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Collecting watches | Updated: 9:10:53 PM, Thursday May 30, 2013
By Anthony Black Collecting watches

While watches can make beautiful timepieces, they can also be a rewarding investment. But knowing what pieces to buy is a major part of the good investment

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While watches can make beautiful timepieces, they can also be a rewarding investment. But knowing what pieces to buy is a major part of the good investment jigsaw puzzle.

Demand exceeding supply for a collectible generally lifts its value over time. To enlighten those interested in watches from an investment perspective, long time watch lover and retailer Ronny Wachtel shares his insights.

Wachtel, of Sydney Vintage Watches, says Swiss made timepieces attract serious collectors and the well off who want to wear the best around their wrists.

“Swiss made watches have a long standing reputation for quality,” Wachtel says. “The best components go into these watches, so they can last a very long time. Swiss watches are the best in the world. Swiss made is brand power when it comes to beautiful and quality timepieces.”

Wachtel has put together a list of watches that he believes make good long-term investments. He has focused on second hand watches because he believes that’s where most gains can be made. New watches depreciate to a point and then tend to rise as they become increasingly rare. He says his forecasts are relatively conservative.

Rolex Submariner

Rolex Submariner

Rolex Submariner Reference 16800 – Stainless Steel, 1984

Rolex enjoyed a shot in the arm in terms of publicity when actor Sean Connery, as James Bond, wore the Rolex Submariner (6538) in the 1964 film Goldfinger. The watch was also the choice of sportsmen and divers. It now sells for more than $40,000 and its value continues to appreciate as there are very few left in the world.


For a more modest amount, the Rolex Submariner (version 5513) sells for $4900 at Sydney Vintage Watches.

“Its highly regarded by collectors for its performance,” Wachtel says. He believes the same watch should fetch about $7500 in five years time.

Panerai Luminor (Base Pam 112)

According to the company’s website, Panerai’s watches are a natural blend of Italian design, Swiss technology and a passion for the sea.

Wachtel says Panerai watches were issued to Italian divers from about 1930s onwards.

“Today, these watches have an obsessive cult following,” Wachtel says. “I know guys who spend so much of their time and money just chasing down these watches.

“Today, the Base Pam 112 sells on the second hand market for similar or even higher prices than its original retail price. They’re hard to get because collectors don’t like giving them up. We would love to get more.

“We have sold six of this model in the past two years. The longest we’ve ever had them in the shop window is two days. Now we have a waiting list of at least 30 people. Some collectors get upset because they’re not higher up the list, but what can you do?”

Wachtel says a good quality watch sells for about $4500. He expects the same watch, if cared for, to fetch beyond $6000 within five years.

Omega Speedmaster

Omega Seamaster

Omega Speedmaster 321 – Stainless Steel, 1967

The Speedmaster (professional reference 105.012) was made famous by NASA’s Apollo program in the 1960s. Wachtel says astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, of Apollo 11, are widely credited with wearing their Speedmasters on the moon. The pre-moon series are popular, particularly movement reference numbers, the 321 and 861.

Wachtel says an 861 selling today for between $3000 and $4000, depending on the condition, should rise in value by about 40 per cent within five years. The 321 selling for between $4000 and $5000 today should experience similar percentage gains.

Omega Seamaster dress watches

These 1950s and 1960s classics attract new collectors because the retail prices are relatively modest compared to top end timepieces. Wachtel says watches in good original condition sell for between $1000 and $1500. Values should rise about 50 per cent in the next five years.

“The watch to own in the 1950s and 1960s was an Omega” Wachtel says. “Omega was the undisputed number 1. It had the marketing, the presence and, above all, the quality. Rolex didn’t have the finish of an Omega back then.”

Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona has long been associated with actor Paul Newman because his love for car racing before he died in 2008. Wachtel says the so-called Newman Daytonas (for example reference number 6239) are extremely rare and sell for prices in excess of $50,000.

But Wachtel sells later models (reference number 16520), using a base movement made by the Zenith watch company between the late 1980s to 2000. He says that beyond 2000, Rolex decided to make its own base movement. Today, Wachtel sells these watches for between $10,000 and $13,000.

“I expect they should rise in value by more than $2000 in the next five years,” Wachtel says. “Collectors want them.”

Breitling Navitimer Chronograph

Among historians, Swiss company Breitling is known for introducing the slide rule watch in the early 1940s. The Navitimer Chronograph was designed with pilots in mind that enabled relatively fast mathematical conversions for distances, weights (kilometres, nautical miles, pounds, kilograms, etcetera) and locations. Wachtel says watches from the 1960s and 1970s sell today for between $2500 and $4000. Values should rise by about 30 per cent or more in the next five years.

General advice

Wachtel says while investing in watches can be rewarding, the collecting industry can be fickle and values can vary depending on a myriad of factors, such as rarity, demand and supply and currency fluctuations. There’s no substitute for experience, so Wachtel advises novice collectors to do their homework and seek expert advice.

“Like anything, the watch collecting industry is specialised and the inexperienced and ill-informed can lose money if they buy the wrong pieces,” he says.

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Anthony Black Anthony Black is a long-standing journalist, having worked in newspapers for 23 years. He was the Sunday Herald Sun’s finance editor for eight years and his reports were published in News Limited papers across Australia. Since 2008, he has been a freelance journalist and a public relations consultant. He interviews company chief executives and also writes about the Australian sharemarket and personal finance issues. Share this article |


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