Fratello Friday: Which Watch Brands Are Likely to Increase in Value? (Part 2)

Zenith ChronomasterIn case you missed part one of this article, please click here. The basic question is: “What brands offer watches that tend to increase in value over time?” As I wrote last time, there are two answers here, a short version and a long version. The short answer is simple: Rolex and Patek Philippe. The long answer is what I try to cover in this two-part article.

There are a number of watches and watch brands that are likely to increase in value, or at least keep value, over time. To start with the last one, it seems that the all-time classics (or “iconic” watches, if you wish) are the ones that keep their value to a certain extent. Even though some of them can be bought at a bit of a discount, or do not have waiting lists as long as some others do, they have proven to be a stable “investment,” so to speak.  I did some coverage on these all-time classics in part one.

The real question is, which watches that you can buy now (that is, new watches) will become the classics or highly sought-after timepieces of tomorrow.  In order to do that with a high level of certainty, you will probably — as one of our readers commented — need another 10 years to follow these watches on the market.

I always thought that the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 would become a classic, especially since it was followed-up by the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller, a watch that had little to do with its predecessor. Now that Rolex introduced the new Sea-Dweller 116600, the true successor of their Reference 16600 Sea-Dweller watches, I am now fairly convinced that it will negatively influence the growth in value of previous Sea-Dwellers. But let’s keep Rolex (and Patek) out of this discussion, as these brands seem to be quite unique in terms of keeping value.

Rolex Sea-Dweller
Rolex Sea-Dweller

Another watch to keep an eye on is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo,” Reference 15202, and its predecessor, Ref. 14802. In 2012, the Royal Oak “Jumbo” (or “Extra-Thin”) received an update in which the dial was changed to be closer to the original one from 1972. However, Audemars Piguet also changed the bracelet, making it a bit thicker and giving it a different clasp. While the demand for the very old Reference 5402 Royal Oak “Jumbo” remains quite high, I now notice that the pre-2012 Ref. 15202 has gotten a lot of new interest since the upgrade. It can be bought for approximately 55-60% of its list price if you look carefully. Within the last five years, the market price of this particular model has increased quite a bit and my feeling is that it still has not reached its peak.

With a bit of guesswork, and some knowledge about previous events that caused watches to go up in value, I’d suggest keeping an eye on brands that suddenly change or have recently grown in popularity. And this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a fat wallet. Look at Sinn, for example. When the Lemania 5100 movement went out of production, we could all see that the Sinn 142 model was bound to be discontinued (as it was, about 10 years ago). When these watches went out production, they had a price of about $1,600. Now, if you can find a nice one, you’ll have to pay just under $3,000 to get it on the the pre-owned market. The same was happening for one of its other interesting models, the Sinn EZM 1.

Linde Werdelin 3-Timer
Linde Werdelin 3-Timer

If a brand changes its strategy a bit — like, for example, the relatively new brand Linde Werdelin did over the last few years — you might be betting on some of the models that the brand started out with. Models such as the One, Two-Timer and 3-Timer watches can be very interesting to acquire, as they are now still relatively easy to find. Linde Werdelin is still growing quite a bit, doing an amazing job in a higher segment than the one in which it started. It might be the case that some people will go after those early models when the brand starts really taking off. This also goes for other brands that are in a similar flow, of course, i.e., brands that are still in their early days.

High-end watches from independent watchmakers like the very first stainless steel One Hertz from Dutch brand Grönefeld (patriotism alert here) might have also been a good investment, but the truth is that there are only a few people on Earth that play in this niche of expensive, high-end haute horlogerie brands. In case you did obtain one for its original price, be aware that your market will be quite small when you want to re-sell it.

It’s worth keeping an eye on some brands that go through interesting phases, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be one of these smaller, independent brands I just mentioned. What to think of Zenith, for example? What will happen with the new CEO on board? Will the brand grow further and reach new heights? if so, it might be very interesting to take a look at some of the models in its current lineup that are collectible yet might not fit into the new direction the company might be heading.

I didn’t say it would be easy.

Zenith Chronomaster
Zenith Chronomaster

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  1. Grant

    I don’t own any luxury watches and know very little about them, but I was wondering how something that had a finer movement and more gadgets would compare to something that was aesthetically more pleasing in a sense of long-term value?

    I feel when I get to the point of purchasing a high end time-piece I’d purchase something that suited my style or was unique in a design sense (like the Cartier Tank MC Two-tone Skeleton) rather than something like a Rolex for the sake of being a Rolex (not that I’m anti them I am in love with the rose gold Day-Date). I would love a piece that speaks to me conceptually, but at the same time want something that would benefit my nephews when I no longer have need of a watch.

  2. after buying and collecting, what is the best way to dispose of rare valuabel watches and or pocketwatches? if you were going to sell a valuable watch or pocket watch which auction house would be the best? Christies, Southeby’s or Antiquorum? or is there a smarter route?

    • Hello Mark,

      Actually, the best way would be to find an intermediar who can organize a sale between collectors. An auction house is interesting, but there is quite a fee involved for the buyer. If you DO want to sell via an auction house, the three you mention are all fine. Don’t forget about Bonhams.


  3. Douglas

    What do you think of Nomos watches’ I have a feeling they haven’t reached their full potential yet and some of their ltd edition watches may be worth buying.

  4. Robinoz

    As opposed to rises in collector watches, some of the watch making companies are doing well and would be good options for the stock market (if they are listed). For example, the Fossil company is doing well financially and seems to be increasing its market share, not only in watches of which it sells hundreds of thousands annually. It also has other stuff like sun glasses etc.

    Although many younger generations are now using iPods and iPhones to keep track of time (my 12 year old grandson said, “I don’t need a watch Pop, I have my phone”) when I suggested I buy him his first watch, the watch market is still strong.

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