watch, like belonging to a club or spending money in a way to make them grow, we would leave this up to you. Instead, let’s see which types of watches keep their value or appreciate with time and which brands and models are the usual suspects.
Which Watches Keep or Increase in Value
It is common knowledge that items with technological expiry dates do not grow in value with time. Quartz and smartwatches, with very rare exceptions, do not appreciate notwithstanding the functionality, accuracy, and most advanced technology incorporated therein. For this reason, buying them cannot be considered as an investment.
Today, the only wristwatches, which can appreciate, are mechanical, both manual-wound and automatic. While the former ones have a slimmer design, lighter weight, and classic mechanism, the latter exclude the need to wind them up every day. Both these types of watches have an unlimited lifespan and are considered as a true classic by watch aficionados, which makes them perfect items for collection and resale purposes.
Another factor determining watches’ ability to grow in value is a minimum price threshold. Although some might argue that early Rolex watches in the 50s were priced just a little more than $100 and now start from $5,000 and above, it must be remembered that $100 in the 50s are equivalent to $1,000 today, and that modern mechanical timepieces are based on much more advanced technology which also drives up the starting price.
Which Are the Usual Suspects?
It goes without saying that most of the notable watch brands are of Swiss origin with a few exceptions, such as Italian Panerai, German IWC, French Cartier, or Japanese Seiko. There are several dozen reputable Swiss manufacturers with centuries of history and traditions, matching all the criteria for a safe watch investment.
Among these, there are a few brands, enjoying the highest popularity on the secondary market and demonstrating the best appreciation over the years. These are the Rolex and Patek Philippe, which most watch aficionados already have or aspire to have in their collections. Still, the list of best watches is by no means limited by these two and you can find much more on that in our Top 15 Luxury Watch Brands.
Still, among the broad array of models, each reputable brand has a few special ones, for which it’s most remarkable and which naturally show the best appreciation. For Rolex, it is legendary Submariner, GMT, Oyster Perpetual, and Daytona, worn by Churchill, Martin Luther King, Elvis Presley, and, of course, James Bond. For Omega, which is another legendary Swiss manufacturer, it’s the Speedmaster Professional, better known as the Moonwatch, worn by US astronauts on the Moon surface, remaining the only NASA-qualified timepiece for a spacewalk beyond earth’s atmosphere.
As to Patek Philippe, which is sometimes called the Rolls-Royce of watches (Rolls-Royce also makes watches, but they are by no means as good as their cars), any watch they made is truly exceptional and beyond comparison. But Patek Philippe doesn’t stop at that and goes even further by allowing to trace the date of production and original date of sale for any of its timepieces manufactured after 1859 from its archives. Patek watches are the pinnacle of the industry, showing the highest appreciation, as, for example, in the case of the Calatrava model, which was offered for about $300 in the 50s and now resells for well above $20,000.
Looking for a watch with the expectation that it will grow in price, some buyers go even further than purchasing the most renowned brand or popular models and pick pre-owned. Notwithstanding their irresistible appeal, new timepieces lose nearly 50 percent of their initial price immediately after being worn for the first time.
In doing so, watch collectors let others bear the initial depreciation. Instead, they choose a moment when a watch starts to grow in value and buy only then. Such timepieces, carefully selected and bought from reputable pre-owned dealers, represent an excellent investment opportunity, steadily increasing in price and skyrocketing after a certain period of time when becoming vintage.
Your Enjoyment Is the King
With all that said, you will hardly find anyone buying a watch purely out of expectation of future profits. A high-quality classic timepiece is a part of men’s acceptable jewelry, a concentration of best technologies and workmanship, and a status symbol. As such, it is never expected to be locked in a safe.
There are several options for investing in watches purely for financial purposes, such as getting shares in a venture, like the Watch Fund or similar investment vehicle, which are purchasing limited editions with huge discounts often exceeding 70 percent. At the same time, most watch professionals advise buying for enjoyment in the first place. Whatever the gains or the future resale might be, the pleasure of beholding and demonstrating a perfect timepiece might prove much more valuable, with appreciation coming as a bonus.