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Like other types of adornments and jewelry, watches and timepieces express an aesthetic personal style while serving a utilitarian purpose. Watch and timepiece making, is, and has been considered an art for many years. Throughout the history of the craft, several companies have distinguished themselves for their reputation of fine craftsmanship and exceptional attention to detail.

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What is the difference between a watch and a timepiece?

While watches can be considered a “sub- category” of timepieces, their main purpose is to keep time and little beyond that function. To be categorized as a  “timepiece,” on the other hand, requires that a watch have gone through acute attention to detail, higher value craftsmanship and overall increased functionality to not only serve as a time-keeping device, but a tool. To be considered a timepiece, the device has to pass a certification standard indicating increased durability and have more functionality features. Because of this attention to detail and mechanical craftsmanship, timepieces are valued more highly than watches. 

What was the most expensive watch ever sold?

The most expensive watch ever sold was from luxury Swiss watch brand Patek Philippe, which was founded in Geneva in 1839. The one-of-a-kind watch fetched $31 million at a charity auction in Geneva, almost doubling the previous record held by the sale of a Rolex Daytona once owned by Paul Newman which sold for $17 million.

What makes a watch valuable?

There are a few brands that are commonly associated with luxury watches like Rolex, Patek Philippe or Audemar Piguet. These brands are well known both in the retail industry and the appraisal industry due to their long-standing reputations for making quality products. Long-standing companies, like those mentioned, will likely have many vintage models to their names. 

Age and rarity are important factors when determining the value of a timepiece. Age and rarity can also directly correlate to the supply and demand for a specific model.  Based on the quality or brand, it could take a watch as long as 10 years to gain value, taking into account supply and demand factors of the industry. If a certain brand only made a model of watch for a shorter period of time, even a one-of-a-kind piece, the value would steadily increase due to the likelihood of that watch not being mass-produced. The amount of products manufactured, the amount of time that has passed since they were first introduced and the ingenuity of the device itself, determine if it will appreciate well within the market. The intricacy and beauty with which a watch is crafted is often a determinant of whether or not a specific model will be replicated. 

Much like cars, art and handbags, aspects like brand recognition, heritage, exclusivity, and availability determine how luxury watches appreciate over time.

Other renowned brands projected to increase in value:

  • Tudor
  • Audemar Piguet
  • Vacheron
  • Cartier
  • Omega
  • Panaria
  • Jaegar-LeCoultre

What certifications or functions would increase the value of my watch?

To tell a true timepiece apart from a “prestigious” watch would definitely be whether or not it has received a Chronometer Certification. This type of certification requires that the watch itself go through rigorous testing to prove durability and how well it keeps time regardless of motions, humidity or environment. 

Also, the increased functionality of a timepiece outside of just telling time is a clear indicator of how advanced and useful the device can be considered apart from just the basics. The more functions the watch has, the more likely that the piece is considered valuable and will appreciate after some time. Additional functions like a chronograph, a moon-phase calendar, monthly calendar, date window or a tourbillon all add value.

How can you spot a fake watch?

If you are considering purchasing a luxury watch, it’s important to do a bit of research beforehand, since counterfeit watches are becoming increasingly more expensive and convincing. In order to spot a fake, it is of course helpful to familiarize yourself with real models. To find reputable image and price points for luxury brand watches you can, of course consult the websites of the brands themselves or, to find more particular or vintage styles and price points, it can be very helpful to review the sale records of reputable auction houses. 

In terms of aesthetics, the color and finish of counterfeit watches will sometimes have discrepancies. Gold watches will always be marked. If you cannot have the watch tested, you can always try the magnet test as a start. Gold and silver are not magnetic, but some counterfeiters are beginning to use non-magnetic materials for their pieces, so the best way to determine authentic materials is to have the piece tested. The weight of the piece can also be a giveaway. Counterfeit timepieces often weigh less than the real deal since cheaper materials are often lighter. 

Pay close attention to the markings and typefaces on the watch. A genuine piece will have sharp and precise markings. Some counterfeit pieces may noticeably different typefaces and even have visible spelling errors.

No matter how convincing the outer appearance of the counterfeit may be, the movement of a genuine fine timepiece cannot be faked. You can have an expert examine the mechanisms and inner workings of the watch. An indicator of finely tuned mechanisms is no “ticking.” Watches made with less adept hands and cheaper materials will tick. 

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