It’s worth noting that watch collecting is not the same as investing in the stock market where you can easily plan out how to buy low and sell high to profit from your initial purchase. There are many factors that influence the future value of your watch, which means you cannot accurately calculate a return on investment. Here we outline those key determining factors and share our best shopping tips for timepieces that will best retain value.
There are several watch brands that are consistently in high demand. In turn, collectors and watch enthusiasts are willing to pay top dollar for a pre-owned brand-name watch, and this steady interest effectively closes the gap between the retail price and the resale price.
Patek Philippe, Rolex, A. Lange & Sohne, Vacheron Constantin, and Jaeger-LeCoultre are brands that retain the most value of its full retail price. For instance, if a Patek Philippe watch retails for $15,000, its resale value will likely fall somewhere around $12,000. This means it retained about 80% of its original value—and that is actually one of the strongest retention rates for watches.
That said, if you purchase a pre-owned Patek Philippe watch, you will not necessarily enjoy that 80% retention rate but you will avoid incurring that initial and staggering 20% resale value drop that comes with simply walking out the store doors. Therefore, we advocate for, whenever possible, shopping pre-owned watches over out-of-the-box models.
Under those core watch brands, there are key models that most likely will keep their resale value:
Some other significant models from brands not listed above include:
The classic design and timeless appeal of these styles means you will have an easier time finding an interested buyer. And if we speak in broad strokes, for models not listed here, watches of an average case size, with an automatic Swiss movement, and made of quality and durable materials (like stainless steel) are more likely to retain a higher resale value. Alternatively, more elaborate complications may appeal to a smaller segment of watch collectors, which means it may take longer to resell and negatively influence its resale value.
There is far less demand for pre-owned women’s watches, so the resale value is much lower compared to men’s watches.
That said, when shopping for a women’s watch to later resell, opt for a very simple and timeless design like a Cartier Tank watch which retains its value well. Flashy watches are usually too trend-driven and, if the fad fades before you are able to resell it, can become very difficult to unload.
Generally speaking, the newer the watch, the less time it has had to depreciate and the closer its resale price will match its retail price. Like investing in stocks, it is difficult to predict which contemporary or recently released models will appreciate in value. It takes about ten years minimum for a watch to appreciate in value. That is also assuming the watch is kept in perfect condition and, like the stock market, you buy and sell at just the right time.
There is currently a high demand for increasingly valuable vintage watches. As watch collecting has become a serious practice, collectors and enthusiasts alike are willing to pay a substantial amount for a rare or novel vintage watch.