Pre-Owned Luxury Watch Market Crashes! Except for . . .

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Prices in the second hand luxury watch market are crashing so fast you can hear them whistling like World War II bombs falling from the sky. It’s bad. Or is that good? If you’re a buyer, the bombs bursting in air are a welcome opportunity to add armament to your wrist real estate. Let’s go to the tape . . .

watcharts.com’s Overall Market Index tells the tale. The glide path above depicts the average market price of 60 watches – chosen from the top 10 luxury watch brands, measured by transaction value – over the last six months.

According to this index, the pre-owned luxury watch market peaked in April ’22, just before watchcharts’ chart picks up the action.

Swiss wristwatch sales October ’22 (courtesy fhs.swiss)

What the first chart doesn’t tell you – what we’ve been saying for some time – smartwatches are obliterating the very bottom of the mechanical and quartz watch market, where pre-owned prices have tanked well beyond watchcharts’ basket of goodies.

Anyway, the descent of the high end luxury watch market may be bottoming out. Pre-owned prices for desirable pieces are approaching full retail, especially at the sub-$5k end of the market. A second hand Tudor Pelagos (25707B), for example, sells for $4200. It retails for $3,900.

The Biggest Loser

The grail watch known as the Patek Philippe Nautilus (5980/1A) is the biggest loser, down 29.3%. It’s still pricey AF at $117,202, but it’s now a bargain, comparatively.

Designer Gerald Genta’s other luxury steel sports watch masterpiece – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (15400) – sank 28.3%. You can pick one up for a mere $40,993.

Pre-owned Rolex values haven’t cratered quite so spectacularly – but only because they didn’t spend two years ascending to thirty-thousand feet above retail.

The “panda-faced” Cosmograph Daytona (116500) lost 24.8% of its market value, landing at $30,756 (roughly where it was in 2019, twice msrp).

A Falling Tide Sinks All Boats

Patek Philippe White Gold Aquanaut (down 22.4%), Vacheron Constantin Overseas blue dial stainless steel (down 27.2%), OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch (down 10.8%) – all of the famous gottahaves in watchcharts.com’s market index basket have taken a tumble.

All except for the slide-rule-on-your-wrist Breitling Navitimer (up 5.2%) and super-complicated IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Single Moon (above, up .01%).

But really, there’s only one brand on WC’s luxury watch market list that’s making the best of, best of, best of, a bad situation . . .

A. Lange & Söhne FTW

A. Lange & Söhne. The watch brand celebrated here on TTAW. Not for its Nazi-pandering past. For its stunning designs and insane, Grand Seiko-like German build quality. The market agrees with our assessment that AL&S are the sh*t.

In the last six months, the price of a pre-loved AL&S Zeitwerk increased by 14.1% to $77,132. Their Zeitwerk White Gold Datograph required an additional 5.5%, on sale now for around $87,345.

The Datograph Up/Down Platinum (above) ascended “only” 1.6 percent to $84,922 (holding steady in a rapidly declining market is a solid win). Other AL&S pieces are in a similar situation.

Now What?

The obvious indeed undeniable end of pre-pwned luxury watch market tulip-mania pricing raises some interesting questions. Is NOW the time to buy a pre-owned luxury watch? If so, which watches are safe investments for the future?

We looked at the “buy, sell or hold” dilemma in our post Preloved Rolex, AP and Patek Supply Doubles. Prices Crashing. Again, I don’t think we’ll ever see the luxury watch market price inflation of the last few years. Good riddance to bad rubbish?

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