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How to Invest in Luxury Watches & ROI of Top Watch Brands Like Rolex, Patek Philippe and Omega

luxury watches for investment

Joanne Poh

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Luxury watches, for the people who love them, are more than fancy timepieces. They’re also specimens of precision and craftsmanship and, if you pick the right ones, good investments.

To successfully invest in watches, you need a lot of knowledge about which particular models hold value over the years. Here are the basics you need to know to get started.

Contents

  1. 5 investment grade value luxury watches
  2. What makes an investment grade watch?
  3. The ROI of top luxury watches
  4. How do you get luxury watches for cheaper prices?
  5. How to be a watch investor and where to sell luxury watches?

 

5 investment grade value luxury watches

Luxury watch model Price
Rolex Submariner $13,000 to $18,000
Patek Philippe Calatrava $11,000 to $35,000
Omega Seamaster $3,000 to $7,000
Breitling Navitimer $4,000 to $22,000
Panerai Luminor Marina $7,000 to $25,000

Rolex Submariner

This diver’s watch is one of the most popular timepieces of all time. In fact, the Submariner is arguably the model which sparked off the diving watch tradition which other watch brands have since latched on to. Therefore, while a great many Rolex models are considered decent investment pieces, the Submariner is a very safe bet.

Patek Philippe Calatrava

Like Rolex, Patek Philippe is another watchmaker that is always in demand. When it comes to Patek Philippe, you can bet on more exclusive models, which tend to be sought-after amongst collectors. The Calatrava, of which there are less than a million in the world, is one such model, some dating to as far back as 1839.

Omega Seamaster

The Omega Seamaster is another immensely popular diving watch that is not only a classic but also relatively affordable. This affordability actually makes it a safe bet as it is always easy to sell. The 300m Omega Seamaster is the most popular variation.

Breitling Navitimer

Whether you’re an aviator or clutch at the sickbag whenever you fly, the Bretiling Navitimer is nice to have on your wrist as it’s one of the most recognisable pilot watches around. As far as luxury watches go, it’s not that expensive, which makes it a good entry-level collector’s piece.

Panerai Luminor Marina

The iconic Luminor Marina is Panerai’s most popular model, and is a relatively safe investment for the beginning watch collector. Be sure to research the various Luminor Marinas available to you, as there are many variations.

 

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What makes an investment grade watch?

The design of a watch might make it nice wrist candy, but is just one of many factors that contribute towards turning a luxury watch into a worthy investment.

Here are some factors to consider when evaluating a luxury watch.

Craftsmanship

Luxury watches aren’t just churned out in some factory in China. Craftsmanship plays a big part in determining a watch’s value. The most valuable watches have extremely strict craftsmanship rules which might go back centuries.

For instance, at Jaeger LeCoultre (which has nothing to do with jägerbombs), entire teams of watchmakers and craftsmen are involved in the creation of one single timepiece, bringing to the table skills such as enamelling, engraving, setting gems and decorating dials.

When choosing a watch to invest in, find out about how the watch is made. It will make you appreciate your chosen timepiece a lot more, and in time to come will also give you a better understanding of which timepieces are more difficult to make.

Popularity of the brand

How popular a brand is does matter. After all, no matter how exquisite the craftsmanship, the value of your watch over time depends on how much demand there is for it.

For this reason, as a newbie it’s best to stick to the brands that are known as being investor-friendly. These include well-known names like Rolex, Patek Philippe, IWC and Audemars Piguet.

Design of a luxury watch

Design does matter, though maybe not in the way you might think. Collectors of different brands tend to look for different things in a watch.

For instance, Rolex tends to see high demand for classic, recognisable designs, while more unusual Patek Philippe designs tend to do well amongst fans of the brand. So do your research, talk to watch experts and hang out on watch forums to see what people are saying before you decide.

Whether it was worn by a celebrity

Being seen on the wrists of a celebrity can do a lot to boost the demand of a luxury timepiece. For investors, that translates to higher returns, especially if they purchased their timepiece before the celebrity boosted its popularity.

For instance, Brad Pitt’s face in those old TAG Heuer ads has undoubtedly raised the brand’s profile, while the dainty Cartier Tank Française became the envy of women all over world after appearing on Princess Diana’s wrist.

The story behind the watch

Watches that are associated with a compelling story often end up being more sellable than others.

For instance, the super popular Omega Seamaster is widely known for being the James Bond watch, and has been spotted on the wrist of Daniel Craig both on and offscreen. Meanwhile, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch made history as the first watch to be worn by an astronaut on the moon on the Apollo 11 voyage.

 

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The ROI of top luxury watches

Before you plonk down a five figure sum on a watch, it’s a good idea to at least get an idea of the kind of return on investment you’re likely to enjoy.

Here’s how the prices of some popular investment-grade watches have grown in value over the past decades.

Luxury watch models Early 1990s price (USD) 2018 price (USD)
Rolex Submariner 14060 No-Date $1,500 $7,500
Patek Philippe Nautilus $12,000 $50,000
Omega Seamaster 300m $150 $3,000

As you can see, the Rolex Submariner and Patek Philippe Nautilus has increased 4-5 times in value over around 15 years or so, while the Omega Seamaster increased by 20 times.

 

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How do you get luxury watches at cheaper prices?

Browsing and reading up on watch models is the fun part. But once you’ve decided on a model, you’ll have go to through the painstaking process of comparing prices and trying to find a seller who’ll charge you a lower price without trying to con you.

While you definitely should not be hitting up your friendly neighbourhood pasar malam for their “Rollex” watches, here are some retailers that are known for selling authentic luxury watches at lower prices.

Compare prices at different watch shops before buying

There is no shortage of luxury watch retailers in Singapore, including big names such as The Hour Glass and Cortina Watch.

If you’ve decided to get a brand new watch, do your homework and compare prices before committing.

Buy your watches duty-free at Changi Airport

Shave more than a few hundred bucks off your watch purchase by buying them duty-free at Changi Airport the next time you go on an overseas trip.

At Gassan Watches, which has outlets at the Terminal 1 and 4 transit areas, you’ll find watches from Omega, Breitling, Cartier, Longines and more.

At the Terminal 3 transit area, there’s Maison de Chronus, which carries Tissot, Breguet and Piaget watches.

Last but not least, there is a Rolex shop in the Terminal 3 transit area.

Buy second hand watches

If you’ve set your sights on a vintage model, you will have no other option but to get it second hand. And even if your desired model is still in production, buying second hand is still a smart way lower the cost of your purchase.

You should of course be very vigilant as to the condition and authenticity of your purchase. If you’re a newbie, bring along a more experienced friend when you go and inspect the watch.

That being said, buying a second hand luxury watch is not the same as buying a second hand H&M tshirt at a flea market. Many second hand luxury watches have been very well taken care of, or might even have spent their entire lives in a display case.

The two principal choices open to you are second hand dealers such as HJ Watch, Chuan Watch and Goldman Luxury, or the online marketplace on sites such as Chrono24 or even eBay. You can even hit up pawnshops, although you do so at your own risk as the shopowner might not know (or want to tell you) whether the watch is authentic.

The main advantage of buying pre-owned is that you can get never-worn watches at a much lower price, sometimes saving yourself a five figure sum.

Visit Mustafa Centre

Yes, don’t laugh. Mustafa might sell diapers, Kitkat and Merlion statues, but they also sell lower-end luxury watches from TAG Heuer and Seiko.

Use a cashback credit card to pay for your purchase

When you’re paying a four, five or even six figure sum for your watch, you can save a hefty amount just by using a cashback credit card to pay for your purchase.

However, pay attention to the cashback cap. A credit card that offers 10% cashback but a cap of $50 a month is not necessarily better than one that offers 1.5% unlimited cashback.

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How to be a watch investor and where to sell luxury watches?

So let’s say you’ve already bought a couple of watches, and you’d like to be able to sell them for a profit when the time is ripe.

As with any investment, you must make sure you do your research by buying when the price is low and selling only when it’s reasonably high.

To make money out of watches, you will likely be turning to the second hand market. Most of your options have already been covered in the above sub-section on buying second hand watches.

To summarise, here’s where you can sell your luxury watches.

  • Luxury watch buy-and-sell sites: The most well-known example of by far is Chrono24, which has become the eBay of luxury watches. It is an international site, so you’ll be able to reach buyers from all over the world.
  • General buy-and-sell or auction sites and apps: General second hand sale or auction sites like eBay, Carousell and Gumtree enable you to reach a more general audience. One advantage of using local sites like Carousell is that buyers can meet up with you to inspect the watch to set their minds at ease.
  • Sell directly to watch collectors: Connections are important when watches change hands since there is a degree of trust required. If you’ve been hanging out in affluent circles, you’re sure to run into some watch collectors. These people are often willing to pay decent prices for a good watch.
  • Invest in The Watch Fund: Unlike the other options on this list, investing in The Watch Fund is like trading oil or other commodities. Fund managers buy and sell the watches in order to make money for the fund, and during the investment period, you get to hold onto the watch as a “double collateral”.
    [Updated: A previous version of this article stated that investors do not get to hold on to the watch. We apologise for the factual error.]
  • Auction houses: This is the lazy man’s way to get rid of a watch, since you won’t have to create your own listing or do your own marketing. The auction will go all out to make your watch sound as desirable as possible, while reaching out to people who can afford it. The trade-off is that you will have to pay them rather high commissions. Some auction houses include GPJW Auctions and Lawsons Jewelry and Watch Specialty Auctions.
  • Second hand watch dealers: HJ Watch, Chuan Watch, Goldman Luxury, Seasons Time, Monster-time Vintage Watches and Bronze Age are just some of the many second hand watch dealers that will gladly buy your watch from you. The main downside is that, as they have to make money, too, you won’t get a great price on your watch.

Just like art, luxury watches can be an investment if you choose wisely and become knowledgeable about the collectors’ market. However, be aware that not every luxury watch is an investor’s piece. In fact, less than half of luxury watches are considered investment-worthy.

That said, the second hand market has kicked into high gear thanks to the Internet, so there is perhaps no better time to become a watch investor than the present.

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Are you a watch collector? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

 

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.