written by Patrick Morgan
How will the watch market look in 2023? Which watch brands to invest? What watch models to buy? What to look on for second hand market? How to avoid counterfeits? If these are the questions you have, then our "2023 Expert Buyer's Guide to Watches" is exactly what you are looking for. Read further for market overview, tips and advice on your future purchases!
During the past two years the global economy was weakened by lingering pandemic effects, political unrest and the recent wave of layoffs from the tech giants. All of this had an effect on all market fronts, and will also influence a slow down for the second-hand watch market in 2023, especially for entry level watches from iconic brands.
According to market forecasts, prices of low to mid-range watches from several big names including Rolex, Longines, Omega and Tudor may drop up to 20-30% for a number of models priced under $10 000, due to dealers and showroom excess inventories.
High inventory levels of slow moving, low to mid-range models, will force prices down and we will see dealers slashing prices, and dumping excess inventories in the auction rooms worldwide for most of 2023. There are just not enough new clients to support the lower end of the market at present. The outlook for the watch market may look grim for 2023 but by contrast, this will be an ideal time for new, entry level, Generation Z buyers, to find an iconic second-hand time-piece made by a world class brand.
"The outlook for the watch market may look grim for 2023 but by contrast, this will be an ideal time for new, entry level, Generation Z buyers, to find an iconic second-hand time-piece made by a world class brand."
The best brands to collect, both new, vintage and, second-hand, are the big five:
- Jaeger-Le Coultre
These are some of the oldest, most respected names in the business. Simply put, they are classics. Timeless beauty and superb quality never go out of style, as they say...
Related: Buyers Guide to Rolex Watches
The second-hand watch market is predicted to be worth 40 billion USD by 2030, according to a recent article published in October of 2022 by Deloitte Consultants, making the second-hand watch market just as important, and equal to, the worldwide classic car market, also predicted to hit 40 billion USD in total market value in the next few years.
Some important things to know before buying in the second-hand markets include:
-how to estimate value
-identify basic condition issues
-spotting an obvious fake
-where to buy
-and finally, choosing a buying strategy
The simplest way to get a quick idea of a watch's value is to research recent auction results. Type the exact make, model and year of the watch into the search engines of Sotheby’s, Christies, thesaleroom, liveauctioneers and even ebay, to get a broad understanding of the high and low range the watch is selling for and keep in mind, some auction houses do charge a commission on the hammer price, inflating the prices almost 30%.
"Timeless beauty and superb quality never go out of style."
Condition issues are also a very important consideration. Is the watch scuffed and scratched? Possibly indicating an owner who was not attentive to the watch’s upkeep? Or has the watch been polished, removing its original patina and diminishing its value? There will always be trade-offs when buying in the second-hand marketplace, unless you are lucky enough to find the model you are looking for from New-Old-Stock, meaning it is in mint condition and has never been worn.
Spotting a fake takes practice, but there are a few obvious things one should always be on the lookout for; a misspelt brand name, serial numbers missing or placed in an unusual place, rough edges and unfinished detailing to name a few. And a final tip; all high-end manufacturers of fine watches use a domed sapphire crystal top cover. These are easy to identify, just look carefully in natural light to see the slight coloration of violet tinting. Fake watches usually use flat, acrylic crystals which have no violet tinting.
Where to buy and your overall buying strategy depends on you. Are you more comfortable buying blue-chip merchandise ? Willing to pay a premium for top quality and the implied guarantees that come from buying with a major auction house like Sotheby’s or Christies or Barnebys, or buying from a high end dealer with an established location and large inventory to choose from?
This can be one of the best long term buying approaches while building relationships with experts and dealers who will help educate you about your acquisitions and offer long-term guarantees and service.
Or, conversely, are you a risk taker? With enough knowledge and experience to find a real bargain in a small online auction with no expertise and no reserve?
Beware, if you go the high-risk route, most watches will be sold as is and without guarantee, and you may pay a big price for a big let-down.
It’s a risky strategy, but with a potentially big score when the hammer falls.
Other major trends which will continue through 2023, are the numerous and incredibly popular anniversary reissues made by several iconic brands.
One of the most elegant and beautiful examples of a reissue which has recently come to market is the Cartier Pebble Watch, designed by the London Design Workshops for Cartier in the early, hipster era, of the 1970’s. With a smooth rounded bezel and unique contour it is an original and stunning beauty. The Pebble is being reissued in a limited run of 150 for the 50th anniversary under the Cartier Privee collection and is priced at just under 45k.
Another recent reissue commemorating an anniversary, is the Omega Speedmaster Moonshine 18k gold, limited edition, Apollo 11 watch, which commemorates the first lunar landing and is priced at 35k.
The original Omega solid 18k yellow gold, Speedmaster Professional BA 145.022 watches were presented to each of the 26 Astronauts at a formal gala dinner in Houston,Texas as a tribute to all of the crew members from the Mercury 8, Gemini 6 and Apollo 7, who flew for NASA in the 1960’s in their quest to reach the moon. The dinner was held at the Hotel Warwick on November 25, 1969 to celebrate the first lunar landing. As with the original, this watch will be limited to 1,014 production models.
"History, rarity and beauty converged to create a timepiece that speaks to every serious watch collector on the planet."
Vintage and second-hand watches will be a very sound investment in 2023, while continuing their steady rise into the stratosphere. There is no shortage of millionaires and billionaires willing to pay any price for rare trophy watches and sometimes they literally drive the price to the moon. This seems especially so for the original watches that have inspired some recent, limited run reissue edition watches.
Let’s take a look at lot 7000 which sold with RR Auctions based in New Hampshire, on October 20, 2022 for $1,906,954 USD (including auction commissions); Wally Schirra's 18k Gold Omega Speedmaster Professional BA 145.022, presented to him at the fabled gala dinner back in 1969, and was purchased by noted space memorabilia collector Larry McGlynn directly from the Schirra family after Wally’s death in 2007. Last summer Larry consigned the watch to RR Auctions for their October 2022 sale.
History, rarity and beauty converged to create a timepiece that speaks to every serious watch collector on the planet. After a long battle by both floor bidders and telephone bidders the watch finally sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for literally, an astronomical price…
Another extremely rare beauty which recently inspired a reissue and which came to market recently, was one of the six original 1972 edition Cartier Pebble Watches, sold by Bonhams, London in their Fine Watch sale on December 14, 2022. Lot 108; a Cartier 18k solid gold, Manuel Wind Pebble Wrist Watch and designed by the London Workshops, brought nearly $300k (including auction commissions). The watch captures the avant garde design movement of the 70’s and being one of six, rarity means value.
2023 will be an exciting year for watch collectors in every category.
If you need a valuation for a watch in your collection, or are considering one for purchase, please don’t hesitate to contact VMS for an up-to-date appraisal and discover valuable information concerning your collections needs.
Start your watch valuation here!
Patrick Morgan is a general certified antique appraiser with over 25 years of experience, working with Caldwell and Associates, based in San Diego, CA, since 1998. Based in Paris, since 2002, he visits the auction rooms and combs the flea markets for treasures whenever he has some spare time, collecting anything from watches to weapons, while continuing his primary focus on Tribal Arts.