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Watch Club’s Top 10 Tips For Investing in Vintage Timepieces

After compiling our own Top 10 Luxury Watches For Him last month, we decided to delve a little deeper, and find out what it is that real watch-lovers and collectors should be looking out for when hoping to invest and buy. We spoke to the experts at Watch Club, an historic company which specialises in rare and vintage timepieces from its location in The Royal Arcade on London’s prestigous Old Bond Street, and asked one of its horology experts, Chris Youe, to give us his advice on the things to look out for when investing, and which watches are worth buying now. Read on to find out what he had to say…

The top five things to look for when investing in a rare or vintage timepiece:

1. Condition
Condition is trickier to assess than it sounds: any watch can be brought to life by a competent watch maker but at what cost? Polishing a watch is quite literally a war of attrition, material is ground away to the level of the deepest scratches in order to present a smooth polished surface. Polishing might give the appearance of a new watch but when the broad, sharp lugs of a vintage Sub become thin and rounded or the crisp, angled bezel of a Royal Oak becomes smooth and softened, they loose their life, their character and ultimately their value. Pay attention to the shape and feel of the watch more than minor scratches that can be carefully removed as you wish.

2. Originality
Harder to spot than condition, is how original the watch is. It might seem attractive to have a watch where the manufacturer has changed patinated hands or bezel inserts for a set of brand new ones, however there is a big discrepancy in prices between pieces fitted with new crisp hands and dials, and those fitted with slightly discoloured but all original components.  Rolex notably will fit watches with so-called ‘Service dials’, identical to the untrained eye but subtle typographical differences can affect the price you achieve in the future as collectors crave originality above all else.

3. Complication
Some of the watches that have historically proved the strongest investments over the years have been complications. Fashions and styles evolve over the years but a good complication from a respected manufacturer will always stand on its own merits. A tourbillon is a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar is a perpetual calendar and those technical achievements can never be taken away. The interest in complications has been consistent throughout the history of watch making and is a very safe bet for the future.

4. Providence
‘Box and Papers’  – magic words to collectors. To think of a watch’s original papers as its birth certificate is an entirely valid comparison. It not only proves the watch’s origin and provides a solid lead as to its authenticity but begins the watch’s story of ownership. Unlike Rolex, many watches are difficult to date precisely and directly through serial numbers, so the papers provide important clues as to its age, history and where to start the next stage of your research. As such they always command a healthy premium over their non-papered brethren.

5. Person
Not applicable to buying at auction but the most important thing to ‘buy’ is the person on the other side of the counter. Whilst a reputable dealer may seem to be a more expensive way to buy a vintage watch, you are buying far more than just their watch. You are buying into the years of experience within their business, the hours of research put into every watch that’s been through their hands and importantly you are buying into their reputation. A good watch dealer should offer you a guarantee of authenticity, a warranty on the workings of the watch and be very happy to buy the watch back from you in the future!

Armed with these top tips, see which timepieces Youe holds in highest esteem, with his recommendation for the top five watches to invest in now:

1. Patek Philippe 5070

Patek Philippe 5174
Patek’s quintessential chronograph, the 5070 is a watch that simply ticks every box. It’s presented in an extra-large (for Patek!) case and houses horology’s most popular complication, the chronograph. Since the 5070’s launch in 1998 there have been four variants of this exceptional watch before it was discontinued in 2010, with the platinum version only in production for two short years. The combination of a beautiful watch, in a modern size with a short production run has meant that prices for 5070 chronographs have climbed steadily and reliably.

2. Rolex ‘Zenith’ Daytona

Rolex 3883
The first modern Daytona is the watch that really made the cosmograph the legend it is today. Presented as a major overhaul to Rolex’s ‘Cosmo’, the 16500 series used Zenith’s highly-respected El-Primero as a base for itssignature chronograph line, a collaboration that was only in place until Rolex developed its own in-house 4130 calibre. Waiting lists for the watch increased as meteorically as the prices, until Rolex ramped up production with the current 116520 model. Prices for good examples of the Zenith watches are commanding larger and larger premiums over their in-house counterparts with no slowdown in sight.

3. Vintage GMT

Rolex Pepsi 4679

Under-valued for years, the humble Rolex GMT-Master seems to be coming of age. The boldly-coloured bezels of the ‘Pepsi’, ‘Coke’ and ‘root beer’ variants of Rolex’s original pilot’s watch seem to be striking a chord with collectors and, as Rolex has now switched to the monochrome black ceramic bezels, the classic GMT models are the only way to inject a bit of colour into a Rolex sports collection. Pay special attention to interesting ‘quirks’ in the production over the years, like the charmingly named ‘fat lady’, the ‘Cornino’ or the salacious ‘nipple dial’.

4. Patek Philippe 5970

Patek Philippe 5030

The universally-revered 5970 was only in production for a few years and very few of these magnificent perpetual calendar chronographs ever left the factory. The 5970 remains one of the most important watches you will ever see peeking under a gentleman’s shirt cuff, and anyone lucky enough to own one can rest assured their exquisite investment is only going in one direction…

5. Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

Rolex 4906

The Rolex 16600 Sea-Dweller was always sold in far smaller quantities than its more commercial brother, the Submariner, but when Rolex discontinued its professional divers’ watch in favour of 2008’s more ‘blingy’ Deepsea, demand immediately shot through the roof. Whilst the initial flurry of interest has settled now, prices for this important piece of Rolex history are holding steady and look set to be a good and affordable investment for the long term. Be sure to pick up a complete set where possible with its box, papers, dive tables, anchor and bracelet tool.

Chris Youe, Watch Club

Chris Youe is a Sales Associate for Watch Club. If you would like to speak to him or any of the expert team at Watch Club about investing or buying in more detail, you will find the shop located at 4 & 5 The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4SD. Alternatively, visit the websiteemail directly, or call +44 20 7495 4882. 




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