Keep tabs on these blinged-out timepieces, as time will add to their value and your return on investment.
Imagine there are three investment options in front of you right now: stocks, gold and a Rolex Submariner. Which do you think is the most prudent investment? Sure, stocks and gold are both excellent investment options when it comes to preserving wealth and ensuring long-term wealth growth, but the Rolex Submariner is found to outperform them, winning the throne of the most lucrative investment of the three.
Indeed, high-end watches no longer stay confined to collectors’ vaults nowadays. Many people are stocking up on luxury timepieces because most of them hold substantial investment value, even pre-owned ones. The three leading watch auction houses—Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s—netted nearly US$40 million from watch auctions over the weekend in the second week of December last year, all thanks to the profound investment value of luxury timepieces.
If you want to try your hand at investment watches this year but are unsure about where to begin, this article is a must-read as we share our lowdown on the best luxury investment watches of 2023.
Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 16710
Rolex GMT-Master II
Rolex has remained at the forefront of the luxury watch industry for decades. Though many people deem the rare Submariner (ref. 116610LV) a solid investment pick, it’s not the only valuable collection Rolex offers. Known as “the cosmopolitan watch”, the GMT-Master II is another investment target for many Rolex aficionados.
The GMT-Master II was unveiled in 1982 as the heir to the GMT-Master. To simplify configuration, Rolex enabled users to set the hour hand independently of the minute hand and the 24-hour hand on the GMT-Master II.
Although Rolex has infused the GMT-Master II with more innovative technologies over time, its iconic appearance has remained mostly unchanged. GMT-Master II features a rotatable two-color 24-hour graduated bezel insert, which comes in various color combinations, ranging from blue and red (GMT-Master II “Pepsi” ref. 126710) to black and red (GMT-Master II “Coke” ref. 16710). While color is part of the watch’s aesthetics, it’s also a functional feature that allows travelers to read the time in two time zones simultaneously.
Given that the GMT-Master II collection features an array of bezel colors, bracelets and more, the price of each timepiece varies. That said, for your reference, a regular GMT-Master II watch (not a limited edition) is priced at over US$12,000 on Sotheby’s website. Limited editions, like the GMT-Master II “Sea King” (ref. 116710LN), multiply in price, setting you back more than US$43,000. Whether you’re investing in the exclusive variants or not, the GMT-Master II is a solid investment pick as its price has appreciated remarkably in the last few months, and its value is expected to stay on an upward trajectory.
IWC Ingenieur SL “Jumbo” ref. 1832
IWC Ingenieur SL “Jumbo”
Introduced in 1976, IWC Ingenieur SL “Jumbo” is the third creation of the famous Gérald Genta’s trilogy of sports wristwatches, behind the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus. Having designed the Royal Oak octagonal and the Nautilus square, Genta made the Ingenieur round, establishing its identifiable look.
As the German name indicates, the Ingenieur was designed for engineers. This timepiece features a 40-mm round case, an integrated bracelet and a black or gray dial with a pattern reminiscent of the graph paper engineers use. Under the hood, IWC equipped the watch with the anti-magnetic, self-winding IWC caliber 8541ES, which gives the watch robust resistance to high magnetic fields engineers work in.
The Ingenieur SL “Jumbo” is currently listed at over US$9,600 on Sotheby’s website. Despite being less popular than the Royal Oak and the Nautilus, the Ingenieur SL “Jumbo” is set to grow gradually in price due to its special place within Genta’s trilogy of watches and its versatility.
Cartier Santos ref. W2SA0006
Debuted in 1904, the Cartier Santos is a luxury wristwatch tied to aviation. Pocket watches had been invented then, but pilots could not risk dipping into their pockets to check the time because they needed both hands on the controls to operate the airship. In light of that, Louis Cartier, the founder of Cartier, was commissioned to create the world’s first functional pilot’s watch for his friend Alberto Santos-Dumont, the first aviator to circumnavigate the Eiffel Tower in an airship.
The Santos watches on sale today are variants of the original prototype from 1904. Still, they are snapped up for their iconic design. In addition to having a symmetrical square bezel, the Santos also sports an uncluttered white dial with black Roman numerals, making the timepiece an icon of simplicity. The exposed screws on each side of the bezel, on the other hand, give the watch a robust appearance.
Cartier’s premium craftsmanship made the Santos a sought-after timepiece, and it was marketed at astronomical prices until 1978. That year, the newly-onboarded Marketing Manager of Cartier, Dominique Perrin, reimagined the first Santos watch and set his sights on launching a more affordable Cartier sports watch. This move has ushered in the era of the Santos-Dumont watch—one of the most coveted wristwatches under the brand now.
The most affordable Santos watch on offer comes in at US$6,800 (a medium model). If you opt for the larger model, it will cost you as much as US$66,500. Regardless of which model you settle on, the story and legacy the Santos carries make it hold substantial investment value, and you can expect its price to rise over the course of time.
Investing in watches is similar to betting on stocks and bonds; every decision you make entails risk. To minimize investment risk and maximize your return on your watch investment, you should keep an eye on market trends. If there’s a market for what you have, putting your timepiece up for resale can earn you an enormous return on investment.
Also, before handing out your money for a timepiece, consider its brand and model. Models dropped by leading luxury watch brands, such as Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, are always better investment options because their brand names are synonymous with excellence. Investing in them is like investing in quality, which is as timeless as their design. Please note, however, that there is no absolute return on watch investment, so please make investment decisions based on your discretion.
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