This article was produced for Watchuseek by David Duggan, pre-owned luxury watch specialists:
We all know that Patek Philippe is pretty much tops when it comes to rare and high value. This Supercomplication like the Henry Graves, for example, doesn’t hit the pre-owned market very often, but when it does it’s likely to come with a price tag that would reduce a grown man to a quivering jelly in the corner.
But, with a bit of planning, it is possible the join the Patek Philippe following without taking out a second – or third – mortgage. If you can get some insider knowledge, then all the better. With that in mind, we asked David Duggan, London Mayfair’s luxury watch specialist, to give us his five top tips on how to buy a classic that ticks all the Swiss boxes without the eye-watering price tag.
Why Patek Philippe?
For those of you not in the know, Patek Philippe has made watches for more than 170 years, pioneering hundreds of groundbreaking innovations, such as the split-second chronograph and the perpetual time zone mechanism.
What makes its timepieces so special is the combination of quality of each watch’s movements, the attention to detail, the fact that it remains a family-owned business and its commitment to produce the very best timepieces that they possibly can. Collectors appreciate that – and collectors dictate how the market moves so it’s wise to take notice of what’s on their agenda.
Today, Patek Philippe really has nothing to prove – it keeps its style classic and put its efforts into creating new variations of complications to keep people interested. Queen Victoria was a fan, but the good news is you don’t have to be royalty to own one!
Vintage versus modern
Generally speaking, a vintage watch is anything that was made pre-1960s and, naturally, the vintage market tends to come with higher price tags. So, if you are keen on vintage, but don’t want to break the bank, then my advice is to avoid going too vintage or too quirky. Aim for a 1950s or 1960s piece. Something classic and simple, like a Calatrava.
Style never goes out of fashion and Patek Philippe consciously makes watches that it wants to stick around for centuries to come. Even a modern Calatrava will repay your loyalty by holding its value. A Calatrava doesn’t come stuffed with frills or gimmicks, but you will get value that it is literally timeless.
Tastes change over time, which might work to your benefit. To return to the Calatrava, you’ll find that a vintage model won’t look vastly different from a modern one, but small elements will have moved on – the vintage timepieces tend to be smaller, for instance. They were intended for a male wearer, but the smaller design is not so popular at the moment amongst our male customers. It might well suit a lady’s wrist perfectly, however. So, be prepared to think a little laterally about what you want.
Think about additional costs
Whatever timepiece you choose, you will want to protect it. Insurance is a must – either household insurance or, if you need something more specialist, Hiscox and TH March provide bespoke insurance services for the vintage market.
Think about servicing. Most manufacturers suggest a service every three to four years, although we believe you can let a watch run for five years. But it’s important you do it; it keeps your timepiece in good health and a strong, recorded service history will help retain its value.
Don’t forget repairs. If you go vintage, treat it as such. This is a timepiece to be worn on special occasions. If you try to wear it like a modern, everyday watch, you’re going to find it needs repairing a lot – for instance, many early watches have no waterproofing whatsoever. The watch is fit for purpose, but remember that purpose was originally defined by the era that it was made in.
Understand your market
Like the vintage car market, prices can rise and dip, particularly as trends fall in and out of fashion. We’re seeing it in the showroom at the moment with Patek Philippe’s Nautilus 5712. The watch has been in production for the past 40 years, but has come back into fashion in the past 10 and become something of an icon. As a consequence, there’s currently a two-year waiting list, reflecting its rising popularity after a quieter period on the collectors’ market.
Generally, though, Patek Philippe timepieces hold their value very well. One of the reasons for this is that the company makes so few of them. Today, Patek Philippe makes around 38,000 timepieces every year (compare that to Rolex, which makes 1 million) and distributes those to 70 countries. If you then factor in the different models, the number of timepieces per model is actually quite small. If you want a timepiece with a classic look that holds its value, you can’t go wrong with a Patek Philippe.
The David Duggan luxury watches team has more than 150 years’ combined experience in the luxury watch market, they are members of the British Horological Institute, specializing in vintage watches available from their showroom in London’s Burlington Arcade.
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