Article : The Watch Geek 2.0: Confessions and Watch Investment

Marbles, comics, football stickers and vinyl from 8 years old I had always gravitated to that which was collectible, tradable and relatively liquid.

Following a 5 year stretch, commencing in my mid-20s, of obsessively researching, hunting down and flipping rare dance vinyl for a modest profit, I one day came across an interesting watch on eBay.

Why watches you might ask? Well, up until this point In my life I guess I kinda liked watches, owning the odd Tag, G Shock, and Casio, but I was always intrigued by the allure and prestige of ‘the crown’. The watch in question was a one owner Rolex Datejust 16220, equipped with a jubilee bracelet, White Buckley dial, unpolished case, and all original features, not that I knew what ANY of that meant or signified at the time.

It was advertised at around £1750, came as a full set with Box and Papers, which again meant nothing to me, and for some reason just jumped off the screen at me. I subsequently bought said timepiece for a reduced sum of £1600, unscrupulously circumventing eBay rules with a PayPal only purchase back when you could get away with it, wore it daily for 6 months and then proceeded to sell it for £300 more than I paid.

Profit and pleasure in equal measure, the satisfactory feeling was hard to beat and resulted in what may well have been the most dangerous £300 I have ever made, I had found my new drug, my new obsession and I was hooked. That was 8 years ago.

So how have the last 8 years unfolded? Well aside from Marriage, kids, Work and regular life, on the watch-front it’s been a blend of Vintage Rolex Forum (and the other ubiquitous forums), Hodinkee (dissecting probably 95% of total content), A Blog to Watch, eBay (banned, unbanned, banned and unbanned again), London Pawnshops, Gumtree (dangerous and not recommended), Chrono24 (currently my go-to), Watchfinder (genius company but in my view they over-polish before selling), Theo & Harris (decent millennial content but why does this guy ONLY promote and champion pieces he stocks and can’t sell in his shop), Talking Watches (recently been a bit stale but will forever be in my heart thanks to John Goldberger), Instagram (purely for inspiration and Wristporn), Rolex Passion Report/Market (the guy is beyond legendary), Worn and Wound, Bark & jack (needs another 1 to 2 years under his belt and to stop following trends), Archie (The Pontif is an underrated diamond and should not be overlooked), The Gentry (respect for his depth and dedication….but RIP?), many many many more and most most recently the guys from Scottish Watches 😉

I’ve gone deep, unhealthily deep into this hobby and have one conclusion, like as in life, the more you know, the more you realise you know literally nothing. I see this insatiable hobby of mine as part passion, part obsession, part frustration, part business project and part enigma.

So why am I writing this? Well after buying and selling hundreds of watches non professionally (admittedly mainly Rolex with a smattering of AP, Omega, Tudor, Panerai and a particularly stressful experience with a Linde Werdelin) and losing money on only 1, I reckon I have a knack of spotting undervalued winners (I’m talking pre-owned/second hand, not new release Rolex sports). So onto the main event – there are 4 watches I reckon you should be putting your chips on now and the reasons why.

1) Rolex Oysterquartz 17000 (MK1 3 Line pre COSC dial)
Spawned from and inspired by the early generation Rolex 5100 model Beta 21 Quartz models (designed by Gerald Genta nonetheless), these early 1978-1980 pre COSC 3-Line dials are going to become hot. Clean, legible,  intriguing and robust with the DNA of Rolex and hints of AP this is a stone cold winner. Only 25,000 Rolex Quartz watches produced and sold equals rarity and future desirability. Make sure you get original, unpolished and clean dials (blue ideally but silver or black will do) and pay £2500 for watch only and £3500 for watch and papers. The 17013/4 models are also very cool with the precious metal edge. This one will do you just fine.

2) Rolex Daytona 2-Tone 16523 (White or Black dial)
One of my biggest regrets is selling a NOS 16520 white dial full set with accompanying Rolex Daytona collectors book back in 2015. Since then this watch has risen steadily from a mere £6500 I paid to around £26-28,000 (at today’s prices). The whole Zenith / Rolex collaboration continues to fascinate me, even more so since my visit to the Zenith manufacture in Le Locle, Switzerland, a town which is, without doubt, the birthplace of Haute Horologie.

The 16523 model is so criminally undervalued (you can snap up full sets for £9500-£10,000) that if you gave me £1m right now I would buy up all the complete, untampered examples I could find and lock them up in a safe. Fast forward to 2022/3 and I would have £1.6m and a nice paper profit.

2-Tone is super hot and that will continue as more companies like Tudor pump out new editions and the average watch buyer seeks something different and starts to feel braver. I wouldn’t, however, buy the yellow dial 16523: firstly because I love to wear all my watches and secondly because no matter how rare something is, a dog is still a dog, although they did sell that ugly, turn-o-graph dial purple Submariner for £1m last year! This one on Chrono 4 is worth a look.

 

3) 1960s era Omega Seamaster with Beads of Rice bracelet Ref 166010

Whilst I wouldn’t touch Omega in general with a barge-pole (strictly from an investment perspective), the early 60s Seamaster’s are absolutely stunning and grossly undervalued pieces. The simple and elegant case & dial combination was designed for Omega by Mr. Genta during a period when he did much of the design work for Omega in relative secrecy. A beautifully designed and constructed calibre 565 is highly serviceable, has a quick set function and is actually very attractive. Stick to the solid stainless steel case variety with 3 o clock date window – it’s 35 mm wide (excluding crown) and looks phenomenal on a leather strap. If you can get an original example with a beads of rice bracelet for under £900 I would buy it immediately.

4) Patek Philippe ref. 3445

As more and more fans pour into the watch collecting community and eventually look outside Rolex, I think they will gravitate towards vintage and more affordable watches like this from Patek.

At circa 35mm (similar to a Datejust), with an automatic date display (released in the early 60s and a big deal for the time), a domed plexiglass crystal, a sporty screw down case back and the beautifully executed subsidiary seconds on the dial, this watch is a sleeper. To me, this piece is the epitome of cool – simple on the outside but bad boy on the inside with an 18k yellow gold rotor with immaculate detailing. Admittedly, the white gold version IS more desirable and demands a premium but I think this yellow gold version being sold with an extract from the archive is worth your hard earned dollar

Another notable mention goes to the:

– Rolex 16570 Explorer 2 Black dial, not the completely overrated Polar dial that every man and their dog are jumping on. When you consider its understated aesthetic, glossy dial, 3185 movement, also in the now well overpriced GMT 16710, thin profile and sporty Submariner-esque feel, this to me is well under-appreciated. You can find NOS examples on Chrono24 for £6-£6500k which is an amazing deal.

The market will continue to evolve, flip and change and who knows where we will be in 6 months time. If Rolex brings out a new Milgauss at Basel, the current references will go up in value and desirability, even though I can’t stand them. Either way, I will enjoy the journey and invest in the aforementioned pieces sooner, rather than later.

Oh, as an aside, guess where I recently moved with the family for work? I give you one clue, it’s a landlocked country that starts with an S and ends in a LAND. I love this Hobby!