Fine watches – Top 10 Brands You Should Consider Investing in 2020
February 19, 2019
There is nothing quite like the quality and craftsmanship of a luxury mechanical watch, as our watch experts at New Bond Street Pawnbrokers well know. Wearing a brand such as Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe makes a statement about who you are. But while many people view luxury watches as expensive accessories, the smart buyer knows that the right watch can also serve as a lucrative investment.
Many limited edition or speciality watches can double or even treble in value once production ceases. The trick is knowing which of the thousands of quality timepieces produced each year are the ones most likely to increase in value. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the manufacturers and models which represent the best investment opportunity going forward.
Where else could we start this article than with the venerable Swiss brand Rolex? Founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London in 1905, Rolex only moved to Switzerland in 1919 to avoid heavy taxes imposed by the British government following the Great War. Its timepieces are instantly recognisable for their bold design and impeccable quality, and each watch is individually handcrafted by artisans, taking close to a year to make.
It is rare for any Rolex not to be worth more than its retail prices after five years. But some models appreciate faster than others. So if you’re looking for an investment watch, stick to the popular sports models such as the Daytona, Explorer or Submariner. The popularity of these models ensures there will always be a steady stream of buyers when you’re ready to sell.
If you can get your hands on a rare model or limited edition, so much the better. At a recent auction in Somerset, a rare Submariner 5513 with the dial showing only the numbers three, six and nine sold for £80,000. Not a bad return on a watch bought for just $69 in 1966.
Founded by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in 1875, Audemars Piguet is one of the most innovative watchmakers in the world. Highlights include the introduction of the minute repeater in 1892, and the worlds first skeleton watch in 1934. Today, the brand is highly regarded by collectors who love its distinctive styling, unmatched quality and reliability.
As with Rolex, it is rare for any Audemars Piguet to be worth less than its retail value after five years. But there is one AP watch which is sure to increase in value more than any other. The Royal Oak Automatic. Manufactured from 280 components and 40 jewels, the Royal Oak’s 3120 calibre movement is renowned as one of the most reliable movements ever created.
But it is the timeless octagonal case and integrated bracelet, which have remained virtually unchanged since its inception in 1972, that ensures the Royal Oak will remain a favourite for collectors. Once again, the more limited pieces are the ones to go for, a rare 2005 semi-skeletonized tourbillon Royal Oak recently sold for $137,500 at auction.
Patek Philippe is one of the most popular brands for watch connoisseurs and collectors. Famous for their understated style, exquisite design and unmatched quality. Every component of a Patek Philippe watch from the case to the hands is hand made and finished ensuring production numbers are limited.
Patek Philippe currently holds the record for the most expensive watch sold at auction: $24 million was offered for a Henry Graves Supercomplication, one of the most complicated watches ever created. But you don’t have to spend that much to add one of these magnificent timepieces to your collection.
With such a venerable brand and reputation, you won’t go far wrong with any of the standard watches. Some models will appreciate more than others, however. The Calatrava, for example, is always popular, but, as a vintage watch, it is small by today’s standards which may put some buyers off. For a more sound investment, look for one of the post-1998 chronographs.
One of the most sought after by collectors is the 5070 chronograph, released in 1998. This watch contains the renowned Calibre CH 27-70 movement which is regarded as one of the most beautifully designed chronograph movements available on the market and is popular with both connoisseurs and collectors alike.
One final thing to mention about Patek Philippe is that each watch has its history recorded in the brand’s archives. A quick search can tell you the exact date of manufacture and where it was sold. Further investigation can reveal the names of buyers for vintage watches. You never know, you may find out the watch you want to purchase was once owned by a famous person, which will greatly enhance its value.
Vacheron Constantin was founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755, making it the world’s oldest watch manufacturer in continuous production. Francoise Constantin joined the firm in 1819 as an associate director, after which the firm was renamed as Vacheron Constantin. The brand is renowned for its design, workmanship and heritage with vintage examples regularly demanding high prices.
Vacheron Constantin is comparable in both design and quality with Patek Phillippe, but the brand is often overlooked by new collectors who favour the better-known Patek watches. This means prices for vintage examples are often less than half the price of a similar quality Patek Phillippe, making them excellent investment opportunities.
However, the demand for these quality timepieces is sure to increase in the future, as more collectors realise the benefits of this quality brand. If you can find one, look for the vintage 4621, which is a classic watch much sought after by collectors. What is believed to be the first 4621 ever made sold at Christie’s in 2016 for a record $605,000.
Founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in Paris 1775, the firm quickly established itself as a watchmaker of some repute. Within five years, the brand’s customers included Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Today, Breguet is part of the Swatch family but remains true to the founder’s principles of design excellence and innovation. Breguet watches are instantly recognisable with their pomme hands and guilloché dials.
As with Vacheron Constantin, the brand is often overlooked by newer collectors who favour the better-known brands, and yet you can release great value of these watches throughout pawning against its value. But Breguet watches hold a special cache with connoisseurs who are willing to pay high prices for rare or interesting examples. As a result, any vintage or limited edition Breguet represents an excellent investment opportunity and will give you the opportunity to own a true piece of horological art in the process.
Founded by Antoine LeCoultre in 1833, Jaeger-LeCoultre was regarded as the most innovative watchmaker of the 19th century. The brand holds hundreds of patents, including the worlds smallest calibre and a near-perpetual movement. Today the brand is regarded as a top tier watchmaker alongside luminaries such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Breguet.
There are many popular Jaeger-LeCoultre models such as the Reverso, Memovox and Ultra-thin moon watch. As with the other top tier brands, you should stick to one of the classic models, or try and find a limited edition to guarantee your investment. Limited edition Reverso watches are always popular and regularly beat auction estimates. One rare pink gold example recently sold for HK$118,750 ($15,150) more than twice its estimate.
Most of the watch brands featured here are traditional watchmakers with hundreds of years of lineage, but Richard Mille is the exception. Founded in 1999, in just 20 years, Richard Mille has become legendary for its unique and innovative watches. The brand can be found on the wrist of many famous sports stars and celebrities including; Rafael Nadal, Jackie Chan and Natalie Portman.
The reason for this success lies behind the distinctive and innovative style of the cases, combined with the exceptional engineering of the movements. Richard Mille watches are instantly recognisable due to their tonneau-shaped cases, which are often skeletonised to show off the exquisite detail of the movement encased inside.
From an investor’s perspective, the best thing about Richard Mille watches is that every single timepiece forms part of a limited collection. The more limited the number, the more valuable the watch. One of the rarest models, the RM52 Tourbillon Skull Asia Edition, of which only six were made, sold at auction for HKD 3,460,000 (£346,000) in 2015. If that same watch were to come on the market today it would be worth over £500,000.
A. Lange & Sohne
Founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange, A. Lange & Sohne is regarded as one of the finest watchmakers in the world. As a German company, their watches differ in style from most Swiss manufacturers, with the brand favouring a more traditional Glashütte style which is similar to classic British watches. This understated look is what makes A. Lange & Sohne watches appealing to collectors.
When choosing an A. Lange & Sohne, it is best to stay away from the classic pieces and go for one of the limited edition Chronographs. One of the most desirable watches is the Dataograph Up/Down Lumen which was limited to 200 units and is sought-after by both connoisseurs and collectors alike. The best price achieved at auction for an A. Lange & Sohne was $825,525 for an elegant 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange”, which was a single watch created to celebrate the life of Walter Lange who died in 2017.
The International Watch Company (IWC) is a Swiss brand founded by American engineer Florentine Ariosto Jones in 1868. The brand was founded with the aim of combining advanced American manufacturing techniques with traditional Swiss craftsmanship. The watches were to be assembled in a factory which was groundbreaking at a time when most watch components were being assembled in people’s homes.
Today, the brand is focused on producing high-quality mechanical timepieces and chronographs. IWC do not have the same following as the more famous brands such as Rolex or Patek Philippe, but that does not mean they do not make good investments. In fact, you can pick up an IWC watch for a fraction of the price of a similar quality Patek. One piece to look out for is the Ingenieur 3227 which has an unusual hexagonal case. This watch was recently discontinued and prices are starting to firm, but it still remains accessible to most buyers.
Our final brand is the Italian manufacturer, Panerai. Named after founder Giovanni Panerai who opened his first watch shop in Florence, Italy in 1860. Panerai watches have become increasingly collectable in recent years, thanks to their unusual cushion-shaped cases and quality movements. All Panerai watches are limited edition, albeit the differences between them are slight. This means every Panerai watch will become collectable at some point, with rarer editions being the most sought after.
If you are just starting your watch investment portfolio, the Panerai Luminor Base is a great place to start. Introduced in 1950, the Luminor is a dive watch containing an ETA 6497 hand wound movement. This movement was replaced by Panerai’s own movement in 2017 which bumped up the price by more than £1000. This makes the original ETA 6497 based Luminor a bargain, and it’s sure to increase in value as new models become more expensive.
As you can see, the choice of potential investment watches is vast and covers a wide spectrum of prices. You can start your collection be spending only a few thousand pounds, or you could literally invest millions. As with any investment, no watch is guaranteed to increase in value. But if you buy a good watch from a reputable and knowledgeable buyer, you can greatly increase your chances of success.
And a shortlist of the best luxury diving watches to buy in 2020…
One of the best things about collecting luxury watches is picking out different watches with different features, to suit different aspects of your lifestyle. Whether you’re a keen driver, sailor, globetrotter, or diver, there’s a luxury watch out there that can suit your needs. One feature that is incredibly popular is water resistance to a depth of between 50 to 300 metres; colloquially these pieces are known as diving watches. Some diving watches are purely functional – such as those worn by scuba divers – but many diving watches are on the more luxury end of the scale. Here are the top five luxury watches you can buy today that you can wear while swimming or diving.
Even within the category of diving watches, there are many different types you can get for numerous applications. The Rolex Deepsea is the watch you want if you’re going to dive using scuba equipment. It is pressure tested, and guaranteed to be waterproof to 1.2km below the surface. The watch also includes a helium escape valve, which allows the timepiece to decompress before returning to the surface. This allows the watch to be brought back to the surface safely after deep sea diving.
This watch’s incredible resistance to water at great depths does nothing to compromise on luxury; to the naked eye it looks like a classic Rolex design that wouldn’t look out of place on the red carpet. If you’re a scuba diver, and you’re looking for a luxury timepiece that won’t let you down at any depth, the Deepsea is the watch for you.
Omega Seamaster Ploprof
If you’re keen on the impressive water resistance of the Rolex Deepsea, but want something less flashy and more functional, the Seamaster Ploprof is the watch for you. There are a number of different straps available, including rubber and metal, and all of them can be adjusted to be large enough to fit over a diving suit. A large, prominent button allows the diver’s bezel to be set while underwater, and wearing gloves, while the chunky dial allows divers to change settings while underwater.
It is water resistant to 1.2km, meaning that the vast majority of divers will never have to worry about exceeding its pressure limit. You wouldn’t wear this one to a party, but if you’re a serious diver, this is a solid, practical watch.
The Submariner is known by many as the quintessential James Bond watch, after Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, and Timothy Dalton’s Bond’s all wore one. However, as the name of the watch suggests, it is also an extremely capable diving watch, able to be submerged safely at depths of up to 1,000 feet.
Its unidirectional rotatable bezel allows divers to safely and accurately monitor diving time and compression stops. Despite all of its spectacular diving features, the luxury of the Submariner is such that many users will never take it diving. They just like the watch. And can you really blame them?
From one James Bond watch to another – the Submariner has been the official watch of 007 since Pierce Brosnan took up the role in the 1990s. Like the Submariner, it can also reach depths of 1,000 feet, and is a direct competitor to Rolex’s premier diving watch in every sense. Again, many users of the Seamaster will not choose to take it diving, content that it’s a luxury watch that looks great on their wrist.
With many different models available, in many different colours, buyers can also pick out a watch that suits their individual style and tastes. Whether they like a clean, plain classic, a brightly coloured face and bezel, or even a watch clad in diamonds, the Seamaster provides all of these options, equally wearable while out for dinner or while scuba diving.
How to value a fine watch
Fine watches are a popular luxury item all around the world, with many top brands being synonymous with prestige, class, and style. Whether you’re thinking about loaning against fine watches or selling them, the first thing you need to consider is its value. At New Bond Street Pawnbrokers, we have arranged many loans against fine watches over a period of decades, and our team of timepiece appraisers have become unrivalled experts at determining the value of collectable watches in the process.
Like so many assets, the popularity (and, accordingly, the value) of fine watches can fluctuate over time, and what might be highly collectable today may prove a difficult sell in a few months’ time. On the flipside, a watch deemed unfashionable that does not sell well can become a rare piece in years to come, increasing its value.
Here at New Bond Street Pawnbrokers, we offer loans against fine watches regularly, and there are certain principles that will stand you in good stead when you wish to pawn your fine watch. Here are the main valuation factors to look out for when seeking loans against fine watches.
Manufacturer and model
The obvious starting point is the manufacturer of the watch and the specific model. Certain names automatically translate to market-value in a timepiece. Loans against Patek Philippe watches, for instance, tend to attract a higher value since this particular brand of wristwatch regularly appreciates in value by a significant amount from its original purchase price. Loans against Rolex watches, on the other hand, whilst more plentiful, and by no means less beautiful, rarely attract the same increase in value, simply because the market isn’t there to bear it.
That is not to say that your Rolex is not valuable, however. Certain models of Rolex (the Rolex Red Submariner, for example) have appreciated by a considerable margin since their original release and might be a worthwhile deposit if you were thinking of pawning your Rolex. And even if your Rolex hasn’t significantly increased in value it’s likely that it will have at least held the original value you bought it for.
When considering loans against fine watches, condition is everything. Generally speaking, people are looking to buy fine timepieces in as near to mint condition as they can. This means that any restoration work done to a watch is very likely to negatively affect its value. Anyone looking to take out loans against Vacheron Constantin, for example, would be hard-pressed to strike a good deal if parts have been noticeably replaced, or if the face is clouded over with dents, scratches, or other cosmetic blemishes.
However, it is worth noting that there is a growing school of thought among watch collectors that a watch having scratches and other imperfections is not necessarily always a bad thing. If the imperfections tell a story, and add to the character of a watch, they could help to make it more valuable. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona was scratched and damaged, but this did not affect its value; it actually became the most expensive watch of all time when it went up for auction. These are all factors you must consider when taking out loans against fine watches.
Whilst some models of luxury watches hold their value for years after production, many do not. If the timepiece in question was being worn, rather than on display, or in a collection, then the odds are good that it has undergone some damage, simply by being exposed to the elements during day-to-day usage. That said, certain models are considered vintage, and so their condition must be balanced up against their rarity in the marketplace. The fine Swiss watch manufacturers, Audemars Piguet, have been producing wristwatches since 1875. Should one of their original repeater wristwatches ever show up, any superficial damage would be outweighed by the historical nature of the watch itself. This is not to say that loans against Audemars Piguet automatically attract a higher value, merely to illustrate that condition, age and rarity must all be considered when assessing the worth of a fine watch.
Fine watches are luxury items and, being so, often come in handsomely appointed presentation boxes. Those boxes, in mint condition, add value to the watch itself, as does the original bill of sale, confirming the original cost of the item. Servicing papers can add further value to the piece, confirming that any repairs to the watch were conducted by a trained and certified professional. Indeed, any of the original materials or paperwork that came with the watch are worth keeping hold of, as they can do nothing but boost the value when trying to pawn or resell. This can include (depending on make and model) warranty cards, warranty booklets, serial number tags and polishing cloths.
While most of the value in your luxury watch is invested in the brand name, the specific model, and the condition of the piece itself, the material the watch is made from can also determine its worth. Many precious metals go into the manufacture of luxury watches – gold and platinum being the most popular – and these have an inherent value beyond the function and design of the watch itself. Certain high-end watches also include precious gems like rubies, diamonds and sapphires, which again have an appreciable value of their own. You should expect any embellishments like this to enhance the value of your watch.
It may be that your fine watch has seen better days, and that’s a shame. However, whilst the watch itself might not fetch much either on the open market or as the basis of a loan, the internal parts or materials might still be of interest if they remain in good condition. Watch repair and maintenance is a highly skilled profession, and original parts are often at a premium in this industry. So even if the outside of your watch is scuffed and dented through decades of regular use, it’s entirely possible that its internal workings still hold some value.
Is it genuine?
It is a sad fact that in any arena where high-value goods are sold there are always disreputable people looking to make a profit from unwary consumers. As such, fake and duplicate timepieces are rife in the luxury watch trade, many of them looking extremely convincing to the untrained eye. Fortunately, our team of assessors bring years of experience to the table, and can quickly identify fraudulent items.
Some of the many watch brands we loan against include: A. Lange & Sohne, Breguet, Breitling, Bulgari, Cartier, Chopard, Harry Winston, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger LeCoultre, Omega, Panerai, Piaget, Richard Mille, Roger Dubuis, Tiffany, Ulysse Nardin, Urwerk, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Graff and Rolex to name just a few.