Qual­ity time

Pre­dict­ing the fu­ture di­rec­tion of the value of a watch is a dif­fi­cult science. Sean Li pro­vides some help­ful tips for col­lec­tors

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style -

Sean Li ex­plores the chal­lenges of pre­dict­ing the fu­ture value of a watch

As the watch world pauses af­ter the firsthalf on­slaught of new watch in­tro­duc­tions in Geneva and Basel, it’s time to re­flect on a re­cur­ring theme: pric­ing. Since mid-jan­uary, when Switzer­land’s cen­tral bank delinked the Swiss franc from the euro, watch brands have been try­ing to level off the pric­ing in­equal­i­ties caused by cur­rency fluc­tu­a­tions. There’s no doubt that sales in China have been par­tic­u­larly af­fected—on the main­land by the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate and the nu­mer­ous taxes placed on lux­ury goods, and in Hong Kong by our link to the US dol­lar, which has kept prices high in rel­a­tive terms and driven some lux­ury brands to ef­fect re­duc­tions. The de­mand is still there, though, and I don’t sense a lack of in­ter­est, cer­tainly not in me­chan­i­cal watches.

I’m still asked regularly which watches I would rec­om­mend as in­vest­ments. It’s a ques­tion I gen­er­ally dread, for I feel strongly that these me­chan­i­cal mar­vels should be worn regularly to be truly ap­pre­ci­ated. To see a watch come up for auc­tion still in its de­liv­ery pack­ag­ing is a shame, for that means it’s prob­a­bly been lin­ger­ing away in a safe. It also means the move­ment may have suf­fered from lack of ac­tiv­ity and, on a philo­soph­i­cal

ba­sis, that some­one who would have en­joyed the watch on their wrist has been de­nied ac­cess to it.

How­ever, I un­der­stand value is im­por­tant, in­creas­ingly so, for although some prices have come down, the av­er­age price of a high-end me­chan­i­cal watch has gone up very sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years. With that in mind, here are some guide­lines for those con­sid­er­ing their next pur­chase and who want to en­sure the high­est value re­ten­tion.

First, bear in mind that there are no guar­an­tees. Some brands do trend higher than oth­ers, but it’s im­pos­si­ble to say whether a par­tic­u­lar watch will gen­uinely in­crease in value over the years. If any­thing, it’s watches that were shunned when new that now at­tract premi­ums. It’s per­haps due to their rar­ity, for these are watches that would nat­u­rally see their pro­duc­tion num­bers lim­ited.

When con­sid­er­ing new watches, you should look for highly and gen­uinely lim­ited pro­duc­tion runs, with num­bers prefer­ably in dou­ble or triple dig­its rather than so-called lim­i­ta­tions in the thou­sands or more. They will be hard to come by, par­tic­u­larly if you’re not a reg­u­lar client, but the chase is part of the at­trac­tion. The idea that par­tic­u­lar brands re­tain their value bet­ter than oth­ers is only par­tially true; this just ap­plies to cer­tain mod­els, and not to their en­tire col­lec­tions, so you should be very wary.

For those who are look­ing at pre­vi­ously owned watches, whether at auc­tion or oth­er­wise, you have to con­sider the watch’s prove­nance and its history. Those with a story to tell, ei­ther of pre­vi­ous own­er­ship or of how they came to be pro­duced in the first place, can gen­er­ate a higher re­turn. In that sense, you could think of these time­pieces as pieces of art, and you will need to be able to doc­u­ment their history and au­then­tic­ity. You will also have to fac­tor in the time and cost of hav­ing the watch in­spected and pos­si­bly ser­viced once you’ve ac­quired it, for there’s no telling be­fore­hand, un­less pro­fes­sion­ally in­spected, what the con­di­tion of the move­ment will be.

Af­ter you’ve ac­quired the piece, please don’t lock it away in a safe with your stock cer­tifi­cates and bonds. These minia­ture mar­vels of me­chan­i­cal art need to live and breathe, and to ac­com­pany you through life’s ad­ven­tures. You never know—your own trav­els may be what drives up its value over the years.


TIME IS GOLD What de­fines the value of a watch? Is it de­ter­mined by cur­rency fluc­tu­a­tions, the brand’s pop­u­lar­ity, auc­tion es­ti­mates or the model’s prove­nance?

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