The 5 Hottest Luxury Timepieces to Invest In (2014)

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Timepieces are attractive “alternative” investments because they are a good hedge against inflation. In fact, a good investment-grade watch can maintain at least 80% of its original value. That’s not bad considering the yearly inflation rate hovers around 2.5% – 4% per year.

An excellent investment-grade watch on the other hand will appreciate in value, potentially doubling or tripling a $10,000+ investment over a span of 10-20 years.

However, before you make any such big purchase, it’s highly recommended that you consult a timepiece expert on the matter. Also, keep in mind that when it comes to “alternative” investments, you shouldn’t invest more than 10% of your portfolio in them.

 

What Separates an Investment-Grade Watch from the Rest?

Anyone who’s seen Pulp Fiction knows the unique story surrounding Butch’s heirloom watch in the film. That humorous scene in the movie highlights several factors that make Butch’s watch a good investment-grade watch, such as rarity and history (although in Butch’s case, his “investment” watch loses points for condition due to its unique “storage” conditions).

Selecting an investment-grade watch with one or more of the following factors will increase its value:

  • Rarity: Limited Edition watches will always command a premium. Anything 2,500 or less is considered “limited edition.” The more limited the watch is, the more valuable it will be.
  • Brand: There are many luxury brands out there (Cartier, Piaget, etc.), but Rolex and Patek Philippe are the blue-chip brands that consistently appreciate in value – value which comes from the materials, time and craftsmanship required to build each individual watch.
  • Controlled Distribution: Consistent pricing is also determined by the distribution network of the brand. If the watch you want is 50% less online compared to the retail price in-store, this inconsistency will affect the watch’s resale value. Generally, the best investment-grade watches won’t be discounted. They’ll sell at or near full price.
  • History: Is the watch tied to any famous person, event, or did it have an interesting “history” like Butch’s watch? Documented evidence of your watch’s history will help increase the value of your investment.
  • Condition: Like many mechanical devices, the physical/functional condition of a watch has a direct effect on its value. The better the condition, the higher the value.

According to Elizabeth Hsu, owner of Brightime by Championtime, these are the 5 hottest luxury timepieces to invest in (2014):

Now that you know a little more about what makes an investment-grade watch valuable, let’s get down to what makes an investment-grade watch and which ones to check out in 2014!

 

#1 Patek Philippe

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Models to Invest In: Aquanaut and Nautilus Series

Price Range: $50,000+

“If there’s one watch brand that’s almost certain to increase in value over time, it’s Patek Philippe,” says Elizabeth.

Then again, the ridiculous price of a Patek Philippe timepiece is enough to keep it out of reach of most buyers, which is a huge reason why it holds its value so well.

They’re incredibly complex, hand-made works of timekeeping art that take up to one year to assemble. Plus, Patek Philippe only makes about 50,000 timepieces a year.

The Aquanaut and Nautilus series are an especially good choice – if you have the capital!

 

#2 Audemars Piguet

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Models to Invest In: Royal Oak Offshore Series

Price Range: $20,000-$70,000+

Audemars Piguet timepieces share many of the same traits that distinguish Patek Philippe from competitors.

“They’re exclusive, unique in appearance, hand-made, and only a very limited number are made each year,” relates Elizabeth.

How many are made each year?

Only around 26,000 are made, making Audemars Piguet timepieces even more exclusive than Patek Phillipe timepieces on an availability level.

The Royal Oak Offshore series is particularly prized by collectors as being the ultimate stainless steel luxury watch to purchase.

 

#3 Hublot

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Models to Invest In: Big Bang Chronograph and Big Bang King

Price Range: $20,000-$40,000+

A relatively “new” brand on the investment-grade timepiece scene, Hublot has made its way onto the wrists of many collectors.

That’s because Hublot follows a relatively simple formula, which includes expensive materials, style that mimics that of Audemars Piguet, and exclusivity (only an extremely limited number of timepieces are released per model).

“Hublot has numerous limited edition models that it releases each year, and anything ‘limited’ definitely appeals to collectors looking to get a good return on their timepiece investment,” states Elizabeth.

The Big Bang Chronograph and King models are quite popular with collectors.

 

#4 Panerai

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Models to Invest In: ANY (the more limited the model, the better)

Price Range: $10,000-$25,000+

Yep, I’m not kidding – any Panerai watch is a good investment on the basis that every model released is “limited edition.”

Depending on which model you pick up, it can be part of a series of 500-4,000 produced that year, making Panerai an enticing brand for collectors.

“Panerai watches are very popular with collectors looking for an affordable investment-grade timepiece that provides a good return on investment, even after holding onto the watch for just a few years,” says Elizabeth.

Another reason why Panerai watches highly desirable is their timeless, elegant appearance.

 

#5 Rolex

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Models to Invest In: Perpetual Sport Models (Submariner, GMT-Master II and Daytona)

Price Range: $10,000-$70,000+

Rolex is probably the most recognizable watch brand out there. In fact, to many aspiring watch collectors, Rolex is considered a must-have entry-level timepiece investment.

Of course, you can attribute the popularity of Rolex to great branding and an attractive, instantly recognizable appearance.

“Don’t expect Rolex timepieces to drastically increase in value in just a few years. It will take 10 years or more to see a decent increase in value,” relates Elizabeth.

Models that are popular among collectors include the Submariner, GMT-Master II and Daytona models.

 

A Special Note for First-Time Investment-Grade Timepiece Investors

As with any investment you’re thinking of getting into, do your research by checking out forums and wristwatch publications such as HODINKEE to educate yourself further on timepiece investment.

If you’re new to the investment-grade watch buying game, there are two VERY important things Elizabeth recommends doing to ensure your watch investment maintains or increases in value.

First, you need to keep your watch in excellent condition. That means taking it in for servicing and maintenance when you notice problems (or at least every 5 years just to be safe).

If you own a diving watch, it’s probably better that you don’t take it out with you on your next diving trip to Indonesia or Thailand.

“If you enjoy diving, it’s a better idea to buy a cheaper model to use as a diving watch (Seiko, Invicta, etc.) instead of diving with your investment,” says Elizabeth.

Second, make sure you hold onto the box, packaging materials, and the certificate of authenticity – DO NOT throw them away!

“Unless you want to lose up to 50% of your watch’s value, keep the packaging materials, because watch collectors expect to receive the box and papers when buying an investment-grade timepiece,” warns Elizabeth.

 

Do you include investment-grade timepieces in your investment portfolio? How have they fared as an investment? Share your experience with us on Facebook! For even more useful information on everything personal finance, visit MoneySmart today!

Images:
kagen33, James of Waringham, guccio, Jimmy Smith, kagen33 (Rolex)

Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.

  • Boris

    What a poor contribution, none of the watches possess any form of Investment grade. Absolutely none. Finding Investment grade watches depends on knowledge and experience. I am not going into Details.

  • adam

    Brightime once sold me a Rolex that had its serial number punched out. I noticed it when I asked a friend with the tools to remove the bracelet. I brought it back to the shop and they vehemently said they didn’t know the numbers were punched out. I asked for a full refund but they again vehemently said their policy was no refund, and I took a 20% cut to ‘resell’ the watch back to them. Buyers beware. Caveat emptor.

  • Chris Joseph

    How can anyone forget the exquisite beauty of Brietling watches?

    • Breitling are a very bad investment..
      40 to 50% of their value right after you’ve left the retail store..

  • michelle

    If you buy watches at original retail price, it will most likely 99% not be a profitable investment.

    I actually have a very, very expensive watch for investment. It’s a brand not listed here, although well known, and only has less than 100 pieces of this model made as a tribute to a founder’s death. I have a very special and coveted serial number of a very special limited edition watch.

    It was actually bought second hand off a famous Singapore watch collector at 1/3 off the original sticker price Of mid 6 figures. So it was a huge loss for him. In fact, for me it is more like stock picking a la warren Buffett: identifying something that is selling for really cheap and resell it for more. I am auctioning it off later this year.

    Also: audemars piguets are losing HUGE amounts of money. Any watch that is not at least $50k is not an investment, just consumption.

  • Only rolex and patek philippe watches hold their value well.. hublot and ap are a sucker for depreciation.. panerai is still ok but you can’t really make any money when you sell them in modern days.. the only way to make money on watches is to buy vintage rolex and patek watches cheap and sell them for profit.. and it takes many years of experience to buy the correct vintage watches with proper and all original parts in them.. buy a vintage watch with a wrong or replacement part and you could lose a lot of money.. that’s why even i don’t buy vintage watches… they’re too much of a risk without proper knowledge.. in the end don’t buy watches as an investment.. but just buy them to enjoy them.. they are so many other things to invest and make money on..