In our daily encounters with customers, we often get asked this question: “Do your watches have investment value?” Or a more general one would be: “Do watches appreciate in value?”

Going by the scientific route, we must first understand the definitions of the two key words here: “watch” and “investment”, and what better way than Google (read: Wikipedia) to help us get these definitions.


A watch is a timepiece, typically worn either around the wrist or attached on a chain and carried in a pocket…..Most inexpensive and medium-priced watches used mainly for timekeeping are electronic watches with quartz movements. Expensive collectible watches, valued more for their workmanship and aesthetic appeal than for simple timekeeping, often have purely mechanical movements and are powered by springs, even though mechanical movements are less accurate than more affordable quartz movements.



In finance, investment is putting money into an asset with the expectation of capital appreciation, dividends, and/or interest earnings. This may or may not be backed by research and analysis. Most or all forms of investment involve some form of risk, such as investment in equities, property, and even fixed interest securities which are subject, among other things, to inflation risk.


It’s quite interesting that the definition for “investment” states that it is actually an action – which I assume is an action decided on and taken by the investor, knowing very clearly that the investor expects to see those benefits stated above.  The definition of the investible asset is also loose, which leaves any tangible or intangible items being possible to be included in the list as well. So if a buyer is taking that action to buy a watch in view of making a return out of it, then he is investing in an asset i.e., the watch. On this basis, to those out there who have been buying watches and think that you will be able to make a return out of your purchases, you can proudly call yourself an “investor”.

Turning our attention now to the definition of a “watch”, it is interesting to note that the definition does not mention a watch as an investment asset. However, a watch is quoted as a “collectible item”, especially the “expensive” ones. Given that what constitutes “expensive” is debatable, since this a relative concept when it comes to pricing, it is therefore difficult to state definitively a price point at which a watch becomes a “collectible”. 

Like it or not, the terms “watch” and “investment” have become inseparable, thanks to the marketing push from watch brands and the media, which enjoy huge advertising dollar contributions from the watch brands to start with. Watch-related news that have made it to the headlines of late include reports on record price being paid for a certain brand in an auction; famed collectors boasting about their past investment returns on watches; watch prices getting higher on an annual basis; and high profile collectors setting up watch investment funds, to name but a few examples. Therefore, unknowingly the media, collectors and retailers have become active agents in making all of us believe that: yes, a watch is an investment asset.

The next question you need to ask yourself is: “What type of watch buyer are you?”


A Collector

You are a well-informed buyer with an eye on both the extrinsic and intrinsic value of the collectible. You enjoy the process of researching, learning, and sharing on the subject matter; not just the acquiring part. You don’t buy based on impulse; your purchases are well-thought of and most likely have some theme behind it, even down to specific requirements such as maximum/minimum case size, country of origin, functions, colour or even price. In short, you have a very systematic way of collecting, both consciously and unconsciously. You will proudly wear your collection as a normal day-to-day watch, but will leave behind some very precious ones in a safe place, open for viewing only to a select group. You are in many watch-related forums (actively or just lurking); you may have your own website – or at the very least, you will catalogue your collection with details on purchase date and price. You also enjoy vintage watches more than any other types of watch buyers. Vintage speaks very loudly to the Collector. 

An Investor Wannabe

You don’t know anything about watches. You buy simply because you think you will make money out of the purchase. You are likely to walk into any store (including pre-owned watch stores) and ask if you can make money out of watches or which watches you should invest in; and you are mostly likely easily coaxed into believing that a certain brand or model will give you an investment gain (PS: Don’t worry, we won’t do that to you). You will not wear the watches you’ve bought (at least, not frequently) for fear of damaging these watches since that will result in a lower future value for the watches. Sometimes you might get lucky, especially if you are surrounded by honest dealers with good networks as this allows you to let go of a piece easily – at a profit, of course.  You have the mindset that the price of watch is associated with its quality. The higher the price, the better the quality. 

A Real Investor  

You are buying with the ultimate goal to make a return out of the collecting activity. You are likely to set up a fund for investing in (serious) watches. You invite people to participate in your fund. You have an in-house research team and experts to advise you. You are permanent fixtures in any watch auctions. You are wealthy – very wealthy. Sometimes Real Investors are just very wealthy individuals who collect and invest in certain brands with a very clear investment approach. It is this clear investment approach that separates the Real Investor from the Watch Lover below.


A Watch Lover

If you ask the Watch Lover why they love watches, you will most likely get the answer: “I don’t know; I just like watches.” I call this group the True Collector too. Why “true”? Because the Watch Lover collects everything at any price as long as it catches both their attention and heart. For the Watch Lover, visual and emotional cues are equally important. You will wear different watches based on your mood, outfit and the occasion. Pricing is a secondary consideration to you. What I mean is that you will buy a watch, be it at the entry pricing level or luxury pricing level as long as the watch speaks to you – and you can afford it, of course. Because the Watch Lover is more attracted by the visual and emotional cues tied to a watch, don’t expect this group to share with you the details of their watch in terms of technical specs and history. As a Watch Lover, you will most likely give a blank stare when asked this question. So in essence: the Watch Lover follows the trend, reads magazines and popular fashion blogs. Many are very wealthy individuals too, buying expensive serious watches simply because they are in awe of the pieces that have caught their eye and heart. 

The Follower

“I buy what my peers are buying” – this is the mantra of the Follower. Of course, you are not likely to admit it, because nobody likes to be seen as a follower. However, the Follower is what every brand is vying for when it comes to sales as you are the ones who will make a brand or model flourish or flop. Without this group of watch buyers, there will be no sustainability in a branding effort. So you, as a Follower, are the ones who bring in the money. The group of Followers is also what I call the “masses”. You believe the advertisements; you adore celebrity endorsements; and last but not least, you enjoy flaunting your watch.


For the sake of discussion, I’ve categorically split the buyers into five groups. There will, of course, be some overlap forming the Hybrids, characterised by a little bit of everything from the five main groups. Now what type of watch buyer are you? It’s probably more objective if you ask your peers for their opinion as it may be challenging for you to decide which group you fall in!

Circling back to the original premise of this piece: is a watch an investment? Personally, I am not for the idea of buying a watch in the hopes of reaping monetary gains. Having said that, yes, I do know that there are people who can prove that they have made money from buying a watch. But more importantly, they forget to teach us how this can be done. Allow me to leave you with the below food for thought if you’re one of those asking whether watches have investment value.

  1. You must have a trading mentality. Buy low, sell high. This is the basic premise. How do you buy low? Buy good condition pre-owned watches from good honest dealers. Buy at clearance (of course, there are certain brands that won’t be at clearance – ever). Bargain hard, especially for super high-priced items (i.e., 6-digit pricing). In case you don’t realise this, the moment you walk out the doors of the shop where you’ve just bought your watch, the value of your purchase diminishes instantly by 10%. The diminishing of the value will be (minimum) 30% if you release within a year, and more if you release within three years. These are of course ballpark figured; some brands perform better, some worse.


  1. Be in the business. You don’t have to be a dealer, but you can be a blogger, a writer, set up a watch forum and so on. As long as you do something that gets you closer to the industry network.  Of course if you have the guts, money, and skills, feel free to jump straight into the dealer business of pre-owned watches. 


  1. Be daring. Buy what others haven’t discovered yet. You just need a good pair of eyes and a little bit of courage; but of course, buy something at a price you are comfortable with. Think of Panerai in the early days. Word of caution though: everyone keeps betting on the next Panerai. It’s been 16 years since the resurrection of the brand but we have yet to see another case similar to Panerai’s.  So, luck definitely had a leading role in Panerai’s story.


  1. You must try to find a way to get into the Watch Collector and the Real Investor groups even if you don’t have any collection yet or simply, don’t have access to vast amounts of financial resources. Don’t be intimidated though; these people are generally nice and are willing to share and impart their knowledge to you. You just need to be daring – see point 3 above – enough to approach them.