A Beginner's Guide To Investing In Vintage Watches: Part I

A Rare Audemars Piguet Royal Oak "A Series"

I don't buy a watch, I invest in one. Whether I drop a few hundred or a few thousand on a vintage timepiece, I always keep one thing in mind: Appreciation. In all honesty, it can be near-impossible to determine the future value of many wristwatches, but there are several key attributes to look for [in a watch] that separate the record-breakers from the junk-drawer inhabitants.

The Manufacturer

A Steel Patek Philippe Reference 130. Circa 1938. Photograph Courtesy of Matthew Bain Inc.

What's stamped on the dial can make or break a watch's importance,  especially to collectors. Patek, Vacheron, Rolex, and Omega are most widely recognized for their strong results in auctions. Eberhard, Longines, Universal Geneve, and various other smaller manufacturers of chronographs have seen heightened interest too, though these are rare exceptions. My advice: the big brands are great 99% of the time; just don't forget about the small brands, as you never know what they'll become down the road.

Case Metal

An Exceptionally Rare Rolex GMT Master Reference 6542 (Sold For Approximately $7,500 USD Two Years Ago. Now Worth About Seven/Eight Times That Price).

When you're buying a classic sports watch, whether it's a Rolex Sub or an AP Royal Oak, steer clear of anything two tone--it's just a poor investment. On the other hand, two tone can be a wise investment when it comes to Patek and Vacheron, where this metal combo is seldom seen.

Please note that the following applies to Patek's Calatrava only. When you buy a Calatrava and you're spending considerable money, get one in steel. Don't listen to the guys who say a gold watch is two investments in one. They're either unknowledgable or they just want to make a sale.  Platinum and white gold are other alternatives to steel that MAY make you a few more bucks.

You Don't Always Have To Buy What Everyone Likes

A Rare Rolex "Double Swiss Underline" Daytona Reference 6239. Circa 1963.

The Daytona was once Rolex's least popular sports watch; now it's arguably the most collectible watch on the market. How could this be? At the time, industry figures and consumers took a liking to other watches, leaving Rolex's Daytona sales to, well, fail. Years later, collectors finally acknowledged the scarcity and unique aesthetics of the Daytona. Plus, its use by famed racer and actor, Paul Newman, couldn't hurt its appreciation either. This is why THE WATCH ADVISER says, "You don't always have to buy what everyone likes."

I hope you've found my advice to be useful, and have realized that fine watches are one of the best possible investments. It's time to sell that Palm Beach estate, get rid of that Porsche, dump your stocks, and buy yourself a good watch. Wait till next week to read Part II of "A Beginner's Guide To Investing In Vintage Watches."