Are We In The Golden Age of Watch Collecting?

Are We In The Golden Age of Watch Collecting?

Just the other day, a colleague of mine shared his recent experience selling a like-new Omega Seamaster. The watch fetched a lower result than he expected. “The party is over,” he said in reference to the booming watch market of the past few years. He’s absolutely right. Beyond this one example, we’re seeing the watch market soften in real time. 

Before I share market data, know that this is not a sponsored article. I chose to reference Chrono24’s ChronoPulse index because I believe that it’s well-reasoned, representative, and it pulls from an ample amount of transaction data (first-hand from 600,000+ transactions). Feel free to use whatever metric you like; you'll probably notice something similar.

Chronopulse Watch Market Index

The watch market (as defined by ChronoPulse) is down 18.73% over the past two years. Sound the alarm! The watch industry is doomed! Headlines from the likes of Business Insider share this sentiment. However, the shock-value titles fail to provide some crucial context about the watch market.

Chronopulse Watch Market Index

Yes, the bubble has burst, and yes, the party is over. But let’s zoom out for a moment. We are two years removed from the hottest watch market of all time.  According to the same index, the watch market (as defined by ChronoPulse) is up 23.43% over the past five years. Sure, the market is down compared to its recent highs, but it’s way up compared to pre-pandemic pricing.

Are We In the Golden Age of Watch Collecting?

Following his proclamation that “the party is over,” the next thing my colleague said was, “what a great time to buy!”. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s not just because of pricing. 

I’ll use myself as an example. I’m relatively new to collecting watches. In October 2022, I dove headfirst into watch nerdom when I started writing for Everest. I had been working as a research assistant for a few years at that point, so I was excited to absorb as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. This couldn’t have been easier with the wealth of high-quality, informative watch content on the internet.

Watch Collection

Image Source: GQ

The quantity, quality, and breadth of watch content in 2024 — online writing, video, print — is remarkable.  No matter what brands or "genres” of watches appeal to you, there are countless avenues to discover and learn deeply about those specific watches. If a smart buyer is an informed buyer, it’s never been easier to make a smart watch purchase. As long as you’re willing to do a bit of research, you should have no issues finding a watch that you love and buying it for an appropriate price.

To that point, today’s watch buyers have dealer’s choice in their choice of dealer. No one with an internet connection is restricted to their local AD or jewelry store. Online marketplaces like Bezel offer a seamless mobile shopping experience backed by expert authentication of every single watch sold (again – this article is not sponsored). While buyers are still getting duped by unscrupulous sellers (from individuals to LLCs), and that’s an unfortunate ongoing issue in our industry, the power remains in the hands of buyers to prevent it from happening.

What the Golden Age of Watch Collecting Might Look Like

In my mind, there will always be room for both modern and vintage watches, but I need not dwell on modern ones for too long here; brands, new and old, will continue to produce watches, many of them focusing on DTC and vertical integration. We’re going to see more and more complications trickle down the price bracket, as we just saw happen with the GMT. 

Paul Newman Rolex Daytona

Image Source: Hodinkee

I believe that the golden age of watch collecting (how I’m referring to the foreseeable future) will be enjoyed largely through vintage watches. The market surge of the past few years hugely impacted modern watch prices (secondhand, specifically), but certain vintage watches were similarly affected. Vintage Rolex, Patek, Cartier, and others saw meteoric rise alongside their modern counterparts, and many of those prices remain high today. Most people on Earth have been priced out of the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona, for instance . . . but don’t worry, plenty of gems have yet to be unearthed.

There are a ridiculous number of cool vintage watches that have yet to be appreciated by a wide audience. These watches are often hiding in plain sight, waiting to be re-discovered.

For example, I recently went down a rabbit hole researching the Hamilton Thin-O-Matic. This family of watches was among the first worldwide to feature a micro-rotor: one of the most charming and collectible features in watchmaking history. While other early micro-rotor watches have soared in price and popularity, nice examples of the Thin-O-Matic can be had for less than $500 on eBay. 

Silvana Skin Dive Watch Vintage

As I mentioned before, there are countless avenues to discover and learn about watches that interest you. I remember reading James Stacey’s My First Vintage Dive Watch in 2022: an article about his ‘60s Silvana skin diver. It sparked my interest in vintage skin divers, but I didn’t purchase one right away. A few weeks ago, I heard James talking about his Silvana on he and Jason Heaton’s podcast The Grey NATO (an older episode – #48), and it led me back down the path of vintage skin divers. In a moment of sheer luck (with a dash of impulsion), I found a stunning ‘60s Silvana for a low price and pulled the trigger. I’m wearing that watch as I write this article (pictured above on an Everest leather strap).

Those are just two examples from my own research/collecting journey. There is a treasure trove of vintage watches out there, and more so than ever before, there is a wealth of information to support them.

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry about what [insert business/finance media outlet] has to say about watches. Yes, the market is down over the past two years. Yes, people who bought steel GMTs for $30,000 are kicking themselves, as they should be. However, these “treacherous” market conditions, paired with the ever-expanding pool of high-quality watch content, is pretty exciting for anyone who actually likes watches. I think it's safe to say that we're in a, if not the, golden age of watch collecting.

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