When it comes to luxury goods, one question that many men likely ponder at some point is this: Can I have my cake and eat it, too? That is to say, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could justify spending money on something you really want, enjoy it for decades, and build wealth at the same time, eventually selling it for a profit? With this in mind, we’re tackling whether “investment watches” are a real thing, and if so, what models you might consider.
Before we continue, I should note that I’m not an investment advisor; if you want investment advice, get a licensed advisor. We are, on the other hand, classic style connoisseurs and watches have been part of the classic style world for many decades.
In recent years, watches have become particularly popular with millennials because when buying a home seems utterly out of reach, you can still reward yourself for a loved one with a nice luxury timepiece. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is something I’ll leave up to you but it’s definitely a thing that’s happening right now. Further, the concept of investment watches is not new. Rolex sports watches, Audemars Piguet (notably the Royal Oak,) and watches from Patek Philippe are known to hold or increase their value over time.
In a list of the 100 most expensive timepieces ever sold at auction, only 17 of them were not Patek Philippe. Without a doubt, these were very special watches, but does investing also work with more widely available watches rather than let’s say Paul Newman’s Daytona or the Patek Philippe of the emperor of Ethiopia?
What We Mean By “Investment”
It’s a term that is widely used but at its core, it means that you buy something with the intention to get a higher return in the future. Sometimes though, people talk about investing when they buy something that simply makes them feel good.
If you just quickly search on Youtube, you’ll find a bunch of videos that’ll tell you watches are a great investment. And I agree with them because sometimes I really want to show off what a baller I am with all my Rolex watches. All jokes aside, yes, if you’re rich and you can afford the rare collectible Patek Philippes and hold on to them and sell them at a later point in time, investing in watches is probably a good idea.
This concept is not limited to the watch market. Just think about rare instruments such as the ones from Stradivarius or cars. If you bought a McLaren F1 in the 90s originally for $1 million, you can turn around and sell today for $15 million. That’s an awesome return. And there are many other cars, for example, the Ferrari 288 GTO or the Mercedes SLR Sterling Moss, all increased significantly in value.
For a Fiat 500, a Cadillac Escalade or Mercedes S Class, it’s probably not gonna work the same way. Why? Well at the base, it’s a numbers game. The highest prices usually are realized by things that are very rare and limited. Most people will never be able to afford them and that’s the very reason they fetch such high prices–because they’re exclusive.
7 Underlying Concepts of Investing In Watches
The big question is not “Are watches a good investment?”, but “Are there investment watches that you can afford?” Let’s start by digging into the 7 underlying concepts of investing in watches and then let’s look at some specifics.
1. Make Sure You Can Afford It
First of all, you must have the money to participate in such a high priced world. For example, if you buy a new Rolex Daytona, a Calatrava from Patek Philippe and a Royal Oak, you’ll probably have to estimate to pay around 60 grand.
2. Make Sure You Don’t Need The Profit Immediately
Once you’ve invested your money, you make sure you don’t really need the money immediately and you can wait until the price rises to a point where you feel comfortable selling.
3. Knowledge of The Watch Market Is Necessary
No one can predict the future so you’ll have to sit back and see how the market develops and when is the right time to sell. Often, when you need to sell something it’s very hard to realize the true market value if there is not a standardized market, like the stock market for example.
You better have specialized knowledge about watches because even though a model may not change much from Rolex, there are certain details that make it much more valuable to collectors and certain colors and special things that are very very important. Unlike with stock, for example, where one stock from Tesla is exactly worth the same as another stock from Tesla.
4. Investment Is About Increasing (Not Maintaining) Value
You have to believe that watches don’t just retain their value but that they will grow in the future. In the 1970s, the Swiss watch market was close to extinction because of the introduction of the quartz movement which made it seem that mechanical movements became unnecessary and outdated.
Of course, they turned it around by making mechanical watches a luxury good and focusing on the craftsmanship. Certain companies like Rolex or the trinity of watchmaking really became powerful brands but the question is, “Will the kings of today be the kings of tomorrow?” It looks like it but you’ll never know for sure.
5. The Market Will React
You have to assume that the market will act as you predict it or as it has in the past. These are really the only two things you can go off but in all truth, this is true for any kind of investment and not just for watches.
Again, past behavior is no guarantee for future success and Patek Philippe is really expensive today; It may not be tomorrow, even though the chances are very slim because they understand in order to retain their value, they have to keep it exclusive and not just flood the market with $300 Patek Philippe watches. It’s all about keeping that brand cachet very high and unattainable for the average Joe.
6. Don’t Get Too Attached & Be Ready To Sell
You have to be willing to sell the watch at the right point in time and you can’t really get attached to it or sentimental about it, otherwise, you may sell it at the wrong point in time. After all, you only make money with an investment if you sell it at the right time.
7. Be Open To Selling Without An Organized Marketplace
You also have to be able to sell your watches at a specific point in time to a certain buyer without an organized marketplace such as the stock market. Of course, you could argue there’s tons of market places like Chrono24, Bob’s Watches or even eBay but the rates really fluctuate and it’s not the same as the stock market where you can just decide at any point in time to just buy and sell.
Sure you can check out the prices on those second-hand platforms but just because there’s a list price that they have for their used watches, doesn’t mean that it’s actually something that you realize or that you end up with if you subtract all the fees involved. So, in order to successfully buy and sell watches for investments, you must believe in all of these concepts.
Investing In Watches With Little Money
Can watches also be a good investment if your pockets aren’t that deep? Well, the question is, how do you define deep pockets? If it means less than $5,000, watches are probably not a good investment for you. If you can spend about $5,000 to $10 000, now you can probably start. If you get the right model of a Rolex in stainless steel and you wear it and take care of it then you keep all the paperwork, chances are, you’ll be able to sell it at a profit 10 or 20 years down the line.
If you like a watch below that price range, don’t look at it as an investment. Look at it as a luxury good, as an accessory, something that you wear and unlike other things, like your suit or your shoes, it just won’t depreciate as much in value or most likely it won’t. Also, you bought a watch that you liked and it didn’t increase in value, you at least get the joy out of looking at it and wearing it and be simply just happy about it.
Naturally, if you just look at the development of the retail price, chances are, they will go up due to inflation and other factors. But just because the retail price goes up, doesn’t mean that the used market street value rises as well. There may be a few exceptions to the rule, a Timex watch or a Max Bill watch from Junghans will likely not get you that big return that you’re hoping for.
What if you have money to spare but you don’t want to buy a Rolex because you don’t like the look of it or you just don’t want to be that kind of a person? Well, I think the reason most people are interested in investment watches is because they have a certain affinity to watches.
Reliable Investment Watches
Here are a few watches you can look at, they have shown to be popular for a number of years, prices have increased on a retail level and chances are you should get a good rate even if you sell your used one and you bought it new.
- Navitimer from Breitling
- Chronoswiss Regulator
- Reverso A from Jaeger-LeCoultre
- Omega Chronograph Seamaster Professional
If you have more than $20,000, you could look at these options:
- Lange 1 from A. Lange Und Söhne
- Nautilus from Patek Philippe
- Royal Oak Offshore from Audemars Piguet
- IWC Doppelchronograph Fliegeruhr
(By the way, here’s our guide on how to pronounce watch brands the proper way!)
Conclusion: Are Watches Good Investments?
Well, they’re not a traditional investment vehicle because there’s not an organized buy and sell market. Historically, the biggest price increases came from Patek Philippe watches that were very rare and expensive in the first place. If you can afford the right model of Rolex in stainless steel, chances are, you can wear it, enjoy it and make more money back even if you sell it after years of use. You may even be able to make a profit with other brands but it requires specialized knowledge and it’s a bit more risky.
At the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that investing in yourself pays the highest dividends. That being said, if watches aren’t your thing, well there are many other things you can invest money in and enjoy it such as rings or fountain pens or even clothing. One may argue that they are not an investment because it likely loses money but it just brings you pleasure.