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Investing in luxury watches - A guide from Xupes

Watchmaker and Head of Service at Xupes, Megan Young shares her expertise on watch investments.

Nothing about buying pre-owned watches is straightforward, that’s the beauty of it. It requires a great deal of expertise, knowledge and market awareness. Finding a real gem is a skill in itself, similar to buying a property or vintage car. I often compare it to buying stocks and shares - if you buy at the right time or hold on to it long enough, you might just be sitting on a real winner and get ‘lucky’. Although that luck is often driven by an acute awareness of the product and its potential value.

As watches become more desired over time due to their limited production line or a symbolic association, they become dearer in price and more valuable as collectable pieces. Today I’m diving into some real beauties to discuss their unique features and what makes them so special. With each model, I see a very rewarding future ahead…

Patek Philippe 5204R – Rattrapante Chronograph

This accomplished piece is not just a gem due to its complications and movement, it stands out by its pure beauty and elegance. With an 18k rose gold case and sapphire crystal fitted at the front and back of the case, the craftsmanship is clear to see from the inside out.

It’s movement is a hand-wound CHR 29-535 PS Q, split seconds, perpetual calendar chronograph, with an iconic Gyromax balance. The case is 40mm, complimented by a beautiful gold dial with an opaline finish.

Let’s talk about the complications of this piece. It has several of the most intricate complications ever built in a watch. When we say watch instead of movement it’s because the intricacy doesn’t just lie with the movement, but equally the complexity of building it, both technically and visually into the dial and case. If these complications were to be built in a clock or even a pocket watch, it would make it significantly easier due to the increased space one has to work with. The smaller the piece, the harder it becomes to implement all of the complications. Luckily, the design on the 5204 is equally as stunning, showing the split second, perpetual calendar and chronograph in perfect light. The perpetual calculates the exact time elapsed, including the leap years, meaning that if it’s wound daily, the calendar won’t require adjustment until February 28, 2100.

The split second element is an extra addition to the chronograph that enables you to time two intervals instead of just one. Split second is another name for ‘Rattrapante’, stemming from the French word ‘Rattraper’, meaning to catch up in this instance, with time. The 5204R was introduced just after it’s predecessor in platinum, stemming from the original Rattrapante perpetual (ref. 5004), introduced in 1996. These pieces are still in production and manufactured in low quantities. Buying pre-owned represents a significant discount on the retail price making this watch a nice investment.

Cartier Tortue 2396

Speaking of the crème de la crème in the world of Cartier, this very collectable Tortue Monopoussoir (ref. 2396) is definitely one to look out for. These particular models were launched in 1998 as part of the CPCP collection, shortened from the words Collection Privée Cartier Paris, a collection that was created to celebrate the Louise Cartier designs, which included the Santos Dumont, Tortue, Tonneau and several models from the Tank collection.

This limited collection launched at SIHH in 1988 and continued production until 2008. Every limited series was produced with only 100-150 pieces of each model. At the time these pieces were not advertised anywhere, making them even harder to source. You would need to have inside knowledge about them as they were only ever marketed through brochures handed out in their boutiques. As a result, we only recently started to appreciate the CPCP collection, thanks to the internet and many blogs and articles that have been published since. With that said, these watches are becoming increasingly more popular for collectors each year, as can be seen in their climb in price, which increased to 15k in the last decade and to over 30k in the last year.

The word Monopoussoir also known as ’monopusher’ relates to a chronograph operated by one button; to start, stop and reset the hands. This complication and movement (Calibre 045MC) was created by THA Èbauche, in collaboration with Vianney Halter, Denis Flageollet, and François-Paul Journe. It is not just a work of art visually, but also technically. In this day and age Cartier mainly uses quartz movements, making these models one of only a few from this period with high end mechanical movements fitted. Another reason they are becoming considerably more collectable having increased in value by over 50% in the past 5 years.

Rolex Explorer 1, ref 1016

The Explorer 1016 is one of the most iconic Rolexes that was in production for almost 30 years, launched in 1963, featuring a dial stating, ‘Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified’ and a dial print showing 3-6-9, displaying for the first time the minute track that we now know on the edge of the black dial.

The Explorer is most famous for its inclusion on the first summiting of Mount Everest in 1953, by the explorers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

However, the watch didn’t have the same sporty features as the likes of the other models in the sport line such as the GMT or the Submariner that came out around the same time. With its 36mm steel oyster case, shared with the Datejust 1600, it had no extra features such as date, second time or flashy designs and was often referred to as a ‘Tool Watch’.

Despite this, the Explorer was much loved as an everyday watch, with the more affordable price amongst the sport models, appreciated for its simplicity in just ‘telling the time’. It could be elegantly worn with a tux or whilst performing chores in the garden.

Although the Explorer didn’t have a real purpose it was worn by many well known people, most interestingly the creator and writer of James Bond, Ian Fleming, who regularly wore the watch, delighting fans at the time with his support of the 1016 Explorer.

So, what makes this watch extremely collectable as it was and still is so understated? In my opinion, I believe this classic piece to be such a work horse by nature and has always been equally desired. It is quite clearly the most stable, long-term investment of a Rolex, with prices continuing to rise, especially for the finer examples out there. If you are looking to acquire one, make sure to look for an original piece, with all the time correct parts fitted in a complete set.

At Xupes we have a stunning Rolex Explorer 1016, with a MK1 matte dial, accompanied with its original stamped serial number, guarantee booklet and box. With a noticeable shape to the coronet which has changed over the years, this particular piece has 5 short and wide-set spikes with round tips at the end, referred to as a ‘Frog’s Foot’. This rare and unique Explorer was manufactured circa 1972.

Omega Gemini Speedmaster

Launched in 1957, the ‘Speedy’ was designed as a motorsport’s chronograph, however, its credibility and popularity was catapulted into the stratosphere (and beyond) when it beat other brands including Rolex and Longines to be chosen by NASA, as the astronauts official watch for the space exploration programs in the late 1960s. The Omega Speedmaster Professional Missions Gemini VIII was part of the Missions Collection of 1997-1998. This watch commemorated the mission accomplished on March 16, 1966 by Neil A. Armstrong and David R. Scott for the first space docking on the Gemini 8 mission. A total of 50 pieces of the Mission’s suitcase with all Mission models and a '57 replica were created, with an additional 150 watches available for purchase separately.

The case back was signed "Flight-Qualified By Nasa For All Manned Space Missions", "The First Watch Worn On The Moon". Fitted as the engine to this Nasa piece is the legendary manual winding chronograph 1861 calibre, with the case and movement being entirely robust, protecting the movement against shock and magnetism as well as temperature chances. As one can imagine, these pieces are highly desired due to the history they represent and the limited production that was made. The more time that passes, the more desired these iconic models will become, steadily increasing their value. At Xupes we are very proud to have six Mission Speedmasters available in great condition, all of them being different missions. You know you want to take a peak…


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