Let's face it, there are A LOT of collectible vintage watches out there: The Daytona, the Speedmaster, the El Primero, the Tank, the Royal Oak, the Fifty Fathoms, the Memovox, and many other "must-have" watches for the established collector. But what if you could only have one watch? A watch that would remain timeless, hold its value, and still possess these traits after sitting in a time capsule for a few decades. This may be an everlasting debate for some, while responses from others may be immediate. And for those who just can't come to that conclusion, I'll explain what makes a watch stand the test of time and what watch I think is worthy of being put into a time capsule.
First of all, the manufacturer of a wristwatch, or any timepiece for that matter, plays the greatest role in its appreciation. For instance, a Rolex will almost always be worth more than, let's say, a Seiko. The Seiko could be a Grand Seiko with an finer caliber automatic movement than the Rolex, but still the Rolex will be worth more because Rolex is written on its dial. That is why many experts in this industry advise on investing in only a handful of brands. Rolex, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Panerai, Omega, and Cartier generally fall into this investment-grade category.
Aside from the brand, one must carefully select which specific reference--or model--is most likely to increase in value. A standard Rolex 1680 (Submariner) is unquestionably worth more than a standard Rolex 1601 (Datejust). Furthermore, a Patek Philippe ref. 570 (Calatrava) is worth more than a Patek Philippe ref. 96 (Calatrava). How does any of this make sense? Firstly, using the Patek example, the 570 is a larger watch than the 96. Also, the 570 was manufactured in an extremely finite quantity and has features, such as stately Breguet numerals, that are fairly uncommon. Therefore, the reference 570 is more scarce than its Calatrava cousin, the reference 96.
As per the Rolex example, the Submariner is overall a more desirable watch. It has been famously used in the early James Bond films and has been on the wrist of countless individuals who've utilize this watch for professional use (diving, etc.). The Datejust sure has a following, but a basic 1601 doesn't draw as much appeal as a 1680 does.
My final point is to buy (or to put into a time capsule) what you like. This unofficial "rule" that I abide by when acquiring watches isn't going to ensure that your watch will be worth more, though it does help. The Rolex Daytona was unbelievably unpopular in the 70's. They could be bought for less than a Datejust. Basically, if you didn't go with what was popular and got yourself a good ole Newman Daytona before it was even called a "Newman," then you'd be in pretty good shape today.
Fun fact: The Datejust was once one of the most expensive watches in the Rolex collection; surprisingly, the Datejust actually cost more than the now-collectible Submariners, GMT Masters, and Explorers.
So what watch would I put in a time capsule? The Rolex Datejust 1601/9. Look it up on Google and you'll find out why:)