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Watch your step: Understanding the intricacies of watch appraisals

Understanding the consumer

Generally speaking, the watch-buying public can be divided into the following five main categories.

Consumers who are attracted to a particular brand and its prestige. Recently, I appraised a collection of eight Rolex Cosmograph Daytona wristwatches. My client wanted the same model in stainless steel, white gold, yellow gold, with a strap, with a bracelet, and in various dial colours. All had been purchased within the last few years. Extreme? Maybe a little, but Rolex customers can be very brand-loyal.

Owners of watches passed down through generations. These watches may or may not have significant monetary value, but this is sometimes secondary to the history and sentimental value behind them. Taking extra steps to learn about and record the family history behind the timepiece may be a service greatly appreciated by your client.

General, non-brand-specific watch buyers. These watch lovers buy any brand to mark an occasion, to be worn as a fashion statement, or simply to tell time.

Jewellery-watch buyers. Some bracelet watches can be a piece of fine jewellery made with precious metals and gemstones. In fact, some vintage pieces are fitted with a hinged cover concealing the watch face. Unless the watch is made by a famous maker, a very significant part of the value is in the bracelet and gemstones.

Collectors. This segment of the market knows the most about the watches they covet, doing considerable research and exchanging information in online forums. Often, these collectors are traders—think baseball card collectors—trading up to improve their collection. Collectors are obsessed with the details. What the layman considers to be insignificant (such as a unique, original factory-installed, red seconds hand) may inspire a collector to pay significantly more. Collectors seek unique features and rare, limited-edition models. The collector mentality drives the market. As such, being in touch with watch dealers, forums, and the auction market can help you gain an understanding of this very important corner of the marketplace.

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