Economics dictate that when it comes to prices, they are set by the market, not by the manufacturers. In the world of watchmaking, this is particularly the case, as shown by the resale and auction values of watches. Retail prices for new watches tend to be quite ambitious, which can be misleading when it comes to customers interested in long-term investment value or resale potential. A common question consumers ask themselves is, “Will this watch retain value?” This is a good question, but one that is often difficult to answer. Therefore, I decided that it was important to discuss which brands have a high resale price value. It can be inferred that the brands and models that are not only in high demand, but also achieve high resale prices, are the watches and brands with the highest value.
It’s no surprise that the more expensive brands are often the more popular ones. Although this is not exclusively the case. To find out more, I spoke to Tim Stracke, CEO of Chrono24.com. Chrono24 is the world’s largest online marketplace for buyers and sellers of watches. Chrono24 also measures large amounts of data thanks to its Chronolytics data analysis tool (which provided the data in this article). Mr. Stracke helps us understand and discusses the biggest movers and shakers, brands with the most demanded products, and watches to watch if you want the best possible resale or investment value. We also discuss some lesser known brands that may be good potential buys.
Ariel adams (AA): Some watch brands regularly enjoy strong demand, such as
Tim Strake (TS): These brands are indeed in great demand as three of the most traditional watch brands in the world. At Chrono24, we see a growing demand for IWC, Audemars Piquet and especially Panerai watches. We believe these brands combine great celebrity marketing and high quality products into a unique mix. Which means that all of them offer a rich history and past, with technical developments and designs that have left deep impressions in watchmaking culture. The Royal Oak designed by Gerald Genta by Audemars Piguet or the IWC Ingenieur by the same designer are milestones, and the classic Panerai with the crown guard is known around the world to meet the demand.
AA: Is the watch market mainly dominated by a few popular brands, or are people interested in a wide variety of brands and models.
TS: On Chrono24.com, the top 10 brands account for around 60% of Chrono24’s search queries – less than some might expect. Rolex alone accounts for around 20% of all searches for watches. But also the smaller manufactures are well known and have their fans, such as A. Lange & Söhne and Glashütte Original. Like the most popular brands, these have a rich history and a large group of collectors. These collectors usually focus on something specific like vintage watches, diving watches, or chronographs. In addition to the volume of Rolex collectors, there are also the “gamers” who expect rapidly increasing value due to the limited supply of Rolex parts and the few other big brands.
AA: What brands or models of watches tend to sell for prices closest to their retail value?
TS: Many Panerai models are trading very close to their list price. Some Patek Philippe watches (especially the Nautilus in stainless steel) and Rolex (especially the Daytona in stainless steel in black) are really hard to get if you try at the local authorized dealer in some areas. Even the waiting lists are long there, and it can take a year to get a certain Rolex sports model. For the 50e Submariner Anniversary Rolex launched the 16610 LV a few years ago with a green bezel. Used watch sales prices have exploded to over 25 percent above the original list price. This also applies to some other Rolex models – they are hardly available and such a good investment in our opinion.
AA: Are there any events or circumstances in the world that may affect the demand or desirability of brands that typically do not receive a high level of attention?
TS: Major sporting or film events can strongly trigger demand. The European Football Cup has driven demand for Hublot and the new James Bond film has really boosted interest in the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean. When Felix Baumgartner jumped 39 km in a Zenith El Primero Stratos, we saw a huge increase in searches on Chrono24.com. Audemars Piguet partnered for a time with Arnold Schwarzenegger who even helped design watches for the Terminator movies. Sylvester Stallone wore Panerai shortly after the brand’s rebirth. It has certainly increased demand. And innovations are a guarantee for demand – again Hublot as an example. The brand rebooted after Carlo Crocco and the MDM Group with former Blancpain owner and lifeguard Jean Claude Biver and created highly technical watches from carbon fiber and other exotic materials. And quickly, the watch caught the interest of the group of watch enthusiasts. From a marketing standpoint, smaller brands may also experience increased demand through innovation and technical developments, but this tends to be more difficult.
AA: Have you noticed any brands that, from a price point of view, have increased and remained stable?
TS: Once again, Rolex and Patek Philippe are at the top of the list. Retail prices have increased with these brands, possibly even more than in the watch industry in general. Despite the increases, the market continues to pay the prices and demands even more products. At the same time, both brands have come up with a lot of innovations – Rolex with new movements, complications like the Sky-Dweller or the Sea-Dweller Deep Sea, and we believe that such developments justify these price increases. With Patek, it’s a similar story. Additionally, brands that produce more of their own movements and use less ETA tend to gain more attention.
AA: What about watch models that have gone up in price?
TS: If I had to name three fairly common models, they would be: Rolex Daytona Stainless Steel (vintage and new), Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piquet Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Stainless Steel. Especially the vintage models – a first Royal Oak series or a Daytona Newman from Rolex or Rolex Sea-Dweller Double Red – have increased enormously. It is also worth noting that many steel watches retain their value while gold watches are not as stable in the German market. In Arab countries or in Russia, the reverse is true, with a strong demand for gold models with precious stones, which often retain a “perfect” value. Overall, there appears to be a worldwide demand for high quality timepieces. In all countries, even China or other Asian countries, the demand for luxury watches is still growing. Nevertheless, it is almost always the same group of watch manufacturers that dominate the markets in the top ten.
AA: Let’s go back to the original question. Which brands do you think are increasing in value?
TS: We see many vintage models going up in price – like the Heuer watches before joining the TAG group in 1985. These watches are rare, and many of these watches have been really used with almost none available in mint condition today.
We also see prices rise in watches from the early 1970s before
Vintage Porsche Design collections – chronographs in particular – or Breitling’s classic Navitimer made in the 1960s and 1970s are good investments in cheaper areas. With the new Rolex Submariner watches with ceramic bezels, older models such as Sea-Dweller or simply Submariner are worth keeping ten years or more. The value will then almost certainly increase. I also recommend looking at brands that have just died or have been bought like Alain Silberstein – design is not everyone’s darling, but watches will be even rarer.
The value of watches from mainstream Swatch Group brands such as Tissot or Longines is unlikely to increase in value. In today’s market, scarcity really helps increase the value of potential top quality watches.
Ariel Adams publishes the watch the aBlogtoWatch review site.