Investing in vintage collectible watches have proven to be one of the best modes of investment for the passionate watch collectors and wealthy collectors looking to invest lots of disposable income in alternative investments. The market for collectible watches has been evolving and the best watch brands that have stood the test of times and are every passionate watch lovers favorite, including Patek Philippe, Rolex, Breguet and Cartier. The Asian collectors too have been sending the auction prices to soar with their newly found passion for collectibles, including the extremely rare, magnificent, and exotic watches from the most famous watch makers. The number of billionaires is on the rise in Asia, and their increased disposal income has led to the most significant demand coming from Asia, in particular Mainland China and Hong Kong.
Christie’s 2012 Important Watches Spring Sale achieved $ 21,626,293, recording the strongest sale for watches by an international auction house in Asia. The highlights of the auction includes Patek Philippe Ref. 5002, sold for $1,296,758 to a private buyer. Another Patek Philippe, Ref. 5207 was sold to a private European watch collector for $837,200.
Collectible Watch Brands: Patek Philippe, Rolex & Omega
Patek Philippe remains one of the most sought-after brand when it comes to performing at auctions. Founded in 1839 in Geneva, the Swiss watchmaker stands out for its rare and collectible watches coveted for their craftsmanship and sophisticated mechanical movements. We have seen the most expensive Patek Philippe wristwatches earlier. And, in the year 2012, the Swiss watch brand has the most records for getting the highest bids at auctions. From Eric Clapton's Patek Philippe Watch selling for $3.6 million to one of the most beautiful Patek Philippe from post-war, the Patek Philippe 2523, sets $1m world record at Christie’s New York auction, setting a new world record for the reference in the process.
A Patek Philippe Ref 2523 with guilloche dial was also the highlight of Antiquorum’s Geneva auction held on May 13, 2012, when it was sold for approx. $1.05 million, further illustrating that the rare Patek Philippe timepieces are especially revered.
A rare Patek Philippe watch, known as the second most complicated watch from the watch brand, made $636,000 in Hong Kong. Patek Philippe, hold their value probably better than any other vintage wristwatches for its handcrafted parts and complications.
And, most recently, a rare and very fine 18K gold Patek Philippe Ref:2499 chronograph, featuring perpetual calendar and moon phases has been sold for $422,500 in Bonhams Bi-Coastal December Auction.
The other watches that have been performing well at auctions includes vintage Rolex, the single largest mechanical watch brand, founded in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, in 1915 by watchmaker and importer Hans Wilsdorf, and is now owned by the Wilsdorf Foundation. The most popular of the Rolex watches has been the prices of a particular type of Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. The most expensive Rolex ever to be sold at an auction was a 1942 Rolex Chronograph that fetched $1.16 million on May 16, 2011 sale of Important Watches in Geneva by Christie’s.
Celebrity Watches: Brand matters but so does the owner
Investing in watches with provenance, belonging to private watch collections of avid watch collectors and world-renowned celebrities also holds the key to making a right investment in vintage watches besides, rarity, and condition of the pieces when investing in a luxury watch. The private watch collections to be offered at auction in 2012 includes, Sotheby's vintage watches from private collection of Henry Graves.
Some of the top watch collectors in Hollywood include Eric Clapton. The legendary guitarist’s 1971 Albino Rolex Daytona was earlier sold for $505,000, and Clapton's Patek Philippe Ref.2499 platinum wristwatch was auctioned by Chrisite's for $3.6 million, mainly because of its original owner.
Other examples of celebrity watches that has set the auction register ringing is Steve McQueen’s wrist watch in the iconic 1971 auto-racing drama film ‘Le Mans,’ sold for a price of nearly $800,000 at an auction of film memorabilia.
Another popular Rolex watch series that is regarded as highly collectable is James Bond Rolex Submariner watches, which have been a hit at auctions. With 007 sporting a Rolex Submariner in many of the movies, the watches make for one of the most popular movie memorabilia.
Omega watches too have performed well at the auctions mainly for being the watch of choice of Bond 007. For the modern watch collectors, Omega Seamaster watches are the perfect timepieces to invest in. The brand has also released its Omega Seamaster Skyfall watch to commemorate the release of Skyfall.
An Omega watch that once belonged to Elvis Presley soared past its estimate, selling for $52,500 in June 2012, with 162.5% increase
Antique Musical Clocks - A Collectors' Item
When it comes to watch collecting, the wealthy collectors are not just buying wristwatches but vintage musical clocks and pocket watches too.
But when it comes to rule the market for vintage clocks, other Swiss watch manufacturers too have set the records. This year, a unique and highly important clock coming from the European Royalty and aristocracy, the Breguet Sympathique by Abraham-Louis Bréguet has set the record for being the world's most expensive clock at $6.8M.
Another record set this year for a musical clock is an intricately decorated 18th-century musical clock once owned by King Farouk, the penultimate King of Egypt. Described by Bonhams as “like a ye olde jukebox”, the agate-panelled and silver-mounted musical ormolu table clock was sold for £385,250 ($624,722), above its estimates of £150,000 to £250,000 at Bonhams Fine Clocks sale on 12th December at New Bond Street. Interestingly, the young King had a passion for valuable and highly decorated pieces, which ultimately led to a steep fall in his popularity during the Second World War. Notably, the musical table clock was a work of James Cox (c.1723-1800) of 103 Shoe Lane, London. Cox himself was not a clockmaker by trade but a goldsmith and jeweler. The other Cox's cage-work cabinets can be seen today in a number of major collections, including the Royal Collection, London and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
A Cartier’s fine rock crystal, lapis lazuli, jade and emerald boudoir clock No. 2163, stamped with reference no. 0716, has been sold for $ 116,500. The clock features 15-jewel adjusted lever movement signed E. W. C. Co., France, the case set within an arched panel of rock crystal, gold bezel and engraved gold hands, encased in afitted Cartier case is one of Cartier's most succcessful design.
An extraordinarily bejeweled musical elephant clock of a rare and impressive scale, George III Paste-Set ormoulu musical automation clock circa 1780 signed by Peter Torckler, which was probably acquired by Nassir al Din Shah Qajar, the Shah of Persia in London in the 1890s, got sold to an affluent Asian collector for impressive $2,491,610 on 4th July, as part of Sotheby’s Treasures, Princely Taste sale in London.
Pocket watches still have its old world charm with the watch collectors. We have earlier told you about Patek Philippe Super-complication watch custom created on Mr. Henry Graves Jr. order, who wished to outdo his competitor for owning the most complicated watch known. The pocket watch sold for $11 million. Another Caliber 89 pocket watch from the Swiss watch maker, launched to celebrate the brand’s 150th anniversary, was earlier sold for $5 million, making it one of the most expensive Patek Philippe watches to be sold at auctions.
Classic Pocket Watches
Also this year, a historic pocket watch from Abraham Lincoln's personal collection went on auction.
The finest collectible pocket watches that have appeared at auctions include an extremely rare 18K gold precision watch with two movements hand-crafted by Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) himself. The pocketwatch once belonged to the collections of a European noble family, and was later lost and finally rediscovered and offered at Chrisite’s Important Watches sale on 14 May, 2012 in Geneva. The quintessential pocket watch from the horological master was sold for $4,682,165.
For those looking for an investment in vintage watches, there are hedge funds for investing in vintage collectible watches, composed of investment managers and experts with a proven and extensive experience to help their elite clientele in picking the right watch to reap the benefits in future. Even some of the watchmakers are taking a more active role in the management of their vintage market.
UPDATE: Christie’s Important Watches auction held in New York on December 14 established new heights to end the year on a promising note. The auction house realized a total of over $126 Million of the sale with multiple new records achieved For rare Rolex, Panerai and Patek Philippe References.
The top lot was an exceedingly rare Patek Philippe Reference 1518, an 18K pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases, which realized $674,500. Only 281 "pink on pink" examples were made between 1941 and 1954 with majority of them in yellow gold; only an elite few were ever created with a pink gold case and rose colored dial.
The second highest lot was one of the rare complicated Rolex wristwatches, the triple calendar chronograph model, Ref. 6236, manufactured in 1960, has been sold for $638,500.