How to Invest in Watches

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Contributor, Benzinga
July 21, 2022

Investing in luxury items has been trending over the past decade. 

Items like handbags, limited-edition sneakers and so much more have created a large marketplace in recent years, but watch collecting and investing has been around for decades. 

When it comes to watches, there are many factors to consider if you're looking to invest. With so many different brands, styles and materials to choose from, it can be tough to know where to start. And then there are the added considerations of authenticity and resale value.

Fortunately, Benzinga’s got you covered. This article will break down everything you need to know about investing in luxury watches. It will cover the most expensive brands, the types of authenticity to look for and where to find the best deals on high-end watches so you can have confidence you’re making a good investment.

What are the Most Expensive Watch Brands?

If you're going to invest in a luxury watch, make sure you're investing in a brand that will hold its value. Some of the most expensive and sought-after watch brands include Rolex, most widely recognized for highest quality and reliability; Patek Philippe, known for luxury and prestige; Audemars Piguet, valued for Swiss luxury and precision; and Vacheron Constantin, 250-year old Swiss watchmaker. These brands stand out for their history, craftsmanship and desirability among collectors.

Keep in mind, however, that a serious investment in a luxury watch means evaluating the most sought-after models within any given brand. The hottest models for men are typically in the  sports watches category.

You can educate yourself by visiting websites like Hodinkee to learn about what’s new, rare and interesting about luxury watches. 

hodinkee site

What Are the Best Watches to Start Investing in?

There are a couple of brands that you may want to consider when making your first watch investment.

Check out the Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” as a starter piece. Designed as direct descendants of the watches worn by the Apollo 11 astronauts when they landed on the moon in 1969, the Speedmaster series is a solid investment to begin your watch collection. 

The Speedmaster series has evolved into a variety of moonwatch styles over the years. You may be able to find a pre-owned Omega Speedmaster Day-Date Chronograph from $3,000 to $3,500.  Or, you can search for a new model Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 2022 New Release Hesalite 42mm which should cost about $6,000.  

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch 2022 New Release Hesalite 42mm

The Rolex Submariner or Rolex Steel Model 124060 lists for about $9,000 new is also a great choice but can be difficult to find from a dealer because its black dial and stainless steel casing look is so popular. Finding a pre-owned Rolex 124060 could cost you $13,000 or more but is probably worth it since wait lists for a new one can stretch up to a year or more. 

Rolex Submariner or Rolex Steel Model 124060 watch is very popular

What are the Best Places to Buy Luxury Watches?

You have a few options for where to buy luxury watches. You can purchase directly from the brand, from an authorized dealer or on the secondary market.

From the Manufacturer 

This is the most legitimate way to purchase a luxury watch. Purchasing directly from the manufacturer inside a store, boutique or through a website can guarantee you are getting the real thing with the original box, paperwork and packaging. Oftentimes, having the original receipt and paperwork can make a huge difference in price when it comes to resale value. When you purchase direct, you are also likely paying the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the watch. 

Don’t expect to receive any discounts when purchasing directly from the manufacturer, but depending on the market conditions and the demand for that particular watch model, the MSRP of the watch could be a substantially better price than what the watch is trading for on the secondary market.

The top watch brands have opened their own branded boutique shops in locations around the world including hotels, high-end shopping districts and malls. You can find these boutiques listed on their respective brand websites.

Rolex Boutique, Tourneau Westfield San Francisco Centre

Rolex Boutique, Tourneau Westfield San Francisco Centre 

Authorized Dealer

An authorized dealer might be a retail jeweler or department store that has direct connections with the brand. Authorized dealers may sell new or preowned items from the brand. Get in contact with an authorized dealer ahead of time to ensure the watch you are looking for is in stock and that a salesperson with knowledge of the brand is available to walk you through your purchase and authenticate it. 

The serious watch investor will establish a relationship with an authorized dealer or brand boutique by purchasing one or more watches through them. These dealers have exclusive waiting lists for their best customers that alert them when specific models become available and give them early access to examining and purchasing luxury watches.

 In many cases, they also provide special services to clean or maintain your watches and provide warranties and fun branded-swag giveaways. It’s important to recognize that a warranty is not meant to take the place of watch insurance coverage, which you should purchase separately from a specialty jewelry insurance company.

Secondary or Gray Market

On the secondary market, you can find pre owned or vintage watches often at a fraction of the price of a new watch. You can also get access to watches that retailers don’t offer, especially vintage watches that have appreciated in value. 

It's important to be aware of the risks of buying on the secondary market. Make sure you're familiar with the seller and that you're comfortable with the watch's authenticity and condition before making a purchase. 

Some things to ask for when buying a preowned watch: 

  • Overall condition of the watch (scratches, functionality)
  • Service history
  • Original receipt and packaging
  • Certificate of authenticity (check to make sure the model number and serial number on the watch match the certificate information)
  • Whether any aftermarket parts have been added to the watch
  • Have diamonds tested for authenticity 
  • Check for manufacturer stamps and precious metal indicators — there should be stamps on the watch if it’s stainless steel, 14K gold or 18K gold  
  • Ask for a warranty

How to Protect Your Watch Investment

You should get insurance coverage for your luxury watch immediately upon purchasing it. Don’t assume your homeowners policy will cover it because most of these cap coverage for personal possessions like watches at $1,000 or $2,000. You should look for specialty jewelry insurance coverage for your watch. BriteCo, for example, offers watch insurance with worldwide coverage for loss, theft, damage and mysterious disappearance, no deductibles and affordable, monthly pay options. Insurance costs about 0.5% to 1.5% of the appraised value of your watch. You will need to provide a photo of the watch and documentation such as an appraisal, detailed sales receipt and or certificate of authenticity.  

How to Care for Your Watch

If you plan on wearing your watch, you must be extremely diligent about cleaning and keeping it pristine condition to ensure the best resale value. 

Your watch is an important piece of jewelry, and it requires special care to keep it looking its best. Here are a few tips on how to care for your watch:

  • Clean your watch regularly with a soft, dry cloth. Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaners, as they can damage the finish of your watch.
  • If your watch gets wet, dry it immediately with a soft cloth. Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures, as this can also damage your watch.
  • Store your watch in a cool, dry place when you're not wearing it. This will help prevent tarnishing and scratching.
  • Send your watch to a brand service center for professional servicing every five years.

By following these simple tips, you can keep your watch looking new for many years to come.

How to Store Your Watch

If you do not plan to wear your investment, having a safe storage place and keeping it maintained is key. Here are a few tips to help you keep your watch in pristine condition.

First things first: Always store your watch in a cool, dry place. Extreme temperatures can damage the delicate components of your watch, so avoid storing it near heat sources or in direct sunlight. A jewelry box, fabric-lined drawer or safe are good options for storage. If you have the original box, your watch will stay even more protected. 

Next, make sure your watch is protected from scratches and other damage. You can do this by wrapping it in a soft cloth or placing it in a padded case. If you're going to store your watch for an extended period of time, consider using a watch winder to keep it wound and running properly. You can find watch winders and boxes on the web at Wolf1834.  

Finally, have your watch serviced regularly as noted above, by sending it to a brand service center at least every five years. This will help ensure that all the parts are working correctly and that your watch is in good condition. By following these simple tips, you can rest assured that your watch will stay looking great for years to come.

Where to Sell Your Watch 

You have a few options for selling your watch. You can either do it through a pawn shop, an auction site or a luxury watch retailer.

Pawn shops are a quick and easy option, but you won't get top dollar for your watch. Auction sites like eBay can be a good option if you're patient and are willing to let the market dictate the price. Finally, luxury watch retailers will give you the best price but may not be interested in watches that aren't highly sought after. 

The best option for selling your watch really depends on your individual circumstances. Consider all of your options and make the decision that's best for you.

Some examples of secondary market websites for buying and selling watches include:

Watching Your Investment Grow

Investing in watches can be a fun way to get use out of your investment before selling for a higher value. Remember to purchase high quality watches from reputable designers from a legitimate source. Another thing to consider when purchasing a luxury watch is that it may contain precious metals, gemstones, and diamonds, which are almost always likely to have value in any market. Make sure you get it insured for full replacement value through a specialty jewelry insurance company like BriteCo. 

To get started on your watch collection, visit some local retailers to get an idea of which watches you like, then determine their preowned value. You can find pre owned watches online or even ask the salesperson for advice. There are also special interest groups for luxury watches on several social media platforms. If the watch you are after has a history of appreciating in value, you might earn some money on your investment over time. 

About the Author

Dustin Lemick is the founder and CEO of BriteCo Jewelry Insurance and a third-generation jeweler with more than 13 years of retail jewelry experience.