In an age of disposable consumer goods, luxury watches are gaining new attention as both accessories and investment opportunities. The pre-owned watch market is projected to be worth $30 billion by 2025.
Buyers are seeking value retention, growth potential, and a sense of history when shopping for secondhand luxury watches. But how do they know whether or not a watch is truly vintage?
Age and Vintage Status
Vintage watches typically have a track record of appreciating in value over time, which attracts investors and collectors. However, newer watch brands can also gain in value if they produce innovative and technologically-advanced models in limited numbers.
In determining how much a luxury watch is worth, it’s important to know the make and model and its approximate age. The best way to do this is to contact the manufacturer, who can recover an “archive extract” with basic information on the model, production date, and reference number.
However, this type of provenance is not always available and can have a significant impact on a watch’s price. Certain watches seem to attract ownership attributions like nectar draws bees, and it’s not uncommon for claims of heritage to be embellished or even faked. This can have devastating consequences for a buyer who has trusted such an attribution.
There are a wide variety of materials used in the cases of luxury watches. Each boasts its own set of innate advantages and hindrances and comes with its own price tag.
Stainless steel is the most commonly used material in luxury watches because of its durability and relative cost efficiency. Some brands, like Rolex, engineer their own variations on this core material to improve specific aspects of the case and bracelet.
Gold has been a symbol of the finer things in life since time immemorial. It’s often layered with other materials to create unique variations on this classic metal, such as ceramic and Hublot’s Magic Gold (an 18k gold alloy that uses pure gold powder).
Watches serve as a subtle (but powerful) symbol of success and achievement for many people. But they’re also seen as a status symbol that reflects an appreciation for the finer things in life, and a sense of elegance and taste.
While most watches fall into a few broad categories, some push the boundaries of convention. These avant-garde designs are often found in high-end mechanical timepieces from independent brands like MB&F and Urwerk.
For those who are interested in owning a luxury watch but aren’t yet ready to spend an arm and a leg on one, the pre-owned market offers a wealth of options. But it’s important to do your homework and enter the negotiation and purchasing phases with confidence. This will help ensure that you’re getting a fair deal and a genuine, quality timepiece. In addition, it will also make sure you’re buying from a trusted source.
Watchmakers experiment with a range of materials to create a case that is distinguished, refined and luxurious. From robust and durable like steel to lightweight and shiny like titanium or ceramic, each material has its own unique qualities.
Stainless steel is the most common luxury case material. It’s durable, affordable and easily polished to a shiny finish. Brands like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe were first to make steel fashionable when they introduced the Royal Oak and Nautilus.
Increasingly, luxury watches are being viewed not just as stylish accessories but also as alternative investments. In fact, the secondary market is booming as buyers, especially Gen Z and young millennials, search for preowned models from desirable brands with high resale value. This reflects the growing interest in watches as alternative assets and a hedge against inflation. In the future, forward-thinking watchmakers may consider blending new and preowned product offerings to engage with this burgeoning audience.
The case shape of a watch plays a big role in its aesthetic and design. Whether the case is round, square, tonneau, or avant-garde, each style says something different about the watch.
Round cases are the most classic of all cases and arguably one of the most versatile. Originally inspired by pocket watches downsized for the wrist, they allow watchmakers to create more elaborate designs.
During times of economic uncertainty, some private investors look to alternative investments such as luxury watches. These items can diversify a portfolio and hedge against inflation, as well as provide long-term price stability and growth.
Watches that are made with precious metals or have gemstone embellishments tend to be more expensive than those that do not. Additionally, if a watch comes with the original box and papers, this will add to its value.
Luxury watches have attracted new interest from buyers as both stylish accessories and alternative investments. Compared to traditional assets, they are seen as a safer investment option, especially for younger consumers in the Gen Z and millennial demographics.
While some types of watches may be difficult or impossible to acquire at retail, the secondhand market offers enthusiasts an opportunity to own desirable models. With a bit of research, savvy investors can make smart purchases that will retain or even increase their value over time. In this way, they can avoid the initial drop in value that is often associated with buying new.
Despite the overall decline in luxury sales, watches are drawing new interest as fashionable accessories for style-conscious consumers and alternative investments for savvy investors. As a result, waiting lists are long, and secondhand market prices remain strong.
The case thickness, or lug width, is an important dimension for luxury watch collectors to consider when choosing a watch. It is a measurement that represents the distance between a watch’s lugs and can significantly impact how a watch wears on a wrist.
Marketing and advertising may cost more than manufacturing at luxury brands, but it is vital to maintaining the brand image that consumers recognize. Without it, articulating the value of a high-end watch to most consumers becomes challenging. This is especially true for newer customers who may not yet understand what wearing a luxury watch says about their personality or social status.
In the past, luxury watches were often considered status symbols. They could represent the culmination of years of hard work or serve as a mark of refined taste for successful individuals.
Today, many consumers learn about watches for the first time online rather than in store showrooms or auction houses. This has led to a shift toward colorful dials. Consumers can choose the color that reflects their personality, interests, or even their sense of humor.
It is important for watch enthusiasts to consider how a watch’s color can affect their reputation and image. A bold dial color can make a statement or create a negative impression, depending on how it is worn.
A watch’s dial texture adds visual interest and can help a design stand out. Some examples include brushing, which offers a subtle finish that doesn’t detract from the highly reflective markers, or a sunburst pattern that accentuates the lines of the dial.
Other types of textures include guilloche, which is created by using a machine to etch a repeating wave pattern into the dial, and linen, which gives the impression of woven fabric. These designs are often used on dress watches and can be a great way to add a unique touch to a watch.
Luxury watches continue to draw new buyers, including Gen Z and young millennials who see them as status symbols and alternative investments. Forward-thinking brands are exploring ways to engage with these customers by promoting secondhand markets and encouraging price transparency. This strategy allows them to better understand the appetites of these new buyers and develop their own exclusive timepieces.
Vintage watches are attractive to buyers due to their storied histories. In addition, their scarcity drives up prices.
As luxury watch sales grow, many brands have sought to leverage their secondhand market presence. Some have even partnered with secondhand sellers or auction houses. Forward-looking watch companies may also consider implementing an integrated secondhand strategy to extend their brand reach and customer engagement.
As a result, some brands produce models that are built to last. This feature can also impact the resale value of these timepieces. For example, some watch brands offer durable movements that can be repaired or rebuilt over the course of decades. The durability of a watch can increase its resale value, particularly in a secondhand market. This is particularly true for rare models from prestigious brands. These watches can attract savvy investors and collectors alike.