It seems that for the last three or four years we have been living in a stainless steel world, from kitchens to keyrings. Those of us suffering from inverted snobbery syndrome might be sporting white gold or platinum watches, but when it comes down to it, it’s all the same look.
For the past few Christmasses, I can literally count on one hand the number of yellow gold watches I have sold. Why? No, it’s not down to lousy salesmanship. Maybe it’s the association of yellow metal with the brash ‘80’s, or even the fear of the sudden upsurge of street crime.
From a collector’s point of view, the answer is simple. High-end, or complicated, steel antique pieces are much rarer than yellow gold ones, and thus they are dearer. A stainless steel Patek Chronograph circa 1940 is fetching around £20,000, whereas in a yellow gold it can only muster £13,000 to £15,000.
I used to love adopting an ‘ignorance is bliss’ stance by wearing an old steel watch, whilst all around me were flashing their heavy gold lumps, but now it doesn’t really work. Even the silk-suited second-hand car salesman has binned his gold Rolex Day Date in favour of steel. No offence intended. In response, I have recently had my platinum ring gold-plated, which compliments my c. 1970 gold Rolex Submariner a treat!
I’d prepared myself for certain ridicule when, in fact, the reaction has been quite the opposite. Some seem to look at my Submariner quite longingly - and a few even dare to try it on.
A good friend and client of mine, Henry Dent-Brocklehurst, was so taken with the idea of wearing gold again that he bought a yellow gold Bvlgari Scuba Chronograph on rubber. The case has a matt finish to avoid it really screaming at you, but it’s still what it is. He who dares wins. It’s not just nutters like Henry and myself that are adopting the old gold look though, as this Christmas I have been really taken aback with the sudden demand for it.
The pre-owned pieces in yellow gold, such as the Rolex Day Date, have gone up in the last few months by 20%, along with other models such as the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso and the American Tank by Cartier. Today, for example, I have had two orders for watches. The first, a Cartier Pasha, and the second, a Franck Muller Casablanca, both in yellow gold. I’,m telling you, it’s coming back.
For investment purposes, there is definitely money to be saved, if not earned, by buying modern gold. The gold Franck Muller Casablanca has to be one of the sexiest watches ever produced. (See page 40). Most modern gold pieces can be found on the pre-owned market for a substantial discount, but the prices are escalating all the time.
For those of you starting to collect, or already collecting vintage watches, the investment opportunities are endless. Take the Rolex Daytona (ref. 6263) from the 1970’s. Five or six years ago, the gold version was going for between £12,000 and £15,000, while the steel ones were at £2,000 to £3,000. Now though, the steel is fetching £8,000 and the gold only £10,000. This is made completely nonsensical when you take into account the rarity aspect of the gold version being outnumbered by its steel counterpart by 10:1.
Even the modern gold Daytona (ref. 16520) is a good buy pre-owned at around £7,000-£8,000, when the steel version is fetching £6,000 (nearly double it’s RRP).
When you compare the old with the new, there’s no doubt they’re very similar. However, the old one has a certain roundness and subtlety to it, whereas the new is much sharper and heavier, partly due to its modern self-winding movement. It’s like comparing the Aston Martin DB5 to the DB7. I’d go for the 5, but I know many that wouldn’t.
It’ll be a while before the fully-fledged antique dress watch comes back in, such as the Patek Calatrava. In the meantime, there are countless gold antique sports watches worth investing in without spending Daytona level money. Breitling, during the 1940’s, did some great chronographs. Some are the originals of their current range, such as the Montbrillant, which can be found for around £2,000 to £3,000.
Heuer, during the 1950’s, did a gold chronograph incorporating a day, date and month indicator called a Data Compax. They are absolutely beautiful and can be found for around £2,500 - £3,500, with the same movement as the Rolex equivalent, yet the Rolex goes for £25-£30,000. Beats me.
There’s no doubt that gold, when compared to past prices, represents great value for money. I’m not saying that white metals are on the way out, they’ll never go out, but there is room for warm, old gold to take it’s rightful place in the market again without being labelled as naff. People seem to be realising this. Long may it continue.
© The Watch Guru Limited Registered in England No. 0351 0181 / Site by D2i
Like the reintroduction of the Mini motorcar over a decade ago, this reinterpretation of Big Pilot by IWC is better than the original. This 1st series Platinum example is of course the top of the top.