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Watches - Expert's Pick

New year, new watch. Invest in a preowned watch that makes a statement.

With all the political turmoil of 2019 and Brexit still on the horizon, the public investment market continues to remain unsteady with consumers constantly looking for new and more reliable places to invest. So can a well-chosen watch present a reliable growth opportunity? Or is the market just a bit over-frothy?

Only time will tell (and it really will tell) but whilst you wait for the answer there’s still no better way to watch it all play out than on a beautiful pre-owned watch. So now 2020’s upon us where should you put your hard-earned wages to give yourself the best chance of still being happy in 2030?  

The problem with watches, unlike most other investments, is that they follow trends. Yes, a watch is a high-value mechanical marvel, but at the end of the day it’s really just another accessory. So let’s remember trends are cyclical, let’s filter out the noise that’s telling you what’s cool, what’s hot and what’s not, and imagine for a moment that you might not want to wait 15 years for your choice of watch to come back into style. 

The soundest advice for your first 2020 watch purchase would be to buy a watch that’s timeless. Ignore the latest trends and buy a blue chip model by a blue chip brand. And buy the best example you can afford. Quality watches have always held their value well and in the pre-owned market it’s quality that always wins out. The same goes for buying vintage, along with the proviso that condition always wins there too. 

So here are some suggestions for watches to park in your portfolio, or better still, on your wrist. Some are ‘safe’, some are outliers. Whichever route you prefer, seeing all of them together means there’s quite some choice to make.   

Past, performance

What a commotion horological pundits made on social media in 2019, expressing their disdain for the design of Audemars Piguet’s ‘Code 11.59’ collection! History may not always repeat itself but it often rhymes; back in 1972 critics were equally as unkind in their rush to dismiss the Gerald Genta-designed Royal Oak as a flop. 

Well they’re not sneering now. In the almost 50 years since the creation of the original Royal Oak it’s never been more popular than it is now. This trend is on the up too, as Genta’s radical aesthetic enjoys a favourable reappraisal and they’re appreciated as the classics that they deserve to be.  Back then the concept of a luxury watch in steel was a truly revolutionary, mad idea. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak debuted as the most expensive steel watch ever made and good examples from the early 1970s are now highly-sought by collectors, thanks to their rarity and unique place in the brand’s history. Luckily for you, there are a few great examples available now at Xupes.  

Fans will already know that Gerald Genta’s inspiration for the Royal Oak case architecture was a diving helmet, hence the eight screws and visible joints on the cases’ exterior. The reference 5402 Royal Oak is often referred to as ‘Jumbo’, on account of its imposing size for the period.

Whilst it looks the business on the outside, let’s not forget that the Jumbo Royal Oak also carries the AP calibre 2121 which remains one of the thinnest full-rotor self-winding movements in the world, and is considered one of the most refined and technically impressive wrist-watch movements ever put into a steel case. 

Any person lucky (or wise) enough to go for a classic Royal Oak will also be very happy watching 2020 unfold on the weaving pattern of that wonderful ‘tapisserie’ pattern dial. A great choice for the sports watch lover looking to invest in something a bit different and bit more…considered. 

The Gold Standard

How about a modern take on that powerhouse chronograph, the Rolex Daytona? There’s a lot to like here, (like Rolex and Daytona to start with) only this version is where the modern Daytona really shows us that it’s come into its own as a luxury watch. The new black Cerachrom bezel is complemented with Panda dials, (where the centre of the sub-dials are painted in black) and the high-contrast black and yellow gold colour scheme is carried through a blend of materials including ceramic, gold and rubber. There’s less gold here, in a good way. The bling of previous models has been pared back by the black elements and now the gold doesn’t get in the way. As a result the watch achieves more of a balanced look. 

While the upgrade to the Cerachrom bezel is significant, it’s the Oysterflex strap that radically changes how this watch wears on the wrist. Oysterflex is Rolex’s proprietary sporty rubber, first seen on their Yacht-Master model. It’s a thin blade of titanium and nickel alloy, in a layer of comfy black elastomer. Further adding to the bracelet’s charm are the clever, flexible ‘wings’ on the underside which ensure an especially good fit, especially in hot weather. 

In today’s ‘less may be more’ mindset the Oysterflex turns the Daytona into an option that you can legitimately pair with jeans or a suit without shouting ‘I’m wearing a gold Rolex!’ quite so loudly. This could put the Daytona on the shortlist of someone who wouldn’t normally have considered a precious metal sports Rolex. Given also that Rolex designs evolve at a glacial pace, and that the details have now been finessed on the modern Daytona, this watch should remain contemporary, relevant, appealing and popular for quite some years to come.  

Bleu chip

In terms of horological bang for your buck, Breguet, like Jaeger Le Coultre, simply offer more than most. (And pre-owned, even more so.) Breguet watches remain mysteriously underappreciated by collectors, but drooled over by connoisseurs for their levels of technical and decorative achievement, like guilloche dials and gorgeous hands. Abraham-Louis Breguet was an inventor, a metallurgist, a craftsman, an artist and a maverick entrepreneur all at once. The father of the pocketwatch, his list of firsts in horology is pretty much unmatched; the inventor of the ‘parachute’ shock protection system, inventor of the hairspring overcoil, and inventor of many escapement advances including the fabulous and fiendishly complicated tourbillon, to name but a few. 

In this tourbillon wristwatch you’re staring at an instrument that would be reassuringly familiar to any self-respecting dandy in 18th Century Paris. That’s not to say that Breguet is an old fashioned watchmaking brand, far from it. Breguet were one of the first luxury brands to use a silicon hairspring. This continues the tradition of a company that has embraced the new where it can be used to complement and improve upon what has gone before.  

Packed with historical references, this execution is a rare treat indeed and a stunning showcase for that magnificent tourbillon and its 5-day power reserve. A great conversation starter and the last word in horological finesse.  

Balance the books

Glashütte Original belongs an exclusive circle of real manufactures, who have mastered the entire process of design and manufacture of a timepiece. As the successor to “VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe”, which consolidated all the local manufacturers and suppliers in the GDR, the brand changed its name to Glashütte Original after the reunification of Germany. Today, their creations of highly refined timepieces with complex inner workings and a large proportion of artisanal craftsmanship are a delight for wristwatch connoisseurs. Glashütte Original also owns a factory in Pforzheim that creates their remarkable dials. 

The Senator Chronometer Regulator takes its styling cues from the regulator longcase clocks that Glashütte was known for in the 19th century. As you’ll see, the hour, minute and second hands display are separated as a matter of practicality for the display of accurate time. 

At 12 o'clock you'll find the hours subdial, at 3 o'clock you have the date aperture, at 6 o'clock the running seconds, and at 9 o'clock the indicator for the 45 hour power reserve. The minute hand is centred in the traditional regulator style. Whilst reading the time can take a little getting used to, it’s interesting and well worth the effort. The dial field is grained silver with the registers set in just enough to add some extra depth. Blued steel hands and black markings offer good contrast while remaining relatively understated in that lovely rose gold case. 

It’s an absolute beauty that rewards the eye in so many different ways. That almost minimalist dial, designed for function rather than aesthetics, fronts a thoroughly modern-made watch that follows no trend - so it can never go out of fashion. And being from Saxony which is fast becoming a centre of excellence with a distinctive style all of its own, this watch provides an appealingly un-Swiss option for the broad-minded watch nerd. 

The best thing about all these watches is not that they’re an investment guaranteed to double your money, though they might. No, the best thing is that they’re watches you’ll want to wear in the event of a global financial meltdown. And anyway, what’s the alternative these days when money in the bank earns zero interest, all the cool cars are being hounded off the road by eco-warriors and the highest performing works of art are sprayed onto bus stops and walls? 

Much better to pick up a seriously enjoyable, quality watch. Happy hunting!

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