This post I’ll be fine-tuning in the future – consider it a draft. But being at this for a while, it’s something that I’ve noticed and feel should be posted – if only on my personal blog. Behold: the stages in Rolex appreciation. Where do you stand?
At this stage, our subject -let’s call him Freddy- doesn’t know anything about watches. He’s a n00b, a newbie, not introduced into the Wonderful World of Watches at all. Freddy does know of Rolex though – they are the most expensive watches out there. They’re simply the best.
Freddy has begun to develop an interest in watches. Rolex is still number 1, but he has come to know a few other brands. Rolex does have a few competitors – there’s Omega, perhaps he has read about JLC, IWC and Panerai. There are other good watches out there. Contrary to his former beliefs, there are even watches priced higher than Rolex! WOW – who would’ve thought!
Freddy considers himself somewhat of a horologist. A cognoscenti. Freddy feels he knows watches. Reading blogs, browsing the forums. And he feels a Rolex isn’t all that impressive. They produce almost a million watches a year – how is that for exclusivity? They don’t do perpetuals. No repeaters. No tourbillons. Every other schmuck with a bit of money wears one. They’re obnoxious. Freddy thinks that Rolex is too pedestrian and timepieces by other brands display his wealth of knowledge on horology, his membership of the in-crowd, to a much bigger extend.
Whilst reading more and more, and getting immersed in the subject to the point of no return, Freddy begins to question his stage 3 beliefs. Yes, there are many other watches out there. Many are much more complicated. Much more expensive and impressive. Many will attract more attention at the WIS GTG’s he’s begun to attend. But at the same time, he’s noticing that a few of these others seem to break down on him. Depreciate in value beyond the reasonable. Freddy starts to question the stories told by the manufacturers marketing departments. Is Rolex really all that bad?
Freddy set aside his prejudices and went out and bought himself a Rolex. After all, what’s all the fuss about? After a while, his other watches are slowly getting less wrist time. Why? His Rolex runs like a champ. He doesn’t fear damaging it when knocking it about in daily life. Hey, it’s a pretty good watch. Good value too compared to many of the other brands too. Many of them boast their manufacture status, but is any of them really as in-house as his Rolex?
The Rolex appreciation starts to develop further. Are complications all that important? When reading up, he starts to appreciate the no-nonsense mentality of Rolex – bulletproof watches, built to last. And while not complicated per se, they do seem to have played a pivotal role in making wristwatches suitable for daily life, with their automatic winding, superb sealing of the crown and useful -though small- complications. Freddy finds out that they have been worn by many professionals in need of an über-dependable watch – amongst others the divers of COMEX, Sir Edmund Hillary, the Royal Navy.
Freddy starts to discover the intricacies of vintage Rolex. What starts with the Red Submariner and Double Red SeaDweller seemingly knows no end when he dives into big crowns, early chronographs,, rivet bracelets and Paul Newman, Sigma Stella, Serpico Y Laino and Arab-special order dials. Rolex is king. Is there any other brand out there that really matters Freddy? It seems to him that a life of collecting could easily be spent with just this one brand. The crown is there for a reason.
Wow. These rare Rolexes do command deep pockets. Freddy spent all his money on 5514, 6538, 6239, perhaps even a rare 6238 black dial, a Qaboos 1665 or FAP Newman. He side-stepped and bought himself an all-white-gold 1601 and a blue stella 1803. But the same money could’ve bought him a few perpetual calendar chronographs by Patek. Is it really worth it? Freddy feels lost.
I love my classics. Rolex, Patek, and Speedmasters in particular. A beautiful 6605, 1802, 5504 or 2998? Sign me up any day. But often I feel that many (would-be?) collectors take this little thing of ours way to serious. There is little room for laughter in their investment- and prestige-focussed minds. Why so serious? It is still a hobby right? Any collection should feature should feature a watch that’s bought just for fun – if only to take the edge off. Below a few stellar candidates. Moderation is key though – there’s a thin line between fun and plain wrong.
Any model will do. My weapon of choice is the Krono Bauhaus.
Disney-themed preferred. Gerald Genta is one of the all-time greats when it comes to watch design, so the name doesn’t hurt. Since the days of Ingersoll Disney watches have been a think. Jump hour is a cool complication. And they’re just plain fun.
Bubble. The weirder the better.The skeleton is interesting from a horological point of view, while the ones featuring lucifer, jokers and skulls are great conversation-starters.
SevenFriday / Dietrich
Cheap thrills, to be had new. A new niche in the making – focus on design while manufactured in Asia without hiding it.
The one with the globe. What is it, the 1521 or something like that? Exceedingly weird and unusual.
There can be only one: the Seamaster Chrono-Quartz ‘Albatros’. So ugly it’s intriguing. The Snoopy Speedy might be considered, although this one has a bit too much of real collectors potential and pedigree to be considered in this list. Non-cognoscenti might see it as fitting though. Moontime customs would be better candidates.
Skull Bang. Decent in size and height and ROCK ‘n ROLL! Don’t overdo it – no diamonds, no tourbillons please.
Cazzomir. Find one – I challenge you!
Every now and then I’ll be sharing some thoughts and ramblings on watch collecting and trading. Most likely these will be completely random – there is no big story or agenda. No pictures either.
Modern watches and the search for in-house (so-called manufacture) movements
In the last decade -or even two- there has been an increasingly high focus on in-house movements – something that is highly praised and seen as a big plus. I don’t necessarily share these sentiments to say the least. Why?
I DON’T LIKE THE BIG COSTS AND EVEN BIGGER WAITS OF REPAIRS! I don’t want to send in my watches to the manufacturer. I love the fact that I can bring in my watches to my local and trusted watchmaker, who is able to service them for a decent price in a reasonable amount of time. Period. And;
Although the majority of my collection nowadays consists of modern watches -a perk of the job-, my main focus and area of expertise for the last decade has always been vintage watches. In times-not-that-long-ago, this whole manufacture thing never was this big a deal. In fact, I doubt there is any vintage watch completely made in-house. Établissage was the way to go – even for the most respected of brands, and there was nothing wrong with it. A case by a well-respected case manufacturer, a dial by a top-quality dial maker and an ébauche whether or not finished or altered to individual specs – these are the parts that make up some of the highest-valued timepieces of recent auctions.
Strap and bracelet trends
I have always been game when it comes to changing straps. It is a fun way to bring a bit of your own personality to a watch. The market for straps has been booming in the last years, which to me surely is a good thing. Remember when it was hard to find a NATO strap of decent quality, or with an usual pattern like camo? Not any more. Back in the day I had to go to old-fashioned jewellers or department stores to get perlon-type straps, as those were the only one still stocking them. How time flies. And the fun we had – I vividly remember my old 1675 Concorde with a NATO strap with solid gold rings -custom made- and a dear friend rocking his 3970P on NATO. But back to trends;
We’ve seen the NATO straps. These will hold. Cheap and fun. I wouldn’t hesitate to put them on a Datograph or the aforementioned 3970P – those of you who shiver at the thought should grow a sense of humour and google sprezzatura.
As far as leather is concerned, we’ve seen the big, bad, Panerai-type straps. Note: seven layers of leather or thick padding are over. These are done with. Key nowadays are thinness, comfort, elegance and nonchalance. No tapering is no-go; the taper should preferably even be vintage style with a 4mm drop. Exotic hides will be back in focus, notably teju lizard and ostrich.
A quick mention of SuiGeneric – pay attention to them. The straps by these guys bring a irresistible bit of fun. Polarisation guaranteed, as are conversations. Don’t like them? Why so serious?
Perlon: perhaps overplayed by the hipster Instagram crowd? They are still fun and cheap though. I haven’t quite made up my mind on these. Things used to be way more fun when something like this would be like a discovery – now trends and overexposure are everywhere. Sigh.
Now for bracelets. Straight-ends, no flush-fit, are the way to go for vintage watches. This is serious guys. JB Champion, Gay Freres et cetera – snag’em and rock’em. In the words of Drake – thank me later.
The annual calendar trend
It is rumoured by some that the annual calendar complication is the new black. I am however not so sure. I have yet to see one that will prove to be a big hit. The complication is admirable and cost-friendly, but somehow it lacks the X-factor – have you ever see anyone listing one in their list of grails? There is enough to be said for them, but to most they will continue to feel like a near-hit.
The Omega Speedmaster
Hardly a secret to most I’d say, but the Speedmaster’s status is rising. Knowledge is key in collecting – one simply can not appreciate subtle differences and rarity without knowing of it. Great work on this subject was done by the late Chuck Maddox and in the past we’ve seen books like The Omega Saga, Omega Sports Watches and The Master of Omega. Then there was OmegaMania and now all has culminated in the superb Moonwatch Only. With prices of Rolex rising to unobtainable levels, the Speedmaster will prove to be a superb alternative to many collectors, with prices rising accordingly. Railmasters, Seamasters and Flightmasters will be slipstreaming, although short production runs and fewer distinguishable versions make them somewhat less appealing – with a handful of examples you will have covered near all bases with very little to be desired.
The quest for perfect quality
Sure. Unpolished cases and perfect dials are what to look for. These are the ones making headlines on Hodinkee, Instagram, VRF or wherever. But most of us have a budget that is limited. There are ends to our pockets. The focus on perfect examples is unrealistic at best. One should always strive to get the best example obtainable within ones budget, but don’t be fooled by the watches highlighted on your favourite blog or social media outlet – these are in the spotlight for a reason. They are the best of the best. Set realistic goals.
Vintage watch collecting in general
I’ve said it in the above – the prices for (sports) Rolex are getting out of hand. This is not a bad thing per se, but to most of us this has been the main area of focus for years, if not decades. The wealthy crowd is pushing us long-term collectors out of the market. But hey, what can we do? Look for alternatives. The Speedmaster, as mentioned, is one of them. But we’ll see other brands and models gaining attention of an audience wider than their long-time cognoscenti – including among many others Longines, Movado, Eberhard, Enicar and Zenith. Watches by lesser-known names, but featuring cases by recognized case makers and high-quality movements will be in focus as well. Keep an open mind and look for quality!
Please contact me if you have any of the watches in the list below for sale using you favourite social network.
This list will be updated regularly. You can also consider it my personal guide, although it is only focused on models within my reach. Personal (and undisputed for that matter) grails are not included.
- Krono Bauhaus – any model
Perhaps a weird personal preference, but I’ll always have a special place reserved for Alain Silberstein and his wild creations. One of the first to bring the ‘wink’ into into the often rigid world of watches. Fun pieces.
- Vintage Dress automatic
- Vintage Royal Oak – including non-Jumbo
The dress watches, especially those with automatic movements are a discrete delight – of the highest quality, though not as much in the spotlight as their Patek counterparts and thus affordable. Royal Oaks are in a league of their own, but although the focus is on Jumbo’s, the smaller ones can be equally delightful and much more affordable. Starwheel will prove to be highly sought after in the coming years.
- Type 1
- Type 2
Off-the-radar except for die-hard collectors, but great in design and filled with history.
- Chronomat – 1984 to 1994, 81950 including moonphase and yachting models, A13047, A13048
- Emergency (1) – any model / dial colour
- Navitimer vintage – 806, 1806, 7806, 8806
- Navitimer modern – notably Spatiographe
Early Chronomats are bargains at the moment, while playing an arguably important role in the resurrection of mechanical watches. The Emergency is a classic in the making, while the Navitimer is an icon like few others. The Spatiographe is so unique it deserves a mention.
- Vintage, in particular Scafograf and chronographs
While previously being mostly in focus with Italian collectors, rising prices of other well-known brands will cause early tool-watches like those of Eberhard to grow in demand.
- Vintage sports models, including (but not exclusive) Sherpa-Graph, Jet-Graph
Cool logo and high-quality watches – enough said right? Previously the realm of cognoscenti, Enicar will prove to rise to greater fame in the near future.
- B42 – Lemania 5100
- Marinemaster – vintage
The B42 is a nice outsider. Great toolwatch design with a discontinued and well-respected movement and thus one to look out for. Vintage Marinemasters are plain stunning, whether the dual-crown version or the chronograph.
Whimsical and fun.
- Airman – vintage
The Airman has been a favourite of those in need of a tool-watch when it mattered. Now it’s great value compared to more sought-after brands, notwithstanding the fact that it has been on the radar of collectors for quite a while..
- Autavia – vintage
- Carrera – vintage and re-editions
- Monaco – vintage
A great name with many classics. Vintage has been on the rise for quite a while now but still there is great value compared to Rolex and Omega. Rare versions will be increasing in value as knowledge spreads.
- Aquatimer – vintage, 3536, Split-Minute, Deep One
- Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar 3750
- Ingenieur – vintage and modern up to (and thus including) 3227
- Pilot’s Chronograph 3705 and 3706
- Portugieser Rattrapante, 5000, 3714 panda and reverse panda
Vintage IWC can be dull at times, although the Ingenieur and Aquatimer are the exceptions. Caliber 88 and 89 models are beautiful but not very exciting. Neo-vintage is interesting, especially early perpetuals, rattrapantes and ceramic watches -those that were somewhat shocking (in price or otherwise) at their time of introduction. Portugieser is a hit no matter what version, although my focus for now is on the models listed.
- Master-Compressor Memovox
- Master Calendar – discontinued 37mm
- Master Moon – discontinued 37mm
- Master Perpetual – discontinued 37mm
- Memovox – vintage
- Reverso – any generation; quartz exempted
For most of the early 2000’s, JLC was ahead of its game. Affordable and providing interesting complications at acceptable case sizes. These models will prove to increase in value.
- Multifort vintage – including (but not exclusive) Datometer, Centrechrono
A brand that is not that exciting in present times, though did bring out some interesting, innovative and high-quality watches in the past.
- Vintage chronographs M90 / M95
- Vintage triple date
Stunning, charming, whimsical and unique. Another name that lost its path.
- Vintage chronographs 13zn
- Vintage chronographs 30ch
- Vintage divers
- Conquest Power Reserve
While nowadays ranked below Omega in the Swatch Group hierarchy, Longines once made some of the best watches out there. While hardly unnoticed, vintage still poses great value in many cases.
- Flightmaster 910/ 911
- Railmaster – modern & vintage
- Seamaster – vintage & modern, including Plo-Prof
- Speedmaster Professional- any model including so-called Pre-Pro, Pre-Moon, limited, special, numbered and country-specific models
Iconic designs, bulletproof movements and an abundance of designs and history at a price not near that of its main rival, Rolex. Buy now.
- Luminor – Unitas-powered, including Marina models
Slowly out-phased, the Unitas-powered models are what started the Panerai craze and Paneristi-hype. This is where it started – they’ll prove to be of everlasting value as prices (and complications) increase.
- Datejust – vintage up to (and thus including) generation 16000 and OysterQuartz 17000
- Datejust Turn-O-Graph – so-called Thunderbird, any generation
- Day-Date – vintage up to (and thus including) generation 18000
- Daytona – vintage and modern
- Explorer 1 – vintage and modern
- Explorer 2 – vintage and modern up to 16570
- GMT-Master – vintage and modern
- Seadweller – vintage and modern
- Submariner – vintage and modern
Neo-vintage and 36mm is where the value is to be had, as the sports-market has gone of the charts. Focus on rare and unusual dials for the DJ and DD models, complete sets for the neo-vintages and unpolished cases.
- Worldtimer – vintage
- Chronographs – vintage
The Worldtimer by Tissot is one of the few affordable true worldtimers out there. At current value, a great buy. Vintage chronographs can be had at great value, but can prove to be tough sell in today’s market.
- Black Bay
- Chronographs – vintage and modern, including so-called Big Block and Prince Chronograph
- Monte Carlo
- Submariner – vintage and modern
A mark on the rise. Quite a few nifty models but one must try not to to hyped-up – they are still somewhat the realm of die-hard cognoscenti and as such, a sale might not be as easy as imagined when reading Hodinkee comments.
- Chronographs, – including but not exclusive Compur, Bi-Compax, Tri-Compax, Space Compax
Unusual, high-brow brand – simply awesome
- High-quality vintage chronographs in stainless steel
- High-quality vintage dives with Jenny / Super-Compressor cases
- High-quality triple calendars
High-quality watches no-matter-the-brand will be rising in value – case and movement manufacturers will prove to be increasingly well-known and important.
- Triple-date chronograph
Exceedingly good value.
- Chronograph – vintage
- El Primero – vintage
- El Primero – modern and neo-vintage, notably so-called Rainbow and the Chronomaster-T
A mark searching for its own identity in recent times; vintage and neo-vintage however are often not only beautiful, but also good value.