Whether you are planning to buy your first luxury watch, or you plan to sell yours to upgrade, luxury timepieces are a good investment. Not only do they hold or increase in value, but they are also an heirloom to be passed on to the next generation.
Enumerated below are things you (as a buyer or a seller of luxury watches) should look for and brands that hold their values.
What people look for in a watch
Make and Model
Just like in any other luxury goods, brands usually command the price of watches. Some brands are more expensive than others because of their heritage, craftsmanship, and brand value.
The serial number or reference number tells the model of the watch. In addition, these numbers (and/or letters) often tell you a lot, such as production year, material or bezel style or type, if encrusted with gemstones, if COSC certified – the list goes on.
While serial numbers are part of authentic luxury watches, it’s not a guarantee. Watch out for fake watches with fake serial numbers.
Original Box, Papers, and Documentation
Original boxes and documentation increase the value of your pre-owned luxury watch as it assures the item’s authenticity. It also increases the value of your wristwatch vs. selling without these items.
Some brands can offer a certificate of authenticity – the watch brands can extract the documents from their records. Be sure to check their websites to know more.
Several independent companies are authorities when it comes to grading luxury watches. These certifications are the Chronometer by COSC, the Geneva Seal and Chronometrique+ by Timelab, and the FQF Seal.
While the Chronometer (COSC) focuses on timekeeping, the Geneva Seal and FQF concentrate on the functionality and make (where the watch is manufactured). For example, for a watch to bear the FQF seal, it must be manufactured in its entirety (except for the straps and clasps) in Switzerland.
Watch movements have three main types: Manual, Automatic, and Quartz.
Starting with the most expensive of the three, Manual watches run by manually wounding up the crown to generate energy to power the watch. Manual watch technology is the oldest and has been around since the 16th century and is usually found in vintage and most expensive watches.
The reason why this is expensive is because of the craftsmanship, and/or the heritage. Usually watches with more complications are manuals.
The most expensive manual watch ever sold (without diamonds or gemstones included) was the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime at $31 million. It is the most complicated wristwatch ever designed. It boasts 20 complications (including an alarm, Grande and Petite Sonniere minute reader, instantaneous perpetual calendar, date repeater, second timezone, among others), two independent dials, and six patented innovations.
The next type of movement is Automatic. The technology is the same with Manual. The only difference is that Automatic watches’ energy comes from the wrist’s movement. Automatic watches have a rotating metal (known as the rotor) that winds up the mainspring.
While not as expensive as manual watches, automatic watches also command a high price. A more affordable automatic watches (pre-owned) are somewhere a little below $500 while an automatic luxury watch can go anywhere between $1,500 – $17,000.
While the most expensive Automatic watch is the Breguet Grand Compilation commissioned for the late French Queen Marie Antoinette with a $30 million price tag, the most expensive Automatic watch sold at an auction that is not commissioned or is not of historical reference, is Patek Philippe Titanium (the first and only titanium version of the Triple Compilation wristwatch) for $6.6 million.
Quartz watches are the most common and most affordable wristwatches in the market. Quartz power comes from a battery that sends electric signals to a small quartz crystal, creating vibrations that move the dials.
Quartz watches are the most accurate among the three and require minor maintenance.
However, quartz watches lack the craftsmanship of manual and automatic watches, making them more affordable and least favorable with watch enthusiasts.
While luxury watches are often mechanical or automatic, luxury brands also offer quarts versions. Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Audemar Piguet offer top-notch, quality, COSC-certified quartz wristwatches.
While we discussed previously the different kinds of metals that suit jewelry, it is slightly different with luxury watches.
A high-grade luxury watch is either made with stainless steel (vs. standard steel), alloyed gold, and, in specific models, titanium. Since these metals are hypoallergenic, it is ok to wear them for long periods of time.
Gemstones and Materials
Gemstones increase the value of a luxury watch. The most expensive luxury watch ever sold was Gradd Diamonds Hallucination for $55 million, even though it’s a Quartz. It’s encrusted with a total of 110 carats of different colored diamonds and cuts.
Luxury Watch Brands that Hold Their Value
When it comes to luxury watches, while the price is one of the factors, it’s not the only factor. Some brands are not part of the upper-tier for SRP but are valued highly because the watch community prices complications and heritage highly.
If you own the models of these brands, expect that you will get a fairly high resale value since these watches are coveted among enthusiasts.
Rolex has a long history of heritage and prestige and is simply the most popular luxury watch in the market. It is also the entry point for luxury watch collection. So when a person wants to purchase a luxury watch, Rolex is usually top of mind.
The most notable Rolexes with high resale value are the GMT-Master II, Submariner, and the Daytona.
Rolex launched the GMT-Master in 1955 as part of their Professional Line-up series. The GMT-Master was initially developed for Pan Am’s pilot to help them navigate through different time zones. The rotating bezel and the triangular hand is the key to help users monitor different timezones.
Currently, the GMT-Master II remains the icon of Rolex and is one of the luxury watches with a high resale value; some even reported exceeding 100% of the SRP. An example is the GMT-Master II Black and Blue bezel, also known as “Batman.” Because this model is particularly difficult to acquire, 2nd hand prices are usually close to store prices (after considering wear condition, box, and documentation)
If GMT-Master II is for the air, the Submariner is for those who love the sea. Designed specifically for divers, its rotating bezel features 60-minute graduation, allowing the diver to “accurately and safely monitor diving time and decompression stops.” It’s completely waterproof and can withstand a depth of up to 1,000 ft. Depending on the condition and production date, A certified pre-owned Rolex Submariner starts at $10,000+
Another iconic model that quickly becomes a bestseller is the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. This piece became popular when Rolex sponsored the 24hr Daytona Beach race in Daytona, Florida and Paul Newman started wearing this watch to almost all of his races. This company designed this watch for race car drivers in mind, with a tachymeter to measure vehicle speeds.
Paul Newman version aside, the Rolex Daytona can go anywhere from $15,000+ to $100,000 (Daytona Platinum)
Audemars Piguet is a luxury swiss watch manufacturer known for its complicated watch mechanism and stunning craftsmanship.
The most popular and iconic Audemars Piguet collection is the Royal Oak series (Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore, and Royal Oak Offset). It’s known for its octagonal bezel, eight exposed hexagonal screws, and its “Tapisserie” dial. The most popular collection is the limited edition Royal Oak Offshore in partnership with race car champion Michael Schumacher.
Millenary, another collection under the brand, launched in 1995, features a clear bezel showing front-to-back craftsmanship, (Re)master01, which is an ode to the original AP chronograph wristwatches, and the newer Code 11.59 launched in 2019.
The “Schumi” (the Royal Oak Offshore Michael Schumacher edition) is the famous Royal Oak Offshore limited collection costs somewhere between $60,000 to over $150,000 depending on condition, make, and metal.
Patek Philippe is one of the luxury watch brands and last family-owned watch manufacturer that holds the highest amount sold at an auction. Not a surprise there. Patek Philippe’s heritage, craftsmanship, and unique designs make this watch one of the most coveted amongst watch enthusiasts and collectors.
Nautilus is one of Patek Philippe’s most coveted designs, with Ref 5711 /1A as the most desirable amongst the Nautilus collection. Brand new, its price is around $120,000, Pre-owned, it can cost somewhere around $115,000. The Aquanaut and the Grand Master Compilation also hold their value well after years of ownership.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is known for producing watches that merge sophisticated complications with minute and intricate designs. Similar to Rolex and Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre boasts a rich heritage and excellent craftsmanship that still exists today.
The Reverso line is one of the brand’s more popular collections featuring an Art-Deco design. Reverso got its name because the watch face can be reversed. It is small and thin, perfect for men and women alike. Some put engravings, while other models showcase the craftsmanship inside the phone.
Their latest, the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Caliber 185 (un upgrade to their 179), is valued at $1.35M and features four watch faces, the apex of horology in watchmaking, which gives time, alarms, and accurately predicts moon phases.
The market value of a used Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin 41mm in good condition can start from less than $5,000. The Master Ultra Thin Moon issued ten years ago can cost between $7,000 to $10,000, depending on the dial color, year-make, and condition.
Omega holds its value well. Its most popular model, the Speedmaster, was the watch worn by Buzz Aldrin when he landed on the moon in 1969. That achievement cemented the Omega brand to the list of highly collectible timepieces. The Speedmaster holds its value well because there is much demand for it in the 2nd hand market.
Another bestseller is the Seamaster. With its rich history and prestigious heritage, the Seamaster has become one of the highly collectible and coveted models across the industry.
The Omega Seamaster also rose the ranks when it became the official watch of the James bond franchise and when Omega became the official timekeeping of the London Olympics in 2012. To commemorate the occasion, Omega released limited-edition Seamaster 1948 Co-Axial London 2012.
Depending on the condition, box, and documentation, you can get an Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch for about $5,500. Omega Seamaster, on the other hand, starts at $4,000.
True to its tagline “instrument for professionals,” Breitling is known for creating watches for sports, science, and industrial purposes.
Breitling Chronomat is the brand’s most iconic timepiece, the first to feature its slide rule bezel, which becomes its most distinguishable feature. Navitimire, which also features the slide-rule bezel, becomes Breitling’s flagship piece and the go-to wristwatch of pilots. This watch is capable of calculating speed, distance, fuel consumption, and even descent.
The market price of a 2nd hand Breitling Navitimer can go anywhere between $3,000 – $15,000, depending on the reference number, condition, box, and papers.
Another popular collection from their line-up is the Superocean. The Superocean is for the divers when the Navitimer is for the pilots. The average price of Breitling Superocean range between $3,000 – $,5,500 depending on the reference number, condition, and documentation.
How about Other Designer Watches?
While Cartier or Hermes can also hold their value, some watches are just not collectible, especially since there is not much demand in the 2nd hand market.
Examples would be watches from Michael Kors, Pandora/Swarovski, Guess, and Fossil. While there is a market for brand new pieces, pre-owned watches are not as coveted as the other pieces.
Where to Sell your Luxury Watch
If you are selling your luxury watch, there are several avenues available.
Online (e-Bay or other Online Auction)
Selling online has been the go-to option recently because of the pandemic and enforced lockdown. While this is a good place to start, it does not necessarily yield a good price as it all depends on the quality of images you take, and other persons selling the same brand as you have.
On the flip side, if you are holding a limited edition or an in demand timepiece, it may have a higher price tag because of the reach, but parties still have to consider other items like shipping costs and insurance. Trust and confidence are also important in this kind of medium
Brokers and Dealers
Brokers are also a good way to sell or buy a luxury watch. Brokers usually have a large pool of connections who can match the right seller and buyer. The downside is brokers usually ask for a high commission, usually a percentage of the purchase price.
Pawnshops are another avenue where you can sell your luxury watch. If you are in need of cash fast, this is one of the ways to go. However, since the pawnshops will risk holding on to your timepiece for a certain period without a guarantee of fast turnover, they will offer to buy your watch at a price much lower than the market value for them to make a profit.
Some Jewelry stores buy and sell luxury watches as part of their portfolio. These are also great places to sell your luxury watches. The only issue is that some stores may not be knowledgeable about timepieces and may offer you lower than market prices.
Sell your Luxury Watches with AaLAND
While AaLAND is a jewelry store, we are also experts in the assessment and valuation of luxury watches. We make sure that we only buy and sell original timepieces at fair market value, that way it is a win-win for everybody. You may contact us to know more or schedule your appointment.