Vintage and luxury watches have become one of the most popular investments during the last years - I'm not telling anything new. Whoever wants to combine aesthetics with a good investment has been on the right side, at least as far as the past years are concerned. Value increases of 10% per year or more for models like the Rolex GMT-Master 16700, low maintenance costs and a meanwhile very liquid market have made it easier to earn money with watch investments. But what should you look out for if you are completely new to this profession. Where do stumbling blocks or hidden opportunities lurk? In this first article I try to show you my experience from 15 years of collecting passion and with reference to today's market situation:
1. Always buy the seller and not only the watch
Trust in the other person is the basis of every business. All the more so when it comes to investing several thousand or in some cases even tens of thousands of euros in a watch. The pitfalls with vintage watches are so many that it is immensely important that you have someone you trust and who knows their stuff. How do I tell the difference between an original Submariner Date "Kermit" (Ref.16610LV) and a regular Submariner Date (Ref.16610) that has had a green bezel inlay added? (The enlarged indexes are a clue 😉) Were new parts installed during a service and if applicable, the one service dial? Having someone to guide you over these pitfalls and provide truthful information is worth its weight in gold in the vintage watch world. Even more so if you buy the watches online and can't see them for yourself beforehand. The mere fact of how many supposedly "unworn or very good condition" vintage GMT-Masters are offered on the relevant platforms makes you wonder. It is simply not possible that 50% of the watches sold 30 years ago have never been worn or look so perfect. It is almost always the case that the watches have been polished like a baboon's butt and are therefore no longer very good, but poor from a value retention point of view. Better spend a little more money with a dealer you trust than with someone who has a supposed bargain. We ourselves try to offer exactly that through our personal online consultations, where you can examine the watch in chat, a personal phone conversation as well as unedited product photos, where the condition is shown realistically. Therefore, if an offer is too good to be true, most of the time it is not.
2. Condition is king
Every watch, no matter if vintage or new luxury watch has a better value retention or a possibly better value increase potential in the future the more of the original scope of delivery, like box, warranty papers, manual, hang tags, cases, service papers etc. are present. They can give us information about the provenance, the general condition (service papers) and originality of the watch. However, there are several points why I myself do not always put this value on papers and full set. As everyone knows, watches have been faked for a long time and some of them are getting better and better. Due to the disproportionate increase in value of watches in the "full set" compared to the "naked" watch in recent years, professional counterfeiters have now also massively spread in the area of papers, boxes, etc.. As everyone can imagine, it is more difficult to counterfeit a complete watch - especially vintage models. However, it is much easier to forge old stamped papers, stickers or hang tags. Often, original watches are sold with subsequently made papers or original documents from different periods are bought together to get a full set with a correspondingly higher price. Thus, the above-mentioned purpose of the papers to assess the provenance and originality of the watch is lost. In addition, papers and boxes were not treated as carefully in the past as they are today, because the watch itself was the jewel and no great value was attached to the delivery contents. Therefore, you won't find real full sets on watches that are 20 years or older too often. Often back then these were either thrown away directly, left at the jeweler, or simply lost over the years. This has changed with the development of watches as an investment and even the smallest delivery volumes are treated with care.
Therefore always: Condition is king!
3. First Blue Chips, then Complications and Fancy Watches
If you decide to buy watches not only for aesthetic reasons, but also as an investment, focus at the beginning on the vintage and young-timer "blue chips". In other words, brands/references that have been earning solid and reliable returns for years and are no longer part of the current collection. Depending on your budget, models like the Datejust or Day-Date line with rare dial variations, Daytonas with Zenith movement, Nautlius or Aquanaut from Patek Philippe steel or Jumbo models from Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak line fall under this. The market for these models has been extremely liquid for decades and the risk of any price drops due to overproduction no longer exists.
Once you have a foundation of blue chips watches, you can up the ante and include watches with complications or very fancy models.
Of course, there are other tips you can follow when investing your money in vintage watches, but with these three principles, which I always keep in mind myself, you are already doing very well. If you have further questions about vintage watches in general or about our products, just write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or a whatsapp to +49 (0) 176/41663304.