Six of the best watches to invest in today - WatchPro

The problem with today’s hottest watches is that it is both a bad time to buy — at least on the secondary market — and not a great time to sell unless you have been miraculously able to buy at retail. So which watches might be the next big thing? Simon de Burton runs a rule over the reasonably modern and vintage timepieces that are still a decent investment while making dinner party Daytona sheep bleat with envy.
Ask any art market expert for a list of criteria that typically make an object desirable, collectible and valuable and it’s a certainty that rarity will feature somewhere near the top.
Condition and provenance will be in there, too, as well as historical significance and, of course, the perceived importance of the perpetrator (i.e. the brand).
But the rarity rule doesn’t always apply when it comes to watch collecting, which is why models such as the Rolex Submariner, Cosmograph Daytona and GMT Master have consistently risen in value during the past decade, and why pre-owned prices have also soared for the less ubiquitous (but still made in the thousands) Patek Philippe 5711 and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’.
The popularity of those five models and their variations is understandable, because they are all great watches and each represents a horological milestone in its own right. But, disregarding specific references and unusual design nuances, truly rare they are not and, truth be told, they are not necessarily better than many other, equally worthy watches that simply don’t command the same level of premium.
The difference is, of course, that they have come to be regarded as must have commodities because they offer status symbol kudos and, through a knock-on effect, a potentially significant return on investment.
But what if a) you can no longer afford one, b) you don’t want to follow the crowd and c) you do appreciate an interesting watch? What represents a worthwhile alternative and, importantly, might have the potential to be more widely discovered in years to come?
We all have our own ideas about what will be the next big thing in collectable watches, but only the very brave would dare to place a substantial bet as to which ones they might be.
The task I have undertaken for WATCHPRO is to choose half a dozen that, by my reckoning at least, seem pleasantly under-hyped and under-valued compared to the unicorn watches that many of us are tired of hearing about.
There are hundreds of others to choose from, or course, so these are merely to whet the appetite and encourage lateral thinking.
And, as a final caveat, remember the truism that the value of investments can go down as well as up, so don’t blame us if we’re proved to have completely missed the mark. Equally if any of these start to soar in the salerooms during the next few years, we accept your gratitude.
Six of the best watches to invest in today - WatchPro
We know. Franck Muller watches are widely regarded as an acquired taste. But delve into 21st century watch making history and you’ll soon discover that Mr Muller, the man, is nothing short of a horological genius who completely re-wrote the watch design rule book while inventing a slew of ingenious mechanisms.
Some even credit him with being the person who made watches interesting, and his Master Banker was designed to appeal to those overpaid city types who needed to keep an eye on the world markets in order to boost already impressive fortunes.
Like many (most?) of Mr Muller’s watches, the Master Banker seemed brash, OTT and more than a little vulgar when originally launched — but now it simply looks like a practical, useful watch in a lovely, Cintree Curvex case. And it’s currently hugely undervalued. £6,000/$8,100 gets a gold one.
Six of the best watches to invest in today - WatchPro
If you’re hankering after a vintage Rolex but a mint Submariner seems too obvious and too expensive, check out the Yacht Master 16622. The mighty Crown registered the Yacht-Master trademark in the 1960s for a model similar to the Cosmograph but with a larger, 40mm case.
It was never realised, but the name was adopted in 1992 for a more luxurious, bi-metal version of the Sub designed to appeal to yachties.
It wasn’t hugely successful, despite the introduction of various mid-sized and women’s models, but seven years later Rolex unveiled the superb Rolesium Reference 16622, which combined a steel case with a distinctive platinum bezel and a solid platinum dial.
Again, the watch didn’t achieve its true potential and was phased out a decade ago after the launch of the new all-steel Yacht-Master with blue sunray dial.
Five years ago, a £4,000/$5,400 bid would probably have secured a good 16622 at auction. Now you’ll need nearer £7,000/$9,450, but we reckon values will remain more than buoyant.
Six of the best watches to invest in today - WatchPro
After decades in the £1,500 to £3,000 ($2,000 to $4,000) price bracket, Omega’s Speedmaster went ballistic as one of the hottest collector’s watches on the planet to the point that an insane £2.5/$3.4 million was paid for an early ‘tropical’ example at Phillips last year.
But while it can’t claim ‘moonshot’ provenance, the business-like Flightmaster strikes us as being far more interesting. The last Omega to feature a mechanical movement designed specifically for aviators, the Flighty was a true multi-functional watch aimed at long-haul pilots.
The multitude of crowns and pushers serve to control 30 minute and 12-hour chronograph counters, a 24-hour indication (on first generation versions) and an independently-adjustable second time zone with a jet-shaped hand.
Each push piece was colour-coded and the original models, featuring the Calibre 910 hand-wound movement, were available either with orange hands (for amateur pilots and frequent fliers) or with cadmium-coated yellow hands that reacted with ultra-violet cockpit lights to make them glow in the dark.
More than 37,000 were produced from 1969 to 1973 and less than £5,000/$6,750 buys a belter.
Six of the best watches to invest in today - WatchPro
We know these have been on the rise for a couple of years, but the best still remain undervalued. The use of the designations Uni-Compax, Bi-Compax and Tri-Compax is sometimes misinterpreted as relating to the number of sub-dials which appear on a watch.
In fact, the names were introduced by Universal and Zenith to describe the additional functions provided by the movement over and above standard timekeeping.
The Universal Tri-Compax, therefore, offers three extra functions in the form of a chronograph, a triple-calendar display and a moonphase display.
The Tri-Compax arrangement was available on various references of Universal from the 1940s to the 1960s, all of which had subtle design differences, such as round or square push pieces, simple hour markers or Arabic numerals and gold or steel cases.
With its exquisite, hand-wound, column wheel movement and comprehensive but superbly legible dial, the Tri-Compax must still be one of the best value vintage watches on the market.
Again, £5,000/$6,750 will get you an excellent, steel-cased example while £9,000/$12,250 should secure a superb gold version.
Six of the best watches to invest in today - WatchPro
Original examples of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Polaris made from 1965 until 1971 are highly sought-after collector’s pieces, and rare, too — only around 1,700 of the original E859 models were made, and the best now command in excess of £25,000/$33,750.
The Polaris design was revived a decade ago and now forms a key element of JLC’s modern-day line-up but, during the early 2000s, the house employed a young and imaginative designer called Magalie Metrailler to freshen-up its image with a range of statement-making models, among which was the Master Compressor series.
Instantly recognisable by their compression key crowns (‘wingnut’ collars that could be screwed down to prevent the ingress of water), the Master Compressor watches included chronograph and world time versions. The Memovox was possibly the most interesting, since it featured the mechanical alarm function first used on the Polaris.
Early versions had a tendency for the alarm hammer to rattle about inside the case when disengaged, but still worked beautifully.
Steel versions cost around £5,300/$7,155 when new, but prices are now beginning to creep above that. Less practical gold-cased models cost around £18,000/$24,300.
Six of the best watches to invest in today - WatchPro
Willing to take a substantial punt on an oddball watch? We reckon Parmigiani Fleurier radical Type 370, created to celebrate the launch of the Bugatti Veyron, is worth a flutter.
It was way back in 2001 that a partnership was announced between the then little-known watch brand and the historic Bugatti marque, which had been acquired by the Volkswagen Group three years earlier. Parmigiani’s role was to create a suitably spectacular watch to complement the 250 mph Bugatti Veyron hypercar that, after numerous technical hold ups, eventually went in to production in 2005 — by which time the Type 370 watch had been on sale for a year.
The original, £150,000/$200,000 price tag of the type 370 was accounted for by the fact that it, too, had taken years to develop thanks to its radical, transverse movement that enabled the dial to be mounted sideways-on.
This feature necessitated an eight-part case fitted with six sapphire crystals to provide an all-round view of the mechanism, which featured a 10-day power reserve and was designed to be re-charged with a specially-designed electric winder.
Values plummeted in the early years but are now slowly ascending. One of the original 50 white gold examples is currently on offer in the USA at an asking price of around £75,000/$100,000. It needs to be bought.
Six of the best watches to invest in today - WatchPro

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