by Simon Lewis


A quality timepiece is the ultimate lifetime investment, and the prospect of handing an exclusive watch down from one generation to another is a much-cherished ideal.


“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation,” is how luxury Swiss watch brand Patek Philippe describes their timepieces. A Patek watch isn’t a device for telling time: it’s an heirloom that transfers values across generations.

However, not all luxury watches get passed down the line and, as a result, there is now a thriving market for secondhand watches of high quality. Your first thought when picturing buying a Rolex or Tag Heuer timepiece secondhand might be of a whispered negotiation in a back alley with a dodgy bloke in an anorak, a rack of watches running up his wrist. Despite being hot property, such a purchase would also come with a wink and no form of written guarantee, but that’s all a far cry from the sophisticated secondhand watch industry that now operates online and matches quality timepieces with eager buyers from around the globe.

It might be that the first luxury timepiece you acquired no longer meets your style needs or that you simply want to upgrade to a more prestigious or valuable piece. If you’re Ray Donovan and you’re stashing cash and tradable items at home fresh from the Laundromat, then you’ll have half a dozen-plus high-ticket watches stored safely in your leather-bound watch caddy. High net worth individuals with a passion for timepieces will also be likely to invest in a watch collection for one of a number of reasons but, for many, a single precious timepiece is most likely to be the order of the day. And this is where the secondhand market kicks in, as newcomers to the ‘art’ are able to dip their feet into the market and upscale when they are ready, at the same time recouping some cost of their earlier outlay.

So, if watches are an investment… what sort of returns would you look at?

“There is obviously a balance between paying for something as a status symbol or for the pure personal pleasure of how it makes you feel to have such a quality timepiece,” says Johan Dreyer, owner and founder of Topwatch SA. “In order to be an appreciable investment, a watch needs to be a top brand that is part of a limited or commemorative edition and that has been engineered with exceptional mechanics. Such a watch will then have a high scarcity value.”

In many ways, buying a new timepiece is like buying a new car. Both need to be insured (keep your serial numbers safe), serviced and their hundreds of working parts carefully looked after, but they also generally lose their value the moment you drive them off the lot or walk them out the store.

“The first buyer or owner pays the retail price and afterwards suffers the financial decrease in value of the piece as it undergoes a status change from a new item to a used item. This is why it makes sense to purchase used pieces and this is where Topwatch plays a key role in watch investment,” adds Dreyer. “However, a watch does not incrementally decrease as is the case with a car. Once that initial value is lost, a watch’s value pretty much stabilises in terms of market value and its investment value is maximised.”

With a global client list of more than 30 000 leaders and captains of industry, the Topwatch team has been dealing in watches for several years and their experts ensure that clients are able to select only the finest of timepieces available on the international market.

“It is from this watchlover-pool of buyers and sellers that we receive most of our newly listed watches. We are honoured to say that we hold a remarkable reputation built over more than a decade of sourcing new and pre-loved luxury watches,” says Dreyer with pride.

Aside from brand-as-investment, the next big question is: which watch is right for you? If your physique and character is more likely to see you cast as Q (Bond’s Quartermaster) rather than the secret agent himself, then the more rugged Rolex, Tag or Omega’s worn by the super-agent might not match your more fragile physique.

“It is such a personal choice, but we suppose it is similar to your choice of cars and clothing. An expression of your personality and lifestyle,” says Cenel Renney, COO of TopWatch.

“Audi drivers are regarded as more conservative than the rest. Mercedes sells mostly white and silver cars. Once again, conservative. A watch is often regarded as the only jewellery men can and should wear to express themselves.

“I believe that every person has more than one aspect to their personalities and also preferences. One watch is never enough and the watch owner should have a collection that gives him options.

“Some would, for example own a ‘weekend watch’ as well as an ‘everyday watch’, in addition to a ‘formal watch’. There is no right or wrong, even in terms of following the media and marketing. That will always be there but, again, your choice of watch is a matter of personal preference,” says Renney.

“A small gent would look uncomfortable with a 46 mm Big Pilot on his wrist, whilst a 39 mm Rolex would look inappropriate on a rugby lock,” adds Dreyer. “

With literally thousands of watch models to choose from, in a perfect world one would ideally have many different watches with which to match the occasion and activities you participate in.

Think of diving and sport watches, and then shift your focus to dress watches. How do you choose in terms of suitability as well as investment value?

“Certain brands are strongly linked and correlated with certain activities,” says Kim Kritzinger, Topwatch investor and associate. “Think IWC, Breitling and Cartier Santos and you think aviation. The Rolex is synonymous with exceptional events and performances. The Yachtmaster, Sailing and the Americas Cup, Rolex Submariner and Rolex Deepsea are part of the diving and water sports culture while the Rolex Datejust and Rolex Day-Date are synonymous with major golf events. So is Audemars Piguet and Longines for golf and tennis respectively, while athletics and timekeeping is all about one name—Omega.”

Whatever way you think about it, as investment or status symbol, there is a perfect timepiece to complement your lifestyle and, thanks to the well-developed secondhand market, there is a great pool from which newcomers and connoisseurs can select that precious timepiece.

“At Topwatch we realised that, with the advent of high-resolution, 360-degree images, an online platform such as is the ideal platform from which to retail watches to global clients. Here clients can browse through in excess of 200 selected, authenticated and guaranteed watches at their leisure and purchase with complete peace of mind,” says Dreyer. 

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