“A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away....”
People started to see watches as more than timekeepers. We should remember that not more than a hundred years ago, watches were very different indeed. People just had one, and it was a pocket watch. We did not have the luxury of owning many watches as we do now; only the truly affluent owned more than one watch.
Then everything changed. Watches lost somehow their primary function, as other ways to determine the time emerged. Public clocks in the street and in public spaces, for example. Or, we could phone to a number to have a recording tell us the exact time. In short, everywhere we could find many time-telling machines. And so, the number of timepieces we owned grew likewise. We started to buy “tool” watches that we could wear when we were doing specific activities, and the issue of collectionism started to form, along with its investment aspect.
Then, recently things started to get out of hand. The spectacular rise of prices in Rolex-branded watches is all too evident to everyone, and this - and other facts - sparked a horology investment craze that is spreading like wildfire internationally.
But the main question is exemplified here: what are the watches worth collecting?
If you are not in the know, you’d be possibly stiffed by the ones who instead are. And I have talked about that in detail - so, how to choose the right watches to buy - in the book, The Watch Manual - you can buy it here.
Collectors are mainly of a couple types:
trendsetters and followers
Trendsetters are the ones which anticipate the market. This means that they have accumulated an experience of market trends that is enough to reliably predict the megatrends of the future. They might be wrong, or the change they foresee are a bit off as time goes, but this is the inherent risk of anticipating a trend. You might see things that do not eventually develop.
Followers are instead chasing the bubbles. When a trend initiates and proceeds, it forms an economic bubble. The phenomenum of a bubble is typical, and I won’t go into full detail here. It's enough to say that when a bubble forms, prices spiral out of control, eventually rising and rising, until the bubble, for one reason or another, bursts. Then, prices plummet and return to normal, or slightly a bit below that, as the "bubble goods" flood the market.
Some watches which are worth collecting
So, let's see which watches are worth collecting. Rolex watches are currently in a bubble. And investors are betting on the fact that they continue to rise. It is a risky bet, but every bet is risky. So, for example, we find steel Submariners on the secondary market at a premium above their list price of around $3,000. As Rolex raises its list prices by around 8% every year, you understand that there is a margin to play on. Unless the bubble bursts, that is.
The same happens with other rising trends in the horology field. As everyone knows, steel Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 prices skyrocketed, as this model has been phased out by the company. And the wave has affected other similar models like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.
Apart from them, there are countless other watches and brands that are currently undervalued, and will rise soon as prices go.
What is the main trend in watch collection, now?
People are re-discovering the old dress watches. There is a definite attention to them, and this fact is visible in the countless Heritage Editions that the brands are presenting, which feature the design (and dimensions) of older models. So, if you are in to anticipate the trends, watch out for this. While luxury sports watches will always be in high demand, clothing watches will also become popular again, both newly manufactured and old design, or vintage, watches.
Also, the size is getting smaller - around the 40 mm threshold and down.
A vintage square watch from the 1930s
I also think that square-shaped watches and rectangular ones will become the fad again. Look out for vintage art-deco mechanical watches. You will not get much money if and when you sell them after you restore them, but you will make a better deal.
If you want to know more of watch collections, or understand which watches are worth collecting, browse my collection of e-books, here
The Watchonomicon is an independent blog, written and managed by The Watch Manual. The Watch Manual is NOT affiliated in any way with any brand mentioned in articles.