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Vintage watches: sometimes a good investment – always unique stories

Bert Buijsrogge
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Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref 2499 Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref 2499,
Bert Buijsrogge

Nowadays, there is little to no interest being paid on bank savings accounts; rates of less than 1% are nothing new and don’t really encourage saving. This may be one reason that the demand for luxury items has skyrocketed in the past years, thus increasing their value more and more. Whether it’s real estate, fine wine and spirits, classic cars, or vintage watches, everything seems to be overvalued if demand exceeds the limited supply.

Rare and expensive

To give you a few examples, a friend recently sold his Porsche 911 GT2 and was offered more than he had paid for the car a few years before. This, even after he had enjoyed it over the years, putting on a fair number of kilometers, both on the street and on the race track — and that’s “just” a modern Porsche. If you look at the prices of older cars, they are even higher since the production numbers were much smaller than they are today.

Think of the legendary Mercedes 300SL, for example. There were only around 3,200 ever built and each one goes for over one million dollars even though the original retail price was roughly $10,000. Those turned out to be quite the investment! Certain whisky could make you anywhere from 7-10% gains per year. Similarly, the prices of vintage watches like the Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona and the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700 have gone through the roof in the past years.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman, Image: © Bert Buijsrogge

If we are being realistic, we’d have to admit that these extreme examples are only relevant for the rich and ultra-rich. I know many people with very exotic watches, but I don’t know anyone that has a 300SL parked in his garage. As with any market price, value is determined by supply and demand as well as quality and completeness of product. You can imagine that any of the aforementioned items will have a greater market value if they are in mint condition and as complete as possible.

Unique stories

Luckily, there are still fantastic vintage watches to be had for realistic prices. Compared to new watches, vintage timepieces will always offer you a little something extra as each watch comes with its own individual story. Though, you may not always be able to learn it. Since a vintage watch will have been worn a lot throughout the years, it will likely have unique signs of wear and tear. These can be anything from minor nicks and scratches, to a faded dial color, or the documentation that’s delivered with purchase.

Rolex Submariner 5513

Rolex Submariner 5513, Image: Auctionata

Depending on your personal taste and preferences, finding the perfect vintage watch can be an adventure in its own right. My first vintage watch was a Rolex Submariner Ref 5513 from the 60s. I couldn’t have been happier when I bought it and it turned out to be the watch on my wrist when my daughter was born. It’s those special moments that are never forgotten by watch enthusiasts. However, when I started learning more about my watch over the years, I realized it had been polished quite a bit and several parts had been replaced; this took some of the the enjoyment out of it for me. After selling my first Submariner, many more vintage watches were bought and sold. Each and every time I was looking for a better-quality watch in more original condition. In the end, just a few vintage timepieces remained in my collection.

Hidden treasures

It really comes down to finding that perfect watch in a price range that fits your taste and budget, no matter how many zeros there are in the price tag. Hunting for a vintage watch that you want to add to your collection or one that you want to wear on a daily base is still a great part of the fun. Many people I know, including myself, would say the same. The more specific your requirements, the harder it will be to find that perfect watch, however, you can do it if you have some patience, look far and wide, and know a fair number of people in the watch industry.

Apart from the exotic and well-known vintage watches that come with hefty price tags, there are plenty of interesting watches out there that are still relatively undiscovered; brands like Enicar, Gallet, Wakmann, Wittnauer, or Nivada, for example. These are all great mechanical watches that have rich histories, are still very reliable, and can be worn on a daily basis. Their marks and age add a lot of extra character, something that you won’t get in a brand new “off-the-shelf” watch from your local authorized dealer.

Read more on vintage watches here:

Affordable Vintage Dress Watches

Vintage Diving Watches

Vintage Chronograph Collecting

Vintage Military Watches

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