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Know your budget
First of all when you start collecting watches you have to know your budget. Watches are often compared to cars because of the mechanics involved, but the comparison could just as well apply to the amount of money you spend. A good Swiss watch can cost anything from £500 to £5m. So it’s a good idea to start your search based on how much you want to invest, and then stick to it. When you decided how much you are willing to pay for your timepiece, purchase the very best examples that fall within budget. Always opt for buying fewer but higher quality pieces. Keep in mind that the market for watches today demands that condition is as close to original as possible.
What to collect?
Fine watch combines craftsmanship, luxury, elegance and technology to create something that is both practical and beautiful. Here are watchmaker names that have always held their value. Patek Philippe, Rolex, Omega, Breguet are magical. A tad behind these are the other great makers, Cartier, Breitling, Girard-Perregaux, Lange & Sohne and Vacheron-Constantin. From more recent times firms that have achieved special recognition are Franck Muller, Chopard, Baume & Mercier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Movado, Piaget, Glashütte and Tissot. Classic watches from respected high-end companies are pretty much guaranteed to increase in value because they increase in rarity over the years. Stick with these brands for quality and appreciative value. The watches that sell for the most money at auctions have a number of factors in common. Rarity, maker, complication and material all contribute to the value of a timepiece. While the general market for watches has weakened in the last decade a historical watch sale was held in november 2014 when Sotheby's sold the unique Henry Graves Super complication, for a record breaking price of CHF23.2 million (approx. £15 million), making it the most valuable timepiece in auction history. It dates from 1932 and was completed by Patek Philippe. It is the most complicated watch ever made without the assistance of computers.
An expert will take the following factors in account when valuing a fine watch. The first item of note is the name of the watchmaker. Next is the quality of the metal used (steel, platinum, silver, gold etc.). He then will list all of the notations on the case and the movement. Complications, which are any features of the watch beyond basic timekeeping, are an important factor because they represent the intricacy and craftsmanship of a watch. Next he will examine if the case, dial and movement belong together or if there is an another form of ‘marriage’? Such a marriage devalues the watch. He then places it in a specific time frame regarding its manufacture. An other factor that determines value is the association with famous people, automobiles (Bentley for Breitling, or Girard-Perregaux for Ferrari), sporting events (Grand Prix races), etc.? When all of that is completed the final price determination is based purely on the marketplace. (Personal taste has no bearing in my valuation of watches.)
Where to buy?
Nowhere is there more faker and replication than in the field of watches. Technology has allowed continuous improvements, thereby making detection of fakes much more difficult. Reproduced dials are often almost indistinguishable from the originals. One needs to be able to clearly see the back case cover and if possible the movement to feel secure. This is why it’s incredibly important to buy your watch from a reputable dealer who should be a member of a professional trade organisation. A trusted dealer will give you a current certificate of authenticity from the manufacturer. For vintage watches, original documentation that came with the watch when it was manufactured, with serial numbers, can add enormous value. You can also buy your watch at auction. Watch auctions are held by the major auction houses, with the most important sales being held in Geneva, Hong Kong, London and New York.
Furthermore we advise all new watch and clock collectors to join the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC), the British Horological Society or the Antiquarian Horological Society. These provide easy access to meetings with other collectors, horological education through their publications, and the accessibility of an inclusive library with a loan program.
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