Some watches, like wine, become rarer, more desirable, as they age. But analysing exactly which ones are those takes experience and some measure of help from market leaders. Here’s what you need to understand when investing in pre-owned luxury watches.
By: Jehangir Readymoney, Luxury Watch Expert at AstaGuru Auction House
Posted on: January 18, 2023
Timepiece enthusiasts have been yearning for pre-owned luxury watches for a long time. The demand for pre-owned luxury watches has witnessed exponential growth over the last ten years. Experts have predicted that it will grow further in 2023 in India and internationally as well. The data and trends suggest that the market will witness a substantial increase in pre-owned retailers more than ever, and India is not too far behind. Moreover, quality timepieces have now firmly become a status symbol and an asset class. Promotion of such pieces by social media influencers and contemporary celebrities has also added to the ever-growing popularity of pre-owned luxury watches.
An important example is the recent resale program by legendary watchmaker Rolex. The luxury watch brand has recently announced that it will begin selling second-hand or pre-owned timepieces through 1,816 authorised dealers. The program will commence by allowing six authorised retailers to sell second-hand Rolex watches, and in 2023 the rest of the dealers will eventually be permitted as well.
Previously, it was difficult for buyers to acquire desirable Rolex models from boutiques due to many hurdles. It leads collectors to make these purchases from grey market dealers. However, this has also resulted in challenges for buyers, as they can face exorbitant markups, the risk of being sold fake watches, or an unsavoury buying experience. Nevertheless, Rolex has made a bold move to curb these illegitimate dealings. The outcome of this decision will hope to create a safer environment and seamless experience for customers while buying certified Rolex watches from authorised dealers and curtail unauthorised sales. Still, there are a lot of intricacies in the amended system that need to be understood. Nonetheless, an interesting turn in buying or selling pre-owned Rolex in terms of prices is on the cards.
Brands to consider when investing in pre-owned watches?
Some of the leading brands other than Rolex that are considered good choices in the pre-owned timepieces market are Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, A.Lange & Söhne, MB&F and F.P. Journe. These names have created a market of trust, iconic designs and a cult like fan following at a global level.
What are the current trends in terms of mechanism and design?
All mechanisms are different and unique. My preferential types of movements in timepieces are chronograph and tourbillon complications. These are higher complications which come with higher costs and maintenance. More than the current trend, one should focus on what to keep in mind when purchasing higher complication movements.
In terms of design, steel sports versions, integrated bracelets and vintage art deco styles are in trend. In terms of dials, stone dials, enamel dials, engraved dials, vintage and patina dials are all desirable and what enthusiasts look for nowadays.
Analyse how a timepiece brings value to a collection instead of hastily buying them based on social media trends.
Are pre-owned watches a good investment?
This is perhaps one of the most important questions. Collecting luxury timepieces is much more than an investment, and they are often acquired by passionate collectors for their unique features and beauty. Several important factors should be considered before buying a luxury timepiece. One of the most crucial parts is to do thorough research of your own before making a purchase, weigh out all the pros and cons and consult an expert.
Analyse how a timepiece brings value to a collection instead of hastily buying them based on social media trends. When considering luxury timepieces as an investment, one must remember that only a handful of watches appreciate over time, and there are several risk factors involved. It takes years of experience for any collector to understand the trajectory of the market and acquire a worthy piece. It is also advisable to consult a reputed watch expert to ensure the timepiece is authentic and in a good condition.
Things to consider before buying pre-owned watches.
Seasoned collectors are always on the hunt for unique timepieces. While one may also get connected with the open market network for selling or buying, it is crucial to ensure the authenticity and provenance of the piece. If it is a newer model, it is best to have the warranty card, the box and all the accessories that come with the watch. If it is an older or vintage model, buying it from an auction house will come with some provenance and degree of trust.
If you’re purchasing a luxury brand such as Patek Philippe from elsewhere, you can approach the brand with the model and reference number, and ask for an extract from the archives. Only a few brands offer this, but it is possible.
Condition of the watch is also an important aspect and if possible, the buyer should consult a watch expert who can verify the condition. Most importantly, one should always buy pre-owned timepieces from a reputable seller. From my standpoint, auction houses and authorised resellers are the best places to buy pre-owned luxury timepieces in India and internationally. This is crucial because a watch can be counterfeited/cloned to the highest detail, and watch parts can be substituted with original parts but from a different period. Hence it is of paramount importance that a watch expert analyses the watch to make sure the watch is authentic and all its parts are period-accurate .
Also be on the lookout for timepieces boutiques while travelling, within India or abroad. You never know, you may find a hidden gem!
Jehangir Readymoney is a connoisseur of horology, and a luxury watch expert at AstaGuru, India’s premier auction house, lending his expertise to curate and head the watch & timepiece auctions. He is a prominent member of national & international watch clubs that cater to the watch collectors community where he shares his passion for everything horology related. He is also a part of Red Bar, an international watch club, and serves as a senior member of its Mumbai chapter. An award-winning wedding design specialist as well, Jehangir hosts watch enthusiast group talks & seminars, and owns one of the most desirable watch collections in the country.