One To Watch is delighted to launch a new series of articles by David Duggan in which he shares his rich experience as one of the UK’s foremost vintage watch dealers and horological experts. In the first in our ‘One of my best…’ series David shares his advice on investing in chronographs.
Over the years I have received plenty of great advice from friends and colleagues about how to succeed in the watch business. One piece that has always stuck with me came from one of the most experienced and knowledgeable Italian dealers I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. He told me: ‘If you’re buying a Patek Philippe, buy one with knobs on.’ His advice referred specifically to chronographs and their exceptional collectability and value. After 35 years in this business I am inclined to agree, although I would also add Rolex to that counsel. Both brands create beautiful chronographs and quite a few have passed through my hands over the years…
In 1994, I sold a screw-down pusher Rolex Daytona ref. 6263, with a rare black dial. It is known by collectors as the Oyster Sotto (Oyster Down in Italian), due to the fact that the word Oyster sits below the text Rolex Cosmograph on the dial. I have always thought it was a handsome watch and, when one came into the shop, I bought it for one of my oldest clients. He still owns it today. It was an astute purchase – originally bought from me for £26,000, my client recently turned down an offer of £850,000. He doesn’t need to sell it and wants to keep it. To paraphrase Warren Buffet, I would always advise collectors to ‘buy top quality and hold.’ Whether it’s watches, cars, wine, coins or property – buy the best and hold on for as long as you can and you won’t go far wrong.
One of the most interesting Rolex investments has to be the Perpetual Daytona. Launched in 1988, the zenith-powered automatic Daytona was a runaway hit for Rolex, becoming one of the most eagerly sought after watches on the market. At the time, the retail price of the steel Daytona ref. 16520 was £2,750 and I was selling them on easily for just over £4,500. Today, those same watches sell for £27,000. Steel Perpetual Daytonas have always been a great buy, if you can buy one at list price, although that’s a big ‘if’. The current retail price of the steel and ceramic Daytona is £9,550, while their market rate is £17,000. That’s a healthy instant return on investment!
For me, though, the Patek Philippe ref. 2499 is the daddy of chronographs. Between 1951 and 1985 Patek Philippe manufactured 351 examples. The first one I bought was a first series watch in 1991 from a jewellery dealer in Hatton Garden. He left the watch with me and that same day a good friend came down to have a look at it. Over the next 48 hours, two other dealers came to see this amazing timepiece.
In the end there were five of us looking at this Patek chronograph and so we did the democratic thing and bought it between us. We shared the £32,000 purchase price and sold it a few days later for £42,000. We’d each made £2,000 in a couple of days and were delighted. But, if I’d followed Buffet’s advice and held on to it? Well, that same timepiece would sell now for more than £1 million.
Any Patek Philippe chronograph is a good buy, although not all do quite as well as that special ref. 2499. A yellow gold ref. 5070 retailed at £19,000 when it was launched in 1995 and would sell today for around £60,000. That same year, Patek Philippe unveiled the ref. 5504 split chrono perpetual calendar, retailing at £55,000. Today, I sell these pieces for around £150,000 – a similar growth to the ref. 5070. But this is an market unpredictable, so I would always urge a client to buy a watch that they love and would be happy to wear for the long run.
Ultimately, buy what you like and the very best quality you can afford. It’s a tried and tested rule that I follow when I purchase any timepiece. That way you increase your chances of turning that treasured purchase into a great investment.
Take a look through our website for more information on Rolex and Patek Philippe watches. Or, if are looking for specific advice on buying or selling a vintage timepiece, don’t hesitate to get in touch or visit our Burlington Arcade showroom in Mayfair, London. We look forward to seeing you.