As a collector of vintage watches, particularly Omega Constellations, I have become accustomed to values increasing over time. It isn’t guaranteed of course, but I may well see the bottom fall out of my pants before I see the bottom fall out of the quality vintage watch market. There have been a couple of blips in the past, but the market has always bounced back.
Naturally, when buying vintage watches the usual caveats apply: buy the seller as much as the watch; buy a watch that’s been looked after and not one that’s been to hell and back; avoid mutton that’s been dressed up as lamb (particularly over-polished, over-restored pie pans); know what the market is paying and pay no more than its worth. And last but not least, never view watches as an investment proposition unless you have the expertise to buy pieces that you can restore to their former glory. So far so good.
But what about the vintages of tomorrow? As a horological petrol-head, I have been drawn towards Omega’s coaxial escapement watches designed by English guru George Daniels. Omega claims that the new coaxial escapement, in tandem with a recently developed free sprung balance, goes a long way towards eliminating the barriers to ultra high accuracy in mechanical timepieces. This new invention has three components: a coaxial wheel, an escape wheel, and a lever with three pallet stones, which varies significantly from the run-of-the-mill pallet lever and escape wheel of the lever escapement. Even if, in the long run, it proves no more accurate than your average 18000 beats a minute workhorse, it’s quite sufficient to give this aficionado an eyegasm because it sure is a pretty engine……but enough already!
I’ve been asking around various watch forums about how much I will ‘lose’ if I buy a new Omega with a Coaxial escapement. Lose???? Well, yes. The reason why I’ve taken this tack is to work out how much of my dwindling reservoirs of delight, captivation and pure pleasure I will have to invest in order to cancel out the inevitable depreciation that occurs when one buys a new watch from an authorised dealer.
Here’s what I discovered about the financial side of the equation. If I pay around $3000.00 for one of the cheaper Coaxials, I lose roughly 40 percent of its value as soon as I walk out of the door. This represents most of the dealer margin. Unless I can on-sell to a passionate Coaxialist with very little market savvy for a price higher than that, the depreciation is mine to wear, along with the watch of course.
However, the consensus is that the value of the watch will stabilise for a while after that, and, if I have cared for it well, I may still be able to realise about 50% of its value five years down the track. Averaging out inflation rates over five years, it means I need to invest around $2050.00 of today’s dollars worth of delight, captivation and pure pleasure of ownership over the period, or around $410.00 each year, without adding the cost of maintenance. Hmmm, that’s the price of four Calibre 564 stainless steel C case Constellations, if you buy well.
And there’s another consideration. I still recall with great clarity paying a week’s average national earnings for a particularly seductive Omega Seamaster in the 1970s. After 30-odd years, allowing for all of the economic adjustments necessary to convert the purchase to today’s money, the market would still not offer me than 35 to 40 percent of what I paid for it. Hell, it may take several lifetimes of delight, captivation and pleasure of ownership before I recover the financial side of things!
I have a very strong recollection of owning a Rolex Prince in a past life. Will the Seamaster leave a similar imprint on a future one, and will I have invested enough delight, captivation and pure pleasure of ownership to be assured that I’ll remember my Coaxial with great fondness when I come back as a grasshopper in 2090?
(c) Desmond Guilfoyle 2006