By James Phang
Luxury watches are often viewed as a “trophy” of success to many people, or justified as a means to celebrate a milestone in life. However, blindly splurging a lot of money on luxury watches is NOT the way to go…unless you are only looking for the instant gratification of owning a timepiece to boast to friends. In other words, if you wish to own a luxury timepiece which you can enjoy on special occasions, at the same time treat it as a great piece of investment which could potentially earn you some decent profits 10 years down the road, then this is an article worth reading.
Here, we have listed the top 5 brands which have withstood the element of time (also known “less affectionately” as depreciation) and have the best track record for holding or even increasing in value.
Panerai was quickly propelled to stardom back in 1996 when Sylvester Stallone featured his Pre-Vendome Panerai in his movie Daylight. Fast forward to today, and we see that Panerai has taken a beating in its brand positioning, with numerous complaints of recycling old models in its latest releases, every release being deemed as a limited production release, as well as the rise of many homage brands offering similar designs at a small fraction of a Panerai. HOWEVER, their vintage models are still highly sought after, with many of their original releases (which the new versions have been based from) commanding high premiums at the auction market. panerai.com
Omega first started manufacturing watches for the military pilots of England and the United States. However, when NASA astronauts started wearing Omega watches when they went into space, the Omega moon watch being one of the most well-known models of all time. Also, Omega has been featured a couple of times on the wrist of James Bond over the last several films, with the latest being the Spectre, which was the first “Bond” watch available to the public for the first time and instantly became a hit. The sea master models are particularly renowned for their attractiveness and ability to maintain their value. omegawatches.com
3. Audemars Piguet
Perhaps a closer comparison to Patek Philippe is Audemars Piguet, whereby they are exclusive and only a very limited number are produced each year (~26,000 pieces, about half that of Patek Philippe). It is one of the few global Haute Horology brands that remains in the hands of its founding family, with several members of the Audemars family still sitting on its board. In general, they tend to appeal more to the younger generation for their contemporary designs. The Royal Oak Offshore series is particularly prized by collectors as being the ultimate stainless steel luxury watch to purchase. audemarspiguet.com
2. Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe would have to be the jewel in the collection for most watch enthusiasts. While Patek Philippe shares similar traits as Rolex, the accessibility of new Patek Philippe watches are more restrained due to their higher price points. Some rare models can go as high as a million dollars, but their core range is usually around the $20,000 to $50,000 range. Given the high degree of complexity in assembling a timepiece, it usually takes up to a year per timepiece, and Patek Philippe only produces approximately 50,000 watches per year. Exclusivity is what Patek collectors pride themselves on – that, and the part about passing it on to the next generation. patek.com
Rolex is one of those de-facto brands which are held in high regard (by both watch enthusiasts and non-watch enthusiasts), has a wonderful heritage as well as including an impressive list of popular celebrities and icons who are loyal fanatics of the brand. More importantly, it likely derives its value from having the best-in-class manufacturing process, and many collectors swear by the quality of Rolex watches, with some watches known to have lasted more than 40 years without the need to undergo any servicing. However, Rolex timepieces would not drastically increase in value in just a few years – it will take 10 years or more to see a decent increase in value. Lastly, while most of the Rolex timepieces are known to hold their value, it is those which were produced in limited editions or discontinued which have significant holding power, evident from a few examples such as the Rolex 1680 and Rolex 16610LV “Kermit” which rose quite a bit in value after their successors were introduced. rolex.com
While there have been only 5 brands mentioned here, that is not to say that there aren’t other brands/ timepieces which could be great investment pieces. A few others that almost made the list include Vacheron Constantin, IWC and Cartier. Of course, there are no guarantees and not every watch released by the brands mentioned above will earn you money, their intrinsic value is simply stronger as compared to other watch brands which could mean an immediate 50% drop in value the moment you walk out of the boutique (prefer not to name any names here).
Note: A general rule of thumb is that the timepiece you choose should be a special release or limited edition production, or a discontinued release which had become a cult favourite. Many collectors also have the practice of switching out the original leather watch straps with 3rd party straps once they get their hands on it to maintain the original strap in tip-top condition, or only wear those timepieces with bracelets on special occasions to ensure that the bracelet does not become too loose over time. Lastly, if you are actually alright with purchasing pre-owned watches, pre-owned watches typically represent significant savings (no shame in that, many CEOs and directors buy pre-owned watches too, and it is almost impossible to find any vintage yet brand new watches nowadays). That being said, you should always do your due diligence, it is highly recommended to verify the authenticity of the timepiece, and always try to get the full set of box and papers along with the timepiece as they carry an intrinsic value with them too.
JAMES PHANG – CONTRIBUTING WRITER
James Phang is a young watch enthusiast from Singapore and is a self-professed fanatic of independent brands for their unique avant-garde designs. Some of his favorite brands include MB&F, Urwerk, Romain Jerome, Sarpaneva, Peter Speake-Marin and Azimuth. His love for art extends out to all things handmade, and he has made it his personal mission to find the best handmade straps and buckles worldwide for his humble collection. Read his articles here