Current Trends in the Vintage Watch Market (2019)
This is a guest post by Matthias de Pauw.
Dear Wahawatchers, it’s been a while since I last wrote an article for this website. Well, fellow enthusiasts, I’m back to share my experiences from the past year with you. Many of you may have noticed that the vintage watch market has stabilized over the past year. Increases in price are less spectacular than the previous 5 years, which was to be expected after the big boom.
Let me be clear. There’s a big difference between a watch collector and a watch investor.
Most collectors buy pieces they like to wear. As a bonus, it’d be nice if these watches would retain their value or even increase a bit. But collecting is mainly for fun. As a hobby.
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Most collectors don’t have unlimited funds to buy whatever they want. They’re always looking for high-quality, affordable pieces, preferably from an interesting brand. Collectors buy and sell watches, but the focus is more on the short term than the long term.
Watch investors have a much higher budget. They buy at the higher end of the market and speculate on price increases on some models. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to know when you look at the current situation on the watch market and the developments of 2018.
It’s mainly the high-end market that has stabilized. As a result, investors buy less because the crazy price explosions aren’t as common. It’s a vicious circle.
Some models have seen insane mark-ups. Vintage Speedmasters and 50’s-60’s-70’s Rolex sports models, for example. They’re still very popular and I’m quite sure they’re still a good investment. However, they’re out of reach for the average collector. These watches will still increase in value, but not as extreme as in previous years.
In the lower segment, you can still find cool, high-quality watches for a reasonable price with enormous potential.
Enicar & Heuer
Something else I noticed is that the Enicar and Heuer madness somewhat ended. Prices have risen enormously in the last 2 years, but many collectors currently have difficulties selling them.
Don’t get me wrong, there are models that’ll retain their value. Heuers with a Valjoux 72 movement are awesome pieces! But frankly, I’ve never understood why some people are willing to pay idiotic prices for a Heuer with a Valjoux 7733 movement.
- Vintage Seiko is still gaining in popularity.
- Column wheel chronographs from the 60s and 70s are still going up in value and always sell amazingly fast.
- Military watches are still popular. They’ll probably stay popular forever because the military is timeless and will always attract collectors.
So, what to buy now
Well, I’m a collector, so my advice is to buy something that you like and what you like to wear.
Stainless steel divers from small brands
As said before, there are plenty of interesting pieces in every price range. For example, stainless steel skin divers from small brands are gaining in popularity.
Here’s a small list of interesting brands to investigate:
Usually, they’re in the $250-550 price range. The diameter is often 38mm and the wrist presence is great.
Rolex & Omega
It’s still smart to buy 90’s-2000’s Rolex sports models if you have the budget because they have a huge potential.
Two watches that you can still buy for a reasonable price are the Omega Speedmaster Mark 2 and the Flightmaster 911. You should be able to find a good Mark 2 for around $2000. A Flightmaster will be around $2800.
In this price range, you can also find cool Seamaster chronographs with a variety of dials!
Just like in 2018, there’s still a great demand for Omega dress watches in good condition.
Chronographs with a column wheel movement
Chronographs with high-quality column-wheel movements from the 40s and 50s are still very popular (Valjoux 22, Valjoux 72, Valjoux 92, Valjoux 88). These watches won’t explode in value, but I’m convinced they’re still a good long-term investment.
In the meanwhile, simply wear and enjoy them because that’s what they were made for.
A new trend that I’ve noticed is that the “gold rush” is back. Everyone and their grandma suddenly want a gold watch. Many brands respond by releasing gold reissues and two-tone watches. The new Omega and Rolex models, for example.
This trend is also noticeable in the vintage watch market. Gold chronographs and dress watches always sell fast. In combination with an interesting brand name, they can fetch some serious money.
I also became infected and bought a Rolex Day-Date 18038.
Nobody really knows what the future will bring, but for the moment I don’t expect prices to rise as they have done in recent years. Price increases like that aren’t normal or healthy anyway, so this was to be expected.
For now, I’m focusing on the lower end of the market because that’s where you can still find good deals with great potential. Watches below $1000 also sell a lot faster than watches in the higher price range. This is, of course, my own experience and your experience might be different.
Matthias is an experienced collector who started to intensively collect watches about 4 years ago. He’s the co-administrator of the ‘Horlogefreaks’ Facebook group and he’s also very active in other Facebook groups and on forums.