Fine watches – Top 10 Brands You Should Consider Investing In
February 19, 2019
There is nothing quite like the quality and craftsmanship of a luxury mechanical watch. 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. 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.
If you are looking for more info on the loan process of our award winning Mayfair pawn shop please see our video here and read about it here. For more specific information on our loans on fine watches please click here. 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, and Rolex to name just a few.