This week’s Round-Table question is: Of today’s new watches in the $1000 to $5000 category, which will be tomorrow’s most sought after vintage models?
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To be perfectly honest, the vintage market has always left me scratching my head. That is to say, I can’t quite figure out why collectors fawn over some watches (I’m looking at you, Paul Newman Daytona), and basically completely ignore others. So yeah, this is definitely a tough one for me to answer. But, disclaimer aside, I guess I would have to go with the Damasko DA36.
Why the DA36? For starters, it’s already a modern day classic, and for good reason. The styling is attractive and accessible, with just enough quirks that it remains uniquely Damasko. Sure, it’s an updated flieger, but there really is no other watch that looks like the DA36 beyond some superficial similarities. The neon-yellow seconds hand, the cross hairs on the dial, and the bold numerals–they’re all distinctly Damasko.
Then you have the unbelievable build quality. It’s probably safe to say that there are going to be plenty of well loved Damaskos that will look as though they are NOS even after years of wear. Plus, the cases are so over-engineered that even if Damasko were to go bust tomorrow, you are likely to get a lifetime of use without ever encountering a stripped crown or any serious damage to the case (both are hardened). Good thing I’m already ahead of the curve.
The $1000-$5000 range is so loaded with quality pieces these days, it’s seriously difficult to say what will be the one to have a few years down the road. Things like the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch are basically guaranteed to still be collectible, but to be fair, they sort of always have been. Narrowing things down to new models, however, changes things. While there are still tons of incredible watches, many of them are remakes or homages, and methinks the appeal of an homage will decrease with time.
One new watch begins to stand out, however- the Tudor Pelagos. While the Pelagos certainly draws from the past for its basic design cues (the overall look of the dial and bezel are just updated Tudor Snowflake Sub), the whole idea of the Pelagos is one that I feel will definitely endure. What if the 60-year-old Submariner was designed today? How would a modern Swiss watchmaker go about making a tool diver without sacrificing luxury? The Pelagos answers these questions with a wealth of innovations- titanium case, ceramic bezel, and an innovative self-adjusting bracelet clasp designed to adjust to changing compression while diving, while maintaining the stylistic DNA of the Rolex/Tudor Submariner line. It’s a captivating design exercise, and one that I think will continue to captivate collectors for a long time to come.
The Watch Curmudgeon
After considerable thought, I’ve painstakingly narrowed this down to two brands that I feel are doing everything right, brands that will endure and become quite collectible. So, what will tomorrow’s version of you watch addicts be seeking? To handle this properly, I had to borrow a time machine, and eves drop on a phone conversation between two aficionados: Zeppo and Shen. They were both on their GoogApple HoloPhones, and the year was 2064.
“Hey Shen, I’m about to ruin your day,” uttered Zeppo with an annoying chortle.
“Oh yeah Zep? Well I’ve got a little somethin’ that’ll wreck yours too!” snipped Shen.
After a brief pause, Zeppo cleared his throat and said, “Sit down, watch your Holo, and behold!”
In a moment, a watch appeared, floating about six inches above his phone in vivid detail. As it ever so slowly turned, Shen began to perspire and breath heavily. Goosebumps arose on his arms.
“Where did you get that?” asked a very startled Shen. He then began to stutter, “Thathatha that’s my favorite old Sinn. And the copper-colored dial has just the perfect patina. I’m too jealous! What did that set you back?”
“It’s been my grail for years! A 356 Flieger ll Sa. And this circa 2014 beauty is still in perfect condition. The guy wanted $20,000., but I talked him down to $18,500. What a steal!”
“I also love the strap,” gushed Shen.
“Yeah! It’s an original Worn & Wound with just a bit of wear,” asserted Zeppo. (Disgusting plug)
“Now…….it’s my turn,” announced Shen with overwhelming pride. “Feast your eyes on this beauty I just got yesterday!”
Zep stared at his Holo. The suspense was killing him. And then it appeared. The shock of it made him whimper and nearly soil his shorts.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! A Nomos Metro, also from about 2014 if I’m not mistaken,” blurted a very shaken Zep.
“Yep! Ain’t she a beauty? And with only a few scratches,” gushed Shen.
After a bit more ooing and ahing, Zep asked, “Who did you get it from, and what kind of a hit did your wallet take?”
“Got it from some dude in China on that new Alibaba forum. I traded my Omega Mars Watch for it.”
“Shen, you outdid yourself on this one! Hey, want to flip the Sinn for my Nomos…………..
At this point, the time machine started acting weird, so I felt it would be prudent to return. Now, what did we learn here, my friends? In my opinion, Sinn and Nomos will be the most highly coveted vintage watches in the $1000 to $5000 category. Go ahead, argue with me, but you have to admit that Sinn is making incredible, distinctive watches that are suitably innovative, yet never gimmicky. And Nomos, which is totally different from Sinn, makes superb watches that’ll endure as classics. I could go on and on about these two brands, but I fear I have violated the length limitations for this forum.
That is a tough one. Watches of this price point are outside of my normal field of vision, given my usual budget. The watch that comes to mind, however, is the Tudor Black Bay. With it’s throwback style inspired by several vintage models and updated case sizes and materials for the current time it could be one that lasts into the next generation.
Definitely a tough question, but I believe that the Seiko MarineMaster 300 SBDX001 already has a head start because it is a watch that is based off the lineage of Seiko diver watches, which has been well-documented here. It’s a cult hit, but as Seiko develops its reputation outside of Japan, this is the watch that people will see as its flagship model with its monocoque case and traditional style cues, and of course the crown at 4 o’clock. Priced just above or below $2000, it’s still accessible and it may become the last mid-tier watch that is a traditional automatic as Seiko seems to be moving towards developing its Spring Drive technology on its upper end. It’s a beautiful, tasteful and purposeful watch that has instant classic written all over it. The color scheme, bezel insert font and finishing is also a classic makeup.
It’s hard to look back and track the events that positioned a watch to become valuable now. It all seems so happenstance. Maybe a brand gets a military contract and those watches become collectible, maybe not. Maybe a celebrity takes a shine to a specific model and that carves its place in history, maybe no one cares. Maybe Smart Watches do take hold and we have another “quartz crisis” (highly doubtable) driving out some brands, and forcing others into the spotlight. No matter what, trying to guess is more or less a game of darts.
That said a few watches and brands come to mind, all of which focus on manufacturing movements, and bucking the trends of the watch industry at large. Obviously Nomos is one. Their mix of in-house calibers, high finish, great prices and growing popularity sets them up to be a brand of value. If I were to invest in another, I would make sure the movement featured their “Swing System”, which not all yet do.
Next would be Frederique Constant. While I think this brand has a lot of growing to do, especially in terms of branding and design, they too are pursuing genuine in-house manufacture movements, though I imagine their balance/escapement is still sourced. The fact that their in-house automatic moonphase comes in under $4k is pretty spectacular. One of these days they will come out with something totally unique that will make them a go-to brand.
Lastly, Christopher Ward. Not only do they have perhaps the most impressive, in terms of stats, in-house movement in the price range (5-day, automatic chronometer? yes please) as well as a bunch of cool complications, they are doing it all in a way that contrasts the industry, particularly the Swiss watch industry, as a whole. I love their attitude about it all… It’s aggressive and stubborn and, in the end of the day, about making a better watch for us, the customers. Their growth over the last 10 years suggest they aren’t going anywhere, so I think in 25-50 years, these early examples of their in-house capabilities could certainly be of value.
Tough question, it’s always hard to predict the the whims of the masses, especially we fickle WIS! I think a couple that are destined to become future vintage collectables are the ‘Bond’ Omega Seamaster 2531.80, and the Seiko SBDX001 Marine Master (MM300). The Seamaster is already a classic, and with it was the first Seamaster associated with the Bond films which just adds to its fan base. Omega has already made changes (some subtle and some not) to the original, and I think it will continue to gain in popularity.
The fact that it has the ubiquitous ETA 2824 movement helps too in that it will be easy to service now and in the future. The Seiko MM300 already has cult status from the innumerable Seikoholics of the world, and its appeal will only continue to grow. If and when Seiko decides to discontinue this model, it will become an instant vintage classic. It’s retro good looks and bad to the bone tool watch construction and design will keep it desirable for future generations.
Ah, a bit of crystal ball gazing. Always a pleasant way to spend an hour or so. So, a decent measure of Macallan poured, let me gaze away…
This is a tough market in which to find value, let alone future vintage pieces. The problem is, you need to hack through the horological jungle of me-too, stock movement-powered dullards and blinglings to find the worthwhile stuff. And it’s not always where you think…
Here are my three top tips:
Once you’ve weeded out the foul, cheap-o-quartz offerings from fashion houses, nasty shiny things with Chinese movements and black plastic ‘tactical’ stuff, there’s only one watch left. It’ll not be for everyone, but in terms of workmanship, movement and sheer quality of design, it must be Eddie Platts’ Speedbird III, or PRS 22.
Why? You get a chronometer grade ETA2824, a soft iron inner case and dial that protects the movement to 80000 A/m and one of the best bracelets out there. You also get a watch that suddenly makes stuff with a $5,000 tag look properly overpriced. You don’t get a flashy logo, brand “ambassadors” or advertising. Instead you get all the good things that matter without any of the bull. Splendid.
The middle ground is always the hardest territory to prospect. At this level I’d try some serious persuasion and see if I could snag a SBGX061 Grand Seiko Quartz. “Quartz?!” I hear you cry, “the Devil’s watch!” Ah, but no. Quartz at this level is very different. Set it twice a year and it’ll never be any more than a second or so out. Better, the cal. 9F is a genuinely interesting and innovative movement that is finished to the sort of levels that would make the Swiss blush. I should know – there’s a SBGX083 Mastershop on my wrist as I type this. Believe me, it’s a future classic for the discerning.
OK, I’m going to cheat. At this level, I’d cut out the takeaway coffee for a few months and put the balance towards a Nomos Weltzeit. It’s one of the cheapest ways into a serious, in-house movement – and what a movement! The Nomos ξ is just superb: 26 jewels, a Glashütte three-quarter plate and stopwork, tempered blued screws and adjusted in six positions, Glashütte ribbing and NOMOS perlage. And wherever you are in the world, you can tell the time. Or just look at your wrist and smile at the engaging, simple, classic design and wonderfully persnickety workmanship of the whole piece.
Because that’s what future vintage pieces should be all about.
This discussion puts me out of my normal watch zone in a couple ways: (1) $1000-5000 isn’t my typical operating range (and if I’m there, it’s on the low side), and (2) I don’t buy new watches. I only own one watch made in the last 5 years (my Helson Spear Diver), and I bought it second-hand. That being said, I’ll see what I can do.
One type of watch that will always command some attention in the collector market is a serious tool watch built by a major brand. While many of the majors now price themselves out of the <$5000 category, there are a few exceptions that answer the mail. Here are three I would buy if I was buying a new <$5000 watch.
The Tudor Pelagos (retail $4140, currently found used around $3000-3200) is a phenomenal tool watch and provides great technology, fantastic looks, while going fairly easy on the throwback image (unlike Tudor’s other hot sellers the Heritage Black Bay and Heritage Chrono). This deep diver will be a favorite among pros and collectors alike.
The Breitling Transocean Chronograph 38 (retail $6350, currently found new and used around $3700-4500) is refreshingly small in a world of giant, oversized pilot chronographs. The two-register chronograph with date at 6:00 is a perfectly balanced, classic flyer’s watch and will look great forever.
The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 Gauss (retail $6600, currently found used around $3800-4500) manages to be both technical and beautiful. Due to its non-magnetic movement, it’s completely impervious to magnetic fields (handy if you work at CERN or a metal scrap yard). And who doesn’t love the yellow and black seconds hand?!
When you think of a watch that’s going to be collectible in the future, you can’t just think current cool. There’s got to be something special, something unique about the design, the company, or the watch itself. For my money, Nomos is the brand that’s going to be collectible in the future. Classic understated Bauhaus design spread over eleven current models that should stand up well over time. And the real kicker – in-house movements. Even with the current argument over what constitutes an in-house movement, Nomos is there, and in the German/ Glashütte style to boot. You’ve got both hand-crackers and automatics, multiples sizes, even limited editions, starting at less than $1800, and staying under $5000 most of the time (The Lux and Lambda are the big exceptions, breaking well into five figures, being gold watches with unique features).