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A Patek Philippe watch that sold for £9 million has focused attention on vintage watches as an alternative investment. Art and auction aggregator Barnebys together with watch specialist Paul Maudsley talks us through the market
Paul Maudsley, International Specialist-Director Watches at Phillips, based in Berkeley Square says: “Men’s watches have become both a status symbol and a solid investment that you can also wear on your wrist.”
What sort of growth have we seen in the top end of the watch market?
“There has been growth across a broad spectrum of the watch market not just the top end. Each year more collectors come on board thus creating points where the values rise due to demand.”
Which brands lead the way?
“Without doubt the top two watch brands in the vintage market are Patek Philippe and Rolex. Patek Philippe was long the leader in the auctions with record after record. But then Rolex and certain vintage examples started to gain momentum and now some easily break the $500,000 and $1,000,000 mark.”
What is the most collectable watch at the moment?
“If you look at the two main brands and then into sub-section it would be Patek Philippe Chonographs/Moonphase and then Rolex Submariners, with all their different models/reference numbers.”
Who buys what? Do different nationalities go for different things.
There’s no hard or fast rule as to what geographically location buys what type of watch anymore. It’s an entirely global audience we cater too.
Are there any new developments in this old craft?
“There’s much more avant-garde watch design with contemporary watchmakers now than we have seen in its history. Using lots of unusual materials/coatings.”
If so what are the most exciting?
“This is a personal thing and whilst some of the very unusual watches get the headlines, the sales don’t necessarily back it up. I personally like the work of Laurent Ferrier and Kari Voutilainen.”
How would you describe your top collectors?
“The top collectors vary in terms of character, type of professions etc., but in terms of age the majority of the top ones fall within the 30-50 years old age group. The one main single thing that they do almost all share, is a ‘passion’ for watches.”
Do they wear them or are they sitting in bank vaults?
“Of all the top collectors I know most wear their watches, clearly depending on type, location. I had a coffee just he other day with a collector and he was happily wearing his Rolex that he bought through me at Phillips. It cost over £800,000.”
Give me a steer on what advice you would give someone with £5,000,
“If your budget was that amount I would be looking at a vintage chronograph like a Universal Tri-Compax, or an Omega Speedmaster, great heritage on each model.”
“£50,000- I would be looking at a Patek Philippe Ref: 3970 perpetual calendar watch in either rose gold or platinum. A timeless and elegant watch.
“£100,000+ – You are able to secure some of the rarest watches. The iconic Patek Philippe Ref:1463 chronograph or the Ref:1526 with moon phase would be great trophy for the collector
Is there much difference in prices for men’s & women’s watches?
“The market for ladies watches at auction is very small and only account for a very small percentage of our sales so it would be very hard to make a comparison.”