Pre-owned Luxury Watches Have Been Beating the Stock Market

A new report shows that secondhand timepieces from Swiss luxury watchmakers have been outpacing the S&P 500 Index for the past five years.

A report published by the Boston Consulting Group (BGC) this month states that the S&P 500 stock index has had an average yearly growth rate of eight percent since 2018, while pre-owned luxury watches from brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet have been experiencing an impressive 20 percent appreciation rate throughout the same period.

A pre-owned Rolex Submariner/Photo via Instagram @vintagerlx

This data is particularly surprising considering that the prices of certain secondhand models like the Patek Nautilus and Rolex Daytonas have decreased significantly since 2022. Yet other older models from the aforementioned Swiss watch brands continue to be in high demand—and have become quite popular amongst younger buyers

Time Is Money

For many collectors, vintage watches are more than just luxurious statement pieces or precious heirlooms. They’ve also become an alternative form of investment, one that hedges against inflation and diversifies financial assets—similar to fine art, wine, and rare collector’s items. Nicolas Llinas—a principal consultant of BCG who helped author the report— told The Wall Street Journal that collectors are often willing to pay double or triple the price for a pre-owned watch. 

A Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 sold at the 2022 Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction/Photo via Instagram

The demand for secondhand timepieces increased significantly during the early days of the pandemic, since newer timepieces were hard to come by due to the stalling of watch factory operations. 

According to researchers in the BGC, other factors that contributed to the rising popularity of older watches included the growing number of accessible online watch markets and social media buzz surrounding their increasing investment value. 

 A New Generation of Collectors

With not much to do, plenty of time online, and some cash to spare for a new hobby (and potentially valuable investments), many younger collectors took to buying pre-owned watches over the course of the pandemic. 

Photo by John Schnobrich via Unsplash

In fact, Llinas revealed that Millennials and Generation Z consumers are more likely to splurge on secondhand watches, as they tend to lean into a business-minded approach when collecting. Conversely, BGC researchers found that older buyers tend to prefer newer timepieces. 

An vintage Rolex Submariner and Rolex Daytona/Photo via Instagram @rolexcollectors

With Rolex’s plans to start authenticating their pre-owned watches for resale through authorized dealers, the exponential growth of the secondary watch market is inevitable. According to the BGC, the market is expected to grow by 9 percent each year until 2026, with an estimated value of 35 billion dollars.

Banner Photo via Instagram @woohoo_time.

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