The collector's watch market has been chaotic in recent months, with a strong upward trend, admittedly concentrated on few brands and models. We have seen some strong disruptions, i.e., inconsistent price differences within the same brands or models, or even within different generations...
The market's current behavior is due to both external factors (an influx of liquidity into the market, a move towards tangible assets) and internal factors (the scarcity of new watches during the health crisis, brand strategies, the Royal Oak's anniversary, etc.). The current market can also be explained by the emergence of a new breed of collectors (investors) who have focused on "signature" models, and so by definition, to the detriment of more "specialized" models that require more in-depth knowledge of the market.
Collectors can legitimately raise questions about the strategy to take on in the next coming months in order to combine their passion with a well founded concern to preserve and even valorize their assets.
The right principle when investing in the collector's market (whatever the underlying asset, this principle does not only apply to watches!) is not to give in to any speculative temptations (we cannot repeat it enough), and to concentrate on quality pieces with a real intrinsic value, with a long-term market vision. And of course, don't forget to enjoy yourself!
As a rule, a model that has been produced for many years (i.e. in large series) will have less intrinsic value than a model with a more limited production run. You should, be able to distinguish the rarest "sub-series" within the same series. For example, the Rolex Submariner 5513 and 1680 will have been produced over a long stretch of time, but their first years of production (meters first or Submariner Red) are much rarer and hold a higher intrinsic value. Specific years, like transition years, also have a real intrinsic value that will stand out in the long term. For the most recent watches, it will also be important to distinguish whether the watch is still in production, what its approximate production is per year, and when the watch will be pulled out of production ( there has been a lot of speculation about models that are rumored to be pulled out of production).
Within intrinsic value, there is also a much less tangible and more perceived factor: a product's desirability... This can turn into a long topic, so let's not dwell on it too long, but we can agree that collector's market follows trends that can be either long-lasting or short-lived. The Nautilus (Patek Philippe), Royal Oak (Audemars Piguet) or Daytona (Rolex) families are models that have a strong long-standing appeal (and are likely to stay that way over time).
Not all models in the categories mentioned above have the same appeal, and a careful analysis is needed to select one model over another.
In today's current market, to develop a coherent collector's (investment) strategy, we have chosen to highlight different Rolex models and the pre-2000 Daytona range that are worth collecting.
What is the logic behind it? The Daytona series has created the market of collector's watch at the end of the eighties.
It is still in production and has a tremendous reputation. The most expensive watch ever sold was a Rolex Daytona that belonged to Paul Newman, for the modest sum of 17 million USD. A third and very relevant point is the fact that Daytonas will be celebrating their 60th anniversary next year (in fact, assuming that the first Daytona is the 6239 model produced from 1963 to 1969). It is likely that both the brand, and the collector's market (auction houses) will try and capitalize on this occasion, which will cause its price to fluctuate.
One explanation is that a new class of investors focused on modern watches has flooded the market, which may (should) eventually stabilize... Let's dare to argue that, in theory, a model such as the all-gold Daytona "Zenith" chronograph (reference 16528) should be worth at least as much as a modern Daytona in the same alloy (reference 116508 or 116505). This is not always the case, even though modern Daytona productions are far superior to vintage Daytonas (even considering green dials or meteorite dials).
Rolex is very talented at maintaining the notion of rarity, which may explain, alongside constant demand, the boom in modern watch prices. Let's bet that the market will end up stabilizing itself and catch up with vintage watch prices... at least that's our assumption.
For the sake of example, and to avoid spreading ourselves too thin, let's take five iconic types of models that have proven themselves in the collector's market in the past, with limited production, and significant potentiel to appreciate (for the right specimen):
- Pre-Daytona 6234 & 6238 : (the first of the "4-digit" models that did not have the "Daytona" inscription on their dial). These models are still largely under-priced and not as prominent on the collector's market, and it is important to collect them in good condition.
- Daytona 6239 : the first Daytona, the first "Paul Newman", a collector's item that has proven its worth over the past thirty years.
- Daytona 6263 & 6265 : (the last of the "4 digits"). Successful models in the world of watch collecting that still have great potential.
- Daytona Cosmograph 16520 : Models halfway between vintage and modern with a strong appeal and some very interesting series. A great success in the world of vintage these past 12 months!
In the following paragraphs, we will describe these models, show you how their prices have changed over the past 15 years and explain our vision of the market (medium / long term).
Rolex chronographs were manufactured before the company decided to call its chronographs "Daytona", including the model references 6234 and 6238, commonly known as "Pre-Daytona".
Reference 6234 was produced over a 6-year period from 1955 to 1961. Taking into account an average production of about 500 references per year (total average of 2300 steel models for 150 models in 14k and 18k gold), we can say that this watch is a rare and highly prized piece by collectors today. It was produced in both a white and black dial version, the black one being the rarest as it accounts for about 10% of production. This model still has radium luminophores and it is very difficult to find this chronograph with all its radium indexes in perfect condition.
Model 6238 was produced between 1962 and 1967. This reference is also considered rare, with approximately 2,500 pieces produced within six years and again a significant difference between the white vs. black dial production as well as the steel, 14k gold, and 18k gold versions.
The purpose of this chart is to illustrate how the watch's value has trended over time. It is an average estimated on a standard model and does not take into account factors that could substantially increase its value (rare dials, gold version...).
Image of ref. 6234
Image of ref. 6238 with a white dial
In 1962, Rolex became the first official timekeeper of the Daytona racetrack (Florida, USA), one year before launching the Cosmograph Reference 6239. That same year, Rolex named it the "Daytona" to be associated with the prestigious racetrack. This timepiece was specifically designed for race car drivers, which explains why the tachymeter scale on the bezel is larger than the majority of competing chronographs.
Actor Paul Newman, who was also a famous race car driver, never left his 6239 when he was racing (as the legend has it). It was in the early 1980s that collectors gave this watch, equipped with the famous "exotic" dial, the nickname "The Paul Newman Rolex". Such an association gave this model a huge rise in value, with some auction catalogs in the 80s listing amounts between 3,000 and 4,000 dollars, when a more conventional version was traded 500$ less.
In this article, we'll only focus on the steel version with a non-exotic dial. A more complete article on the "Paul Newman" was written by us and is available here below...
Produced from 1971 to 1987, it is one of the most sought-after models but also one of the most produced along with the 16520. This reference comes with screwed pushers ( for which there are 3 versions), and it is powered by the caliber 727.
The model is equipped with a bakelite graduated bezel 50-200 units per hour. The first series was made with a folding bracelet 7835. From 1977 Rolex marketed a new reinforced bracelet under reference 78350. The 14K gold model also was available with a jubilee bracelet.
The 6263 is available in steel, 18K gold and 14K gold. The 14K gold is much more resistant than the 18K gold, especially when it comes to scratches.
Reference 6265 was produced from 1971 to 1987 with the three different screwed pushers, and is powered by the caliber 727.
The design is equipped with a steel bezel (unlike the 6263 bakelite bezel) graduated from 50 to 200 units per hour.
Like reference 6263, reference 6265 is available in steel, 18K gold and 14K gold. The 14K gold version being the rarest. The first series were made with a folded link bracelet 7835. Around 1977, Rolex marketed a new armored bracelet under reference 78350. Note: the steel version called "Paul Newman" only existed with a white dial on this reference.
Introduced in 1988 with a going price at €2,451, this generation of watches will be inlcuded in the catalog for 12 years until the year 2000 with a last registered price of €4,629. The model was completely redesigned with an automatic winding caliber and a sapphire crystal that guarantees water resistance up to 100 meters. These are the first "modern" Daytona chronographs and the last ones without a caliber entirely manufactured by Rolex.
The tachymeter bezel is now only found in steel or precious metal. It went through several changes which came to be named type 1, type 2 and type 3 in terms of graduation.
Prices vary depending on the " 6 inversed ", " Patrizzi ", " 4 lines ", and " Floating Dial " versions..., so we'll be refering to an average price that doesn't have any particularity of having a "collector's special exception".
We hope that these few lines have been a source of inspiration in guiding you towards your next investment choice in the world of watch collecting, We also hope our suggestion to go for vintage Daytona models pays off. We remain at your disposal to exchange ideas and advise you at any time.
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