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Earlier than Shopping for Your Subsequent Watch, Take into account These Insights from a Seller – Robb Report


It’s been an attention-grabbing few years within the watch business to say the least. Taking a look at 2023 alone, Swiss watch exports hit a report $31 billion and Rolex gross sales hit $10 billion for the primary time. Whereas costs fell by about 13 % throughout the board within the secondary market, pre-owned watches proceed to be a greater than $22 billion greenback enterprise with powerhouse manufacturers like Rolex rolling out their very own licensed pre-owned packages—plus, research nonetheless estimate pre-owned fashions will outsell new fashions within the subsequent decade. As well as, the gathering group stays sturdy, significantly within the U.S., which has grow to be an important single-country marketplace for Swiss watches with exports reaching roughly $3 billion final 12 months.

Now, we’re on the precipice of Watches & Wonders, arguably the most important commerce present within the business, and shortly public sale season might be proper across the nook. Earlier than the market turns into inundated with new releases and gross sales, what higher time to have a agency grasp on the very best investments you can also make in your assortment. We sat down with Matthew Bain, an business veteran who’s been dealing watches and consulting main public sale homes like Sothebys and Christies since 1989, to get his tackle the heart beat of the market in 2024.

Who to Watch

If there’s any signal of the power of the gathering group within the present market, it’s the classes which can be performing nicely: independents, problems, and girls’s designs. Every of those areas replicate a real appreciation for the artwork of watchmaking outdoors of passing tendencies.

“Unbiased watchmakers are actually sturdy out there proper now,” confirms Bain. “You used to see a watch from George Daniels perhaps as soon as each ten years, and final 12 months, three or 4 of them got here to public sale. Then there are different extra modern independents like Roger Smith and Philippe Dufour—to see watches that had been made within the final decade rake in virtually 1,000,000 {dollars} is fairly phenomenal.”  

Neo Vintage Rolex SS GMT Master Ref. 16750 Circa 1984

Neo Classic Rolex SS GMT Grasp Ref. 16750 Circa 1984

Matthew Bain

The rise of independents isn’t simply reflective of a renewed curiosity in considerate design and technical innovation. It’s emblematic of a shift within the business as an entire, which is turning into more and more inclusive of newcomers and contemporary views. But, for an business deeply rooted in custom, the previous will all the time stay necessary—even the newer previous. The Neo Classic class has began gaining an increasing number of traction prior to now couple years. It, unsurprisingly, began with Rolex and an elevated demand for fashions equivalent to Submariners and GMTs from the Nineteen Eighties. Now, in keeping with Bain, a brand new aspect of Neo Classic is choosing up momentum.

“There’s one other Neo Classic pattern rising prior to now 12 months,” asserts Bain, “and that’s difficult watches from good names—suppose Breguet with a perpetual calendar or Blancpain with a moonphase from the ’80s and ’90s. There’s not lots of them on the market, however proper now, they’re buying and selling at cheap costs. You may nonetheless discover them for beneath $100,000, which is a good value level—an incredible funding.”

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 2459 in Pink Gold

36mm Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 2459 in Pink Gold

Matthew Bain

Maybe essentially the most underestimated sectors of the watch business have been ladies’s watches and the feminine collector base, however the tides are turning. Bain feels that feminine collectors are a drive to be reckoned with and that ladies’s watches within the secondary market are largely consultant of design completed proper by way of candy spot sizing and timelessness.

“I’ve all the time cherished ladies’s watches,” Bain confesses. “I believe the best watch dimension is from 36mm to 38mm, and 10 years in the past, when the pattern was these massive 41mm or 42mm watches, you needed to look to ladies’s fashions to search out extra accessible proportions which can be much more timeless, not the product of a fad. And girls are good collectors,” he continues, “typically greater than males. They’re not as speculative. They know what they like and have sturdy opinions, so that they’re much less swayed by tendencies, they usually have a tendency to carry their watches longer and journey out shifts out there.”

Situation is King

When shopping for classic or pre-owned, there are all the time a large number of things to weigh into your determination. Nonetheless, from a long-term funding perspective, there’s one explicit factor price contemplating: situation.

“Common high quality, I believe, is struggling throughout the board within the secondary market, so situation is turning into actually necessary,” observes Bain. “Watches in truthful situation are dipping in worth a bit whereas mint situation watches are going to proceed breaking world data.”

Excellent Condition Breitling Ref 817 Chronograph

Wonderful Situation Breitling Ref 817 Chronograph

Matthew Bain

In keeping with Bain, the situation of the watch actually weighs into its worth whatever the model—from business powerhouses like AP or Patek to others like Breitling or TAG Heuer. That mentioned, trying to the pricing of fashions from massive manufacturers is an efficient measure of what’s retaining worth out there.

“Take Rolex for instance: Rolex sport fashions have cooled a bit until they’re mint situation,” shares Bain. “When you discover a mint situation, say Nineteen Fifties GMT or a James Bond mannequin or perhaps a Neo Classic sport reference from the 70s or 80s, the market is absolutely sturdy.”

Excellent Condition Rolex James Bond Submariner Ref. 5508

Wonderful Situation Rolex James Bond Submariner Ref. 5508

Matthew Bain

Developments by way of type, dimension, and supplies will come and go. To some extent, even the recognition of sure manufacturers will fluctuate with the occasions. That mentioned, investing based mostly on situation is all the time a sensible wager, even when you find yourself paying over market worth.

“I wouldn’t be afraid to pay a premium on a watch that’s in an unimaginable situation nor ought to a collector be afraid to try this,” encourages Bain. “In the long term, it’s all the time well worth the premium you pay for a mint situation watch, even when it’s a world report value.”

Developments to Embrace (and Keep away from)

It’s arduous, maybe inconceivable, to speak in regards to the state of the watch market prior to now few years with out acknowledging the manufacturers and fashions which have skyrocketed to report ranges of demand and value. On one hand, this looks like an amazing optimistic—an indication that the business is flourishing. But it surely additionally begs the query, ought to we be skeptical when a selected model or mannequin appears to be performing too nicely? How ought to we regulate our purchasing habits (or not) to a shifting market? In closing, Bain offers us his recommendation on how you can be a severe collector within the present local weather.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref 5402

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref 5402

Matthew Bain

“For instance, Cartier has been on hearth the previous couple years—everyone seems to be asking for Tanks­—however it’s important to watch out of tendencies like this,” Bain cautions. “Look again the AP Royal Oak,” he continues. “For a very long time, demand and in flip costs simply rose and rose and rose. At one level, costs had been near $200,000 for an A sequence 5402—they went up too excessive, too quick—and now they’re price what they need to be. What goes up should come down!” Bain reminds us. “Cartier is nice proper now, however issues will all the time ebb and move. That mentioned, if you wish to purchase a Cartier, you must do it since you actually love Cartier, not as a result of it’s on pattern. My recommendation to younger fans: in case you actually wish to be a severe collector, don’t get caught up within the fads. Watch gathering is a protracted sport.”

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