Beginner’s Guide To Watch Buying

It can be a daunting task to step up and make your first major watch purchase. In fact, the story that you will often hear from long standing collectors is that if they only knew what they know now back when they were getting started, everything would be different.

Smart buying of watches requires a bit of education just as is the case with any other luxury item. You can obviously walk into a local Omega, Rolex, or IWC store and simply purchase that new watch that you like, but you can easily lose your shirt if you fail to choose wisely. All watches are not created equal, and just like the luxury vehicle market, high-end watches don’t all depreciate at the same rate.

Full disclosure, if you want your first luxury watch to be primarily an investment worth significantly more when it comes time to sell it, look elsewhere. Yes, some watches do gain value over time such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus reference 5711 that currently sells for more than double its original retail price as well as both modern and vintage examples of Rolex Daytona that have been skyrocketing. The modern Daytona currently retails for $12,400, but you will be hard pressed to find one for less than a 60 to 70 percent premium.

If you are playing in the ballpark below $10,000 to $15,000, however, your options become incredibly limited. That said, if you are a watch aficionado and love the craft of watchmaking, it is possible to be steered in a direction where you can at least not make a poor purchase.

If you are aiming for the ballpark of up to/around $5,000, here are some luxury watch options (old, new, and pre-owned) that you should consider checking out:

Nearly All Steel Rolexes

The answer might sound vague, but today it is very hard to go wrong when looking at any of the modern steel Rolex catalog, whether it is the GMT-Master II, Explorer, Submariner, or even an Air King.


Rolex has been limiting production in recent years and this has led to higher prices in the secondary market. Case in point, last year’s “Pepsi-bezel” GMT-Master should ideally carry a retail price of $9,250. It is rather high for an entry-level piece, but the wild part is that they are in such high demand that they currently sell for over $20,000 on the open market.

If you want something a bit more portable, you should consider getting a Rolex Explorer or Air King that sells closer to $5,000 and whether you hang onto it for a couple of years or a couple of decades, chances are that you at least will not lose money on it.

We are obviously casting a very broad umbrella here, but there are certain criteria you should follow for this to work in your favor.

First, any limited-edition piece that’s offered in the thousands of examples is not really limited and it shouldn’t be something you should consider if you want something that either maintains or gains value. The lower the number of pieces produced, the better off you will be, regardless of the entry price of the watch in question.

Items such as Panerai’s limited edition bronze watches or the “Speedy Tuesday” limited releases by Omega that were launched online have all performed well over the years. However, even in more approachable price points, you will sometimes see very limited pieces performing incredibly well when it comes to retaining their value.

There is also the option of purchasing Rolex replica watches.


Excellent examples include low-volume independent brands such as Ming and Halios, both of which have far greater demand than supply. On the other end of the spectrum, Zodiac watches (A properly executed but obscure arm of the Fossil Group) has had a handful of limited-edition pieces that have maintained their popularity in the rare occasion that they come up for sale.

A specific example is the Super Sea Wolf 68 in Bronze, of which 82 pieces were ever made. Priced just above $2,000 it was a bit more expensive than their typical offerings, but since they sold out they are nearly impossible to track down, with the only example recently seen sitting on eBay for $3,995.

Buying Vintage

If you ask any watch collector, you can be sure that they will tell you about the vintage luxury watch market being on fire over the past several years. With Christie’s and Phillips Auctions seeing increasingly crazier sales results and an increasing number of people getting into the business of buying and selling vintage watches, there are numerous pieces to choose from, but there are numerous risks involved.

If you are going to do it, you should stick with a retailer that you know you can trust, otherwise the risk of losing your investment with a piece that is not in its original condition, or has mechanical issues, (or even worse, both) are incredibly high.