Tag Archives: luxury watches

The Growing Appeal of Vintage Watches

Perhaps the fastest-growing segment of the watch collecting arena is the growth in the sales of vintage watches.  Sales of certain rarities in the world of horology have brought record prices in recent auctions, and this shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.

What’s the appeal of buying a vintage watch?  Wouldn’t most buyers be happier buying a new one?

In the case of buying a regular wristwatch, buying a new one makes sense, particularly if you’re interested in something that keeps accurate time.  Watch technology is constantly improving, and watches today are more accurate than watches of a generation ago.

But new watches in the high end of watch collecting – the likes of Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chopard, A Lange & Sohne, Richard Mille, and so on, are not only better than they used to be, but they’re also far more expensive.

This is particularly true in China, which has, in recent years, become one of the world’s largest market for luxury watches.  The Chinese government recently imposed a significant tariff on imported luxury watches in an attempt to encourage Chinese buyers to purchase locally manufactured goods.  This has done some of that, but it has also inspired many buyers to look for second hand vintage watches, which can sell for less than a new one.

For the most part, supply and demand comes into play when it comes to vintage watches.  There are only so many of any luxury watch available for sale, but older ones are going to be more rare, as some timepieces do disappear over time.  If there were 1000 of a particular model made in 1960, there are likely to be considerably fewer of them available today, and even fewer still that are in pristine, collector-quality condition.

Certain models, such as the Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona, were once commodities that no one cared about.  Today, any version of that watch sells for a price that’s well into six figures, and every one wants one.

vintage patek philippeOf course, there’s no way to know which watches are available today that people will want to morrow, but there are several brands, such as the ones mentioned above, that are always in demand and are always relatively limited in production.  Collectors are grabbing those and the prices are rising in response to the increased demand.

This has been reflected in the prices seen at auctions, particularly those by the most reputable of the auction houses.  One of the problems with buying vintage watches is provenance.  It’s not just a matter of making sure that the watch you’re buying is genuine, which is a common problem with Rolex, but ti’s also a matter of making sure that the watch you’re buying is completely original.

Many watches have been modified over the years, and a lot of Rolex watches have been modified, for example, to look like a Paul Newman Daytona when they really started out as something else.  When you’re buying from a reputable source, you’ll have a better chance of knowing that you’re getting the real thing when you pay. Of course, you’ll also likely pay more, as you’re paying for the expertise of the auction company’s experts.

All of this can still turn out to be a good investment, as prices on older, interesting watches from famous makers are rising daily.

An Interesting Watch from a Tennis Legend

There’s seemingly no end to the number of companies that are launching new ventures in the wristwatch market.  You can usually find them on Kickstarter, and we have to admit that many of them are pretty interesting.

Most are even reasonably priced, which is always a bonus.

Avantist Legend Series Martina Navratilova 1987Others are looking at the luxury market, with pieces in the $5000+ range designed to attract attention.  Some do it with elaborate complications, and others do it by attaching themselves to famous people.

In the case of new watchmaker Avantist, they’re taking the latter approach with a new watch that is tied to tennis great Martina Navratilova.  Their new watch, named the Avantist Legend Series Martina Navratilova 1987, will sell for $8000, which is expensive, but not outrageously so, by luxury watch standards.

Of course, Ms. Navratilova will be helping to market the watch that bears her name, but her involvement is more than that.  This particular watch will have enclosed within it a piece of string from the tennis racket that she used to win her final Wimbledon title in 1987.

As there is only so much string on a tennis racket, this edition will naturally be limited.  In the case of this particular model, the edition will be limited to just 30 pieces.

It’s a nice watch with a Swiss-made ETA Caliber 2892 movement.  The watch includes a titanium case, sapphire crystal, and displays the time of day in hours, minutes and seconds, as well as the date.

The face of the watch is shaped like a tennis ball and around the dial is a small inset window in which a piece of the string from the racket is inset.  You have to look to see it, and it’s not easy to see even in the best photos.

But we’ll take their word for it that it is there.

The nice thing about this watch, at least from Avantist’s perspective, is that the ties to Martina Navratilova ensure that not only will the watch be of interest to watch collectors, but it will likely be of even more interest to collectors of sports memorabilia.

This ensures that the watch will sell out, that everyone will be talking about it, and that Avantist will get a lot of publicity out of the deal.

Your $8000 purchase price, by the way, includes an opportunity to meet Martina Navratilova in person.

No word yet on whether the watch is actually yet available, or if it has already sold out.  The Avantist Website is still rather minimalist, and it will not have a formal “opening,” if you want to call it that, until later this month.  For now, all one can do is subscribe to their mailing list.

Nevertheless, the upcoming release of the Avantist Legend Series Martina Navratilova 1987 seems to be attracting a lot of attention, partly because of the interesting marketing ploy and partly because Ms. Navratilova always seems to be a welcome figure in the news.

What we are particularly interested in, however, is to see what Avantist is going to do next.  Launching a company with a gimmick watch is one thing, but you can’t stay in business on such products.

What they do next is going to be the interesting thing to see.

Simplicity is Back

For years, watch manufacturers have been trying to out do themselves when it comes to technical innovation.  It’s not enough to have a watch that tells the time; you also have to provide multiple time zones, the tidal schedules, the phases of the moon, the barometric pressure, and whatever else a company’s engineers can dream up to stick inside a watch case.

simple watchThen you end up with something like the Patek Philippe Grand Complication, which is lovely, but so hard to make that there’s only one, and it wouldn’t matter, anyway, because if there were more than one, you still couldn’t afford it.

Watch fans love these kinds of timepieces, though they don’t necessarily want to wear them or carry them around.  They want to own them, and talk about them, and they’re great for a company’s public relations department.

At the end of the day, however, watch companies are in the business of selling watches, and ideally, selling a lot of them.  Elaborate timepieces with other-worldly complications are great for publicity, but you couldn’t sell a thousand of them if you wanted to.

People want watches they can wear every day.  They want watches that are practical for use at work, or at the store, or on a night out on the town.

They don’t want watches that have to spend time in the shop every six months for elaborate (and expensive!) maintenance.

That’s why few people were truly surprised at this year’s Baselworld convention in Switzerland to see that the sort of watch that a lot of major manufacturers were showing off had a feature that has seemingly disappeared in recent years.

Three hands only.

The industry seems to have scaled back a bit in the last year or two, partly due to a slump in the sales of high end watches and partly due to a perceived glut in the market.  In times of turmoil, it’s best to go back to what you know best, and that’s your basic, time-only watch with hands for the hour, the minute and the second.

Such watches will never go out of style; they evoke the basic necessity of a timepiece – they tell the time.  They don’t tell other stories, or draw attention to themselves for additional faces, hands, buttons, lights, wheels, tourbillons or any other gadget.

They just tell the time.

That said, they’re not necessarily simple watches.  Movements are constantly being refined and there’s a new trend in recent years to make watches as thin as possible.  People are looking for simple looks with oversized faces and thin cases.

Companies are complying and the result at Baselworld was a showing of tasteful and attractive, yet simple-looking timepieces that will look good today and will likely look terrific and continue to run well thirty or forty years from now.

Such watches may resemble the sorts of timepieces your grandfather bought back in the day, but rest assured they’re more accurate, built quite a bit better, and are far less likely to give you trouble of any kind than those timepieces of a generation or two ago.

Simple is back.