Investment Timepieces: The Top 5 Watches Worth Collecting

No investment is ever guaranteed to go up in value, even cash in a bank carries some risk, albeit very limited. Buying watches to collect for investment can be a smart move if you do your research thoroughly.

In short, there are only two real sure bets: Rolex or Patek Philippe. Both are highly likely to increase in value over the next 10 years much faster than the rate of inflation. But to reduce you risk even further, look for a limited edition model.

*Note: I am not an expert watch collector and this article does not serve as investment advice.

Luxury Watch Value Increases

Over the last 10 years, luxury watch prices have been rising at around 10% per year. The Rolex Explorer 11 I bought in 2007 for £2,500 now retails for £5,600, with the used value holding well too.

Rolex Watch prices over time

Graph showing Rolex prices over the last 10 years for different modelsImage Source

Why Swiss Luxury Watches Increase in Value

Increased Demand

Growth of wealthy individuals in countries like China has increases the demand for Swiss watches. All the Swiss watch executives see China as the their biggest growth area for exports.

Looking at Google Trends for the search term ‘Rolex Watch’ over the last 12 months, highlights the countries with the most interest. Countries you would never consider are searching for the query like Nepal.  Some of the breakout terms are ‘Rolex watch price India’ – though these could be aspirational searches.

Monopolistic Behaviour

Luxury watch makers tend to restrict supply, like how De Beers sits on a mountain of diamonds.  Luxury Swiss watch makers tend not to sit on inventory, but take on a different approach: they buy up all the intricate Swiss watch companies that specialise in movements etc. This way, they have more control and reduce competition.

Some of the most rare watches have sold for ridiculous prices, especially if owned by someone famous, like Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona which sold for $17.8 Million.  In this article I look at the best watches to collect for investment purposes, watches that can found relatively easy online.

Rolex Explorer 11 (With Orange Hand) Model 216570

rolex explorer 11 with orange hand

This watch was produced to mark the 40th anniversary of the Explorer 11 and has the additional orange 24 hour hand to help explorers determine if it is day or night in pitch-black environments.  The orange hand can also be used as a compass, a feature I only just discovered while researching this article.

I bought a Rolex Explorer 11 because I loved the bezel design, the way it slopes down. I didn’t want a chunky ‘steal-me-now’ looking Rolex like a GMT or Daytona. The Rolex Explorer 11 is subtle, I only wish I had a bit more money at the time to buy this orange hand model.

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Rolex Daytona 40mm Platinum Ice Blue Model 116506


collectable watch 1: Rolex Daytona 40mm Platinum Ice Blue

All Rolex Daytonas will go up in value, they are highly sought after and you generally have to be on a waiting list to buy a new one.  Start opting for limited edition models and you really do have a highly collectable watch with excellent investment potential.

This ice blue Daytona is made of platinum and was produced for the 50th anniversary of the Daytona.

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Rolex Submariner 50th Anniversary Ed Green Bezel and Black (AKA Rolex Hulk)

Rolex Submariner 50th Anniversary- THe Hulk

This Rolex Submariner was produced for the 50th anniversary of the Submariner model.  The Rolex Submariner is the iconic watch, made famous by Sean Connery as James Bond in 1962’s Dr No.

The Rolex Submariner was first introduced to the Rolex range in 1954, being aimed at professional divers. The watch has pretty much stayed the same over the years with only a few minor tweaks; improving the dive depth from 200m to 300m, adding the crown guard.

This is a highly collectable Rolex in a reasonable price range (meaning not 6 figures!) and even given a pet name by collectors: The Rolex Hulk.

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Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-010

Patek Philippe Nautilus

The Patek Philippe Nautilus will make an instant investment, you can actually resell the watch and make a profit, which a of watch dealers actually do. The watch above retailed for £23,440.00 and is on sale for £67,500 1 year later!

The Nautilus was designed in 1972 by Gerald Genta and has become and iconic watch. The Nautilus is the watch I aspire to owning, the watch I would sell my own child for.  I love how clean the watch looks, free of any Rolex bulk and only recognisable by discerning watch enthusiasts.

I would personally opt for the simple version of the watch, even skipping the date functionality – simpler models are also cheaper.  The new Patek Philippe Nautilus Perpetual Calendar, with the three circular day-date-month dials can push you into six figures: the price of a decent Ferrari or decent buy-to-let flat in Newcastle.

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Guide to Buying an Investment Watch

There are companies that make after-market customizations to watches in a limited edition capacity like below. I would personally avoid these, you have know idea what they have actually done to the watch and if they have damaged anything – though some do look very cool.

rolex prohunter - aftermarket customization

Follow the points below and it will stand you in a strong position to buying a collectable watch that is highly likely to increase in value.

1. Buy from a reputable dealer

2. Always buy with a ‘box and papers’ if used, you want the watch in it’s original condition.

3. If buying used, make sure the website has certified authenticity. Websites like Watchfinder & Co. meticulously inspect their watches by professionals who take the watches apart. They will also cross-reference serial numbers with the brand’s own records.

4. Decide on a model and try and find a limited edition version to match your budget

5. Do as much research as possible on the model, become an expert and know every model of the watch ever produced

6. Don’t buy a quartz watch, always manual/automatic

7. Buy a brand that is highly sought after. Just search Instagram for #Rolex to get an idea.


You might also like our other luxury watch articles:

Guide to the best luxury watch boxes, winders and safes

Best luxury watches for women

Best men’s watches under £1000

Best men’s watch under £500