When looking to purchase a luxury watch, most of us tend to set our sights pretty high. Like most things in life, the journey to your dream watch is often long and winding. For most people, myself included, it’s not feasible to just go out and buy the watch of your dreams. My original “grail watch” was a two-tone Royal Oak 5402 SA– an absolute dream.
Of course, we always want what we cannot have. Typically, the biggest hurdle to overcome is your budget. What’s more, the most sought-after watches are usually the rarest, meaning it can take quite a while to even find one for sale. So, what steps can you take in the meantime? Can strategically buying and selling intermediate timepieces speed up the process?
I’ve attempted to answer this question using our team’s Chrono24 Watch Collection. Since we need a starting point, let’s say the first watch I buy is an Omega Speedmaster Mark II (as a colleague did at the end of 2016). What steps would I have to take to eventually reach my dream watch? And what experiences would I gain along the way?
To Begin: The Omega Speedmaster Mark II
I personally know several people who have started their watch journeys by purchasing a timepiece from the Omega Mark series. While you’d be hard-pressed to find a Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch model for less than €3,000 ($3,300) nowadays, Mark II watches sell for as little as €2,000 ($2,200). Sure, this watch doesn’t have the NASA stamp of approval like the Moonwatch, but you’re still getting a chronograph with appealing vintage charm. Plus, if you choose a Mark II or V, your watch will even have the same manual caliber.
In terms of value appreciation, the Mark has nothing on the Daytona, but it certainly benefits from a stable Speedmaster market. Depending on your watch’s condition and what’s included (i.e., box and papers), there’s a good chance you will be able to buy a Mark watch now and sell it later at a good price. Back to our example: If my colleague were to list their Mark II today, they’d likely be able to sell it for a few hundred dollars more than they bought it for three years ago.
As a quick side note:It’s important to remember that vintage watches require regular servicing. Depending on the brand and the watch’s condition, you may be able to have your watch serviced by the manufacturer. Omega and Rolex charge between $550 and $1,100 for a full service. You should be aware of this when buying and selling watches. Omega lists their current service prices clearly online, whereas Rolex does not. Let’s assume that your Mark II needs to be cleaned, regulated, and the clasp requires fixing. This would cost you roughly $275, which still leaves you with a solid profit. So, now that you’ve sold your first timepiece, you can move one step closer to your dream watch.
Watch Number 2: Rolex Datejust
Once you’ve sold the Speedmaster Mark II, you might be looking for a watch that can be worn for a nice dinner out but is still suitable for everyday use. An obvious next choice is the Rolex Datejust. Team Chrono24’s Watch Collection features a Rolex 16013, but the 1603 is another popular reference. The Rolex Datejust 1603 has its roots in the 1970s, while the 16013 is from the 80s. Both are available for around €3,000 ($3,300). Of course, the golden rule of watchmaking applies: The better the condition and the more “complete” the accessories, the higher the price.
I bought my Rolex Datejust in early 2017 for €2,800 ($3,075). It was, without a doubt, a very good price for a 16013. If you know the industry a bit, you can typically get better prices from private sellers. However, buyer beware: If you buy privately, there is little you can do if you are unsatisfied with your purchase. To be on the safe side, always do as much research as you can and compare things like reference numbers, serial numbers, and other specifications with the details provided by the seller. It is always worth it!
From the Datejust to the Explorer
Once you’ve had a Rolex on your wrist, it’s hard to go back to anything else. It’s not really surprising considering this Genevan manufacturer’s watches are notoriously good investments and have been for many years. I can’t say whether this will continue to be the case, but it’s a popular topic of discussion in watch forums. I do agree with any critiques that slam Rolex for fueling demand with an (apparent) shortage of certain models. Be that as it may, let’s look at why you should consider exchanging your Datejust for a Rolex Explorer.
The Explorer is still considered a bit of an underdog among Rolex models. However, recent demand for Rolex sports watches has spiked prices across the board. Thus, the Datejust 16013 currently sells for around €3,300 ($3,600) and up, depending on the condition. That’s not bad for a little more than 18 months of ownership. While it’s not quite enough to buy a Rolex Explorer 14270, prices for this model without its box and papers did dip to around €4,000 ($4,400) in the middle of 2018, which makes things a bit more feasible. Prices have since rebounded, especially since popular industry sources, such as Hodinkee and Fratello Watches, have been giving the Explorer some extra attention. I expect this will only further increase demand. The Explorer also seems to be showing up more and more on social media recently – at least I’m seeing it a lot in my feed. I think the reference 14270 is particularly interesting because it was the first “modern” Explorer, but it still retains typical vintage features like the use of the luminous material tritium. In my opinion, it’s the perfect mix of modern and vintage elements.
The Final Step
The Explorer 14270 currently demands around €4,500 ($5,000), making it a solid purchase if you got your hands on one in the middle of last year. We have slowly made our way up the price scale with the last three watches. Where do we go from here? Let’s look at another watch from the Chrono24 Watch Collection: the Rolex Explorer II 216570. From an investment perspective, the Explorer II 16570, the 216570’s predecessor, is looking like the next hot collector’s item. Tritium versions produced between 1989 and 1998 are in particularly high demand. Another attractive alternative might be the rare Speedmaster 145.022 – 69 ST. Owners of this watch have likewise seen some nice appreciation. Regardless, these examples from Team Chrono24’s Watch Collection prove that you can work your way up to buying your dream watch if you make a few strategic moves along the way.
This article isn’t trying to portray buying and selling watches as a way to make easy money; watches are so much more than a place to invest some extra cash. Rather, I attempted to demonstrate how you might be able to gradually move toward more complex and valuable timepieces over time. If you start doing your research and buying and selling select watches, chances are you’ll learn a lot, get a chance to wear a few different models, and hopefully make a good deal along the way. For me, buying and selling is a win-win. Is a stable price or a shot at making a profit an attractive prospect when choosing a watch? Of course! Should it be the sole deciding factor behind your purchase? No. It should never be the only reason you are buying a watch because the market can always change and there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to make a good deal. That said, if you do your research, watch the market, and use tools like the Watch Collection, you might be able to climb the ladder and finally buy that watch you’ve been dreaming of.