At Christie’s we think a lot about collecting watches. We don’t just sell watches, we assist our clients in building a collection, whether that’s one watch or hundreds—yes, there are folks out there bitten hard by the bug.
While we do sell watches that cost in the several hundreds of thousands of dollars up to millions, we also have great collectibles in a more reasonable price range. There might be a fallacy that you need a lot of money in order to get great stuff. It’s just not true. A lot of cool watches cost less than a few thousand dollars. Whether you want to buy one watch or many, we’re here to provide information and give our honest opinion to help you bid on a watch that’s right for you and your goals.
Here is a group of 7 watches I’ve put together from a variety of makers. By no means is this list meant to be definitive or seen as recommendations. Picking a watch is very personal. And, just because a brand isn’t on this list doesn’t mean I don’t love some models in their collection. I’m just throwing out some ideas of watches I like and think have value from either from a technical, design or historical point of view.
- Heuer Autavia: Of all the brands, Heuer was most closely associated with motorsports in the 1960s and 70s, providing chronographs, stopwatches and other timing equipment to the racers and their teams. When the Viceroy cigarette brand began sponsoring Indy car racing around 1970, they offered an automatic Heuer Autavia for $88 (with a proof of purchase). The “Viceroy” model became a best seller for Heuer, is relatively plentiful in today’s market, and makes a nice and attainable addition to any collection.
ConstellationDeVille: the first watch to contain the co-axial escapement developed by George Daniels–and the first produced for the public. Enough said.
- Rolex Day/Date (President): While the Submariner might be an obvious choice to start off—and a good one—why not consider a Day/Date, a great complication and one of Rolex’s classic models. It’s nicknamed the president because several of them wore one and if it’s good enough for the leaders of countries then it’s good enough for us. I prefer vintage models but the current ones are nice and basically have the same design.
- Lange & Sohne Lange 1: If you can get an original from 1994, that’s a huge score and would cost you. It was one of the four Lange & Sohne re-launched with. This large date watch is a staple in Lange & Sohne’s lineup and you can get it in several iterations. Plus, it has one of the finest movements in the business.
- Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso (Tribute to 1931): This true manufacture makes some fine watches but none is more iconic than the Reverso, the watch that swivels. First designed for polo players so they wouldn’t crack their crystals during a match, the Reverso caught on with the public and became a classic. Any Reverso is a great pick but the Tribute to 1931, based on the first model produced in that year, is a stunner.
- Vacheron Constantin Mercator: Combining artistry, design and innovation, the Mercator, released in 1994, tells the time
via two retrograde hands moving across the backdrop of a map. It was created in a limited edition to celebrate the 400thanniversary of the death of Gerardus Mercator, inventor of the “Mercator Projection” map. The piece is still in production in limited editions in the Metiers D’Art collection and now called the Tribute to Great Explorers, which feature enamel dials.
- Patek Philippe 1518: You can’t have a list of suggestions without including Patek Philippe. There are so many to choose from the brand but one considered the ultimate in vintage watches is the ref. 1518, the first perpetual calendar chronograph ever produced in a series. No doubt you need deep, deep pockets for this one. But what a catch!