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08/09/2021
 5 minutes

Investing in Watches: Is there ever a “best” time to buy a watch?

By Jorg Weppelink
CAM-1816-Best-Time-to-invest-in-Watches-Magazin-2-1

Investing in Watches: Is there ever a “best” time to buy a watch?

Interested in investing your money in watches? That makes you one of many people out there looking to make money buying and selling timepieces. My advice? Get in line with all the others. And do your homework on which watch brands and models make the best investments. You’ll quickly find that making a quick buck with watches isn’t as easy as it sounds. 

Can a watch be a good investment? 

Having said that, if you really are interested in watches, then yes, there is an opportunity to make money and have fun while doing it. Or, why not invest in yourself by buying the watch you’ve always dreamed of? No matter if you want to get money out of your investment, or if you’re just looking for a watch that holds its value, the question remains: Just when is the best time to buy a watch? Well, if we’re being honest: Right now! 

Investing in Watches: Long-Term vs. Short-Term 

The first and probably most important question is whether you’re looking to make money over a longer or shorter period of time. If you’re looking for a quick return on your watch investment, the obvious route to go is by purchasing the popular Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, or Richard Mille models. These are the “hot” brands at the moment, and their most popular models generally sell for two to three times their retail value. 

But you’ll immediately hit the biggest hurdle: Are you willing to invest at their crazy prices? It’ll mean having to pony up quite a chunk of change, not to mention the fact that you’ll also be throwing your hat into the “stock watches” ring with everyone else who’s got the same idea to flip their luxury watch for a fast profit. Put another way: You’ll be speculating that prices will keep going up. A quick Chrono24 analysis of some popular models like the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1AAudemars Piguet Royal Oak 15202ST, Rolex GMT-Master II“Batman,” and the latest generation Rolex Submariner shows that their prices are slowly making their way back down again. This is why I strongly advise thinking carefully about taking this step and doing your homework before simply diving into the watch investment market with one of these models. 

The Rolex GMT-Master II Batman's prices are making their way back down to Earth.
The Rolex GMT-Master II Batman’s prices are making their way back down to Earth.

The Right Moment to Invest in Watches 

So when is the right moment to invest in watches? Well, if you’re doing your homework correctly, you’ll quickly find that another investment approach could be speculating on the discontinuation of certain popular models. For instance, right before brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe announce their new models, consumers and gray market dealers alike start speculating on which models these companies are likely to discontinue. When this is the case, people try to buy as many of these models as possible, hoping to make money once the official announcement is made. 

It obviously takes a lot of money to invest in a watch, and the fact is, you could lose quite a bit of money doing so. One example of this in 2021 was seen when more than a few people expected the 18-karat gold Rolex Daytona with a green dial (i.e., the “John Mayer Daytona”) to be discontinued. Prices for this model shot up quickly just before the 2021 Watches and Wonders, where Rolex announced their new models. As it turns out, Rolex did not discontinue the John Mayer, leading to some people losing a decent-sized chunk of change speculating.   

Long-Term Investments 

But all of these short-term investment ideas neglect the possible investments that could make you a lot more money while probably having a lot more fun along the way. Why? Well, a long-term investment perspective means you’ll have time to get knee-deep into the brands, studying their potential collector’s value and what other people consider to be potential future classics. This is possible with current and previous-generation models. Vintage models, for instance, might at some point already have provided a glimpse of their future rise in value. Not only has the icon status of some watches risen significantly, but the increasing popularity of vintage watch investment has also resulted in price explosions for some of the popular vintage pieces from brands like Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Longines, and TAG Heuer. 

Some vintage watches, such as the Daytona, have appreciated significantly in value.
Some vintage watches, such as the Daytona, have appreciated significantly in value.

Which watches and brands will increase in value? 

There are several approaches to take when looking for brands to invest in long-term. Let’s take a look at some of the best investment watches.  

  1. Popular models from popular brands. Besides the names listed above, there are quite a few brands with models that are popular among collectors. The current generations of these models will likely stay popular over time. We’re talking here about the Omega Speedmaster and Seamaster, Breitling’s Navitimer, the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, and the IWC Big Pilot. Are all of these watches going to be rock-solid investments? Only time will tell. But these models are currently in high demand, with some of their predecessors having iconic status, so the potential is there.

 

  1. Limited-edition models. Let’s be honest: the watch industry has driven the “limited edition” label into the ground. But the fact remains that special and limited-edition watches still grab the attention of collectors. Whether it’s the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Silver Snoopy Award,” the TAG Heuer Carrera Green, the Breitling Chronomat Frecce Tricolori, or the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tribute to 3705,” people covet these timepieces because each has a unique story and had a limited production run. This makes them great potential long-term investments.

 

  1. Collector brands. The third option is to familiarize yourself with “insider” brands. These are often high-end brands that watch enthusiasts value for their incredible craftsmanship. They produce watches in very limited numbers, built by hand by small teams of expert craftspeople. These are the brands that love to create a sense of exclusivity for their clients by offering something unique. Some of these are MB&F, F.P. Journe, Philippe Dufour, Czapek, and H. Moser & Cie. These watchmakers create some of the most extraordinary and exclusive timepieces with the potential to be fantastic long-term investments. But be forewarned: getting one of these watches is not cheap and often means having to become part of one of these watchmaker’s small circle of trusted clients.

 

  1. Future popular brands. The fourth group of possible watch investments includes the “up-and-coming” brands that are often more affordable, at least for the time being. There areseveral small companies that are starting to make names for themselves by offering great watches, often in small batches. These include Unimatic, Ming, Laventure, and Aquastar. Their watches have drawn an increasing number of fanatic collectors, meaning their releases often sell out in a matter of minutes. Will their value grow? I do not doubt that their collectible status will ensure an increase in value. But don’t expect the money to roll in overnight. With these brands being so young, it’s hard to say whether they will achieve long-term value retention. 

 Overall, it’s important to figure out what you want to get out of investing in watches. If you’re in it to get a quick return on your investment, you’ll have to invest in watches that are hot now from the brands I mentioned and elbow your way past plenty of other investors with the same idea. But if you’re in it for a long-term investment, that’s great too. Get familiar with the brands offering potential investment returns, their watches, and their collectors. As you do this, you’ll hopefully come across all the great stories behind the brands and their watches. Things will start going beyond just a simple investment and turn into a true passion. Whatever path you choose, happy hunting! 

Read more

Three Watches Under $6,000 With Good Value Retention: Follow-Up

Frank Sinatra and Bulova: An Ongoing Courtship

My Rolex Story: Artaud and His Rolex Datejust


About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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