How much your watch is worth depends on its brand, model, rarity, current condition, and market demand. The value of a watch may range widely, from a few hundred dollars for common models to tens or hundreds of thousands for rare, luxury, or antique pieces.
Watch serial numbers make an excellent starting point in your quest to learn the worth of your timepiece. These numbers confirm authenticity and provide the edition number and age of the piece, both of which profoundly influence its value. Tracking the results of watch auctions is additionally a valid means of calculating a ballpark estimate of your watch’s price. However, accurately valuating a watch requires the expert assistance of a dealer. These professionals are available online and locally to help you arrive at the fairest and most precise selling price for your piece.
To get the best possible price for your watch, it’s important that you supply documents that prove its authenticity, provenance, and ownership. Packaging the watch properly and choosing a reliable shipping service is crucial for a successful transaction.
Our watch value guide below overviews the various watch pricing factors and outlines the best practices for valuating, selling, and shipping a watch.
How to understand the value of watches by serial number?
A serial number is a unique identifier engraved by the manufacturer that helps understand the value of a watch in the following three ways.
- Reveals authenticity: Serial numbers show whether the watch is genuine or fake. Authentic watches command higher prices than replicas or fakes.
- Shows the production year: The serial number discloses the year when the watch was manufactured. Vintage and antique watches (especially those from certain eras) are generally more valuable than watches that are currently in production.
- Lists the edition number: Limited edition models or those with historical significance typically have more value than their mass-produced counterparts and are often sought after by collectors. Such watches generally have distinctive serial numbers.
What are the watch pricing factors?
The following seven pricing factors are the key elements that determine the market value of a watch.
- Brand prestige: The reputation and heritage of the watch brand significantly impact its price. Prestigious brands often command higher prices due to their history, craftsmanship, and status.
- Materiality: Materials used in a watch influence its price. Precious metals and stones, such as gold, platinum, and diamonds increase the value of a watch.
- Mechanical complexity: Watches with more complex mechanisms, such as chronographs or perpetual calendars, typically cost more due to the skill and time required in their making.
- Design and aesthetics: Unique or aesthetically appealing designs enhance a watch’s value, especially if they feature artistic elements or innovative styles.
- Condition and maintenance: A well-maintained watch that’s in excellent working condition retains more value. Regular maintenance and careful use preserve the functionality and appearance of a watch.
- Market demand: Market trends and consumer demand fluctuate, affecting watch prices. However, rare or highly sought-after models often fetch high prices even in volatile markets.
- Historical and emotional value: Watches with historical significance or those with emotional value (such as those owned by celebrities) often have a higher value than those lacking sentimental significance.
Why is the serial number of watches important for the watch’s price?
The serial number is an important factor in the watch’s price because it validates a watch’s legitimacy and confirms that it’s a genuine piece from the manufacturer. Original watches from renowned brands hold significant value in the market, as collectors and enthusiasts highly value such original pieces.
In contrast, the lack of a valid serial number (or a number that doesn’t match the manufacturer’s records) often reveals that the watch is an imitation or a fake. Imitation watches possess less value in the eyes of collectors than originals because they lack authenticity and comprise inferior materials compared to their genuine counterparts. Additionally, the absence of a proper serial number strips the watch of any potential historical or sentimental value, thus further diminishing its worth.
How does the age of the watch affect its pricing?
The age of a watch has a positive correlation with its pricing, as older watches typically command higher prices. This increase in value is due to two factors. Firstly, the rarity of older watches makes them more desirable to collectors. As time passes, fewer pieces of a particular model remain in good condition, and this scarcity creates value. Second, older watches often have historical significance, which adds to their appeal and price. Watches from certain eras are particularly valuable, such as those manufactured during the four notable time periods below.
- Antique watches (Pre-1920s): Antique watches, particularly those in good condition and from reputable makers, command high prices due to their age, rarity, and the craftsmanship involved.
- Art Deco period watches (1920s-1930s): Watches from the Art Deco era are valued for their unique design and historical significance, though they may not always fetch as high prices as mid-20th-century or antique pieces.
- Mid-20th century watches (1940s-1960s): This period often ranks highest in value due to the iconic models introduced during these years, many of which are highly sought after by collectors.
- Vintage watches (Generally 20-30 years old): Vintage watches (those produced in the 1980s-1990s) are growing in popularity and price, but typically rank below the aforementioned periods in value.
That said, age alone does not guarantee a higher price: The condition of the watch is equally important. An older watch in poor condition might be less valuable than a newer one in pristine condition. Additionally, some modern watches from prestigious brands or limited edition releases are often more expensive than older watches due to their current market demand, technological innovation, or unique design features.
So, how to evaluate a watch according to its age? Consider its historical context and rarity. Older watches from significant eras in watchmaking or with limited production often carry higher value due to their rarity and the craftsmanship of the period. Additionally, the condition of the watch is crucial: A well-preserved antique or vintage watch is more valuable than one showing significant signs of wear and aging.
Is the value of an antique watch higher?
Yes, the value of an antique watch is typically higher than that of many contemporary watches. This higher value stems from two factors unique to antique watches. Rarity is the first factor. Fewer antique watches exist in good condition, making them more sought-after by collectors and enthusiasts. Secondly, the intricate craftsmanship of antique watches adds to their allure and value. Lastly, antique watches often carry historical significance. Watches that were groundbreaking in their time or were associated with historical events often carry a premium price.
Follow the five steps below to determine the value of an antique watch in your possession.
- Identify the watch. Determine the brand, model, and manufacturing year using the serial number engraved on the watch.
- Assess the condition. Check the watch’s physical and functional condition. A well-maintained watch usually boasts a higher value.
- Research its history. Learn about the watch’s historical significance, if any.
- Consult experts. Seek appraisals from watch experts or reputable dealers.
- Compare market prices. Look at recent sales of similar watches to get an idea of the current market value.
Is the price of a vintage watch higher?
The price of a vintage watch is often higher compared to modern watches but lower than that of antique or mid-20th-century watches. Vintage watches carry a sense of uniqueness, which is often appealing to collectors and watch enthusiasts. The rarity of these watches usually stems from fewer pieces surviving in good condition. Vintage watches additionally represent a period’s design aesthetics, which may be highly prized.
However, the price isn’t solely dependent on the watch’s vintage status. Brand recognition and historical significance play a role. Watches from prestigious brands or those with a notable history (like having been worn by famous personalities) typically command a higher price.
How does the brand affect the watch price?
The brand affects the watch price by raising its value in the eyes of collectors and enthusiasts through the acclaim and heritage of the watchmaker. Luxury and high-end brands often command the highest prices due to their reputation for quality, craftsmanship, and exclusivity. Below are five examples illustrating how five renowned brands affect watch pricing.
- Rolex: Rolex watches have become synonymous with luxury and command some of the highest prices on the market. Models like the Submariner and Daytona are particularly expensive, with some of the editions fetching well over $100,000. Rolex’s reputation for durability, and elegance, as well as the brand’s status symbol, contribute to its high value.
- Patek Philippe: Patek Philippe is renowned for intricate craftsmanship, particularly in the Nautilus and Calatrava pieces. Prices start around $30,000, rising to several hundred thousand dollars for some models and editions. The brand’s commitment to traditional watchmaking and exclusivity drives its high costs.
- Audemars Piguet: Audemars Piguet stands out with unique designs and high-quality materials, notably in its Royal Oak series. Prices for Royal Oak watches start from $20,000 but soar far higher for limited editions. The watchmaker’s design innovation and prestigious reputation account for the high prices.
- Omega: Omega is renowned for its precision and space exploration legacy. The Speedmaster series is famously known as the “Moonwatch” for its use during NASA’s lunar missions and adds significant historical value to the brand’s timepieces. Prices reflect Omega’s innovative technology and rich historical heritage, ranging from $2,000 to over $60,000.
- Tag Heuer: Tag Heuer is recognized for its sports watches and chronographs like the Carrera and Monaco, in which the brand combines advanced technology with stylish design. Timepieces from Tag Heuer range between $230 and $71,500, depending on the model and edition. The brand’s association with sports, its technological advancements, and its place as a fashion statement drive the higher-end price points.
Where to check the value of a used watch?
Below are four reliable methods you may use to check the value of a used watch.
- Online marketplaces: Websites like eBay or Chrono24 provide a platform to view current listings and recent sales of similar watches. Such a comparison offers a general idea of the market value.
- Watch appraisal services: Professional watch appraisers are able to give a detailed valuation based on the watch’s condition, brand, model, and market trends.
- Jewelry stores and watch dealers: Visiting reputable jewelry stores or specialized watch dealers provides insights into the watch’s value. Such stores often have experts who are able to accurately assess the watch’s worth.
- Watch collector forums and clubs: Engaging with watch collector communities online provides anecdotal insights and valuations from experienced collectors.
Apart from relying on the aforementioned methods, you should be able to calculate the value of your used watch based on readily available information about the product. There is no exact formula for calculating used watch volume, but you should be able to get a workable baseline estimate by following the steps below.
- Determine the base price. Start your calculation by establishing the original retail price of the watch.
- Factor in appreciation or depreciation. Most watches depreciate, but some gain value over time. Luxury or limited edition watches, for example, often increase in value. The change in value varies significantly by brand and model. When estimating, consider whether the watch’s value has likely gone up or down since its purchase. For brands and models known to appreciate, you might add a percentage each year rather than deducting. This rate of appreciation or depreciation is not fixed and requires research into the specific watch’s market performance.
- Adjust for the condition. A watch in excellent condition may have a smaller deduction, while one with significant wear or damage may require a larger reduction in price.
- Perform a market adjustment. Consider the current market demand for the model. Increase or decrease the value based on its popularity or rarity.
- Quantify the historical and sentimental value. Add value for watches with historical significance or ones previously owned by notable personalities.
How to use dealers to assess watch value?
Follow the six steps below when using dealers to assess the value of your watch.
- Research dealers. Choose dealers or auction sites with a strong reputation and expertise in the type of watch you own. Below are three notable examples of watch dealers and auction sites:
- Sotheby’s and Christie’s: These are renowned auction houses known for selling high-end watches. They’re known to provide accurate valuations and historical sales data for used watches.
- Local watch dealers: Specialized local dealers often have in-depth knowledge of specific watch brands or models and offer personalized assessments.
- Online retailers: Sites like WatchBox or Bob’s Watches specialize in pre-owned luxury watches and give a good indication of current market values.
- Prepare watch details. Have all relevant information about your watch ready, including brand, model, serial number, and any service history.
- Request appraisals. Contact multiple dealers or auction houses for appraisals. Doing so results in a range of valuations and a more balanced view of your watch’s worth.
- Compare valuations. Assess the different valuations against current market trends and recent sales of similar watches.
- Consider the condition. Ensure the dealers consider the condition of your watch, as this significantly impacts its value.
- Discuss selling options. Weigh up the selling options with the dealer, whether it’s through direct sale, consignment, or auction.
How to use auction sites to assess watch worth?
Analyze the bidding results and current listings on auction sites to assess the worth of a particular watch. Follow the seven steps below to get the most helpful and accurate valuation info from watch auction sites.
- Identify relevant auction sites. Choose auction sites known for watch sales, such as eBay, Phillips Auctions, or Heritage Auctions. These platforms regularly feature a range of vintage and modern luxury watches.
- Search for similar watches. Look for watches similar to yours in brand, model, age, and condition. Finding similar pieces helps in making a direct price comparison.
- Examine past auction results. Review the final sale prices of watches that closely match yours. This historical data reveals what buyers are willing to pay for a watch that’s similar to yours.
- Observe current listings. Monitor how similar watches are priced and how long they stay listed. Continued observations give a sense of current market demand and valuation.
- Compare condition and authenticity. Assess how your watch’s condition and authenticity compare to those listed or sold. A lack of provable authenticity or poor condition have a significant negative effect on the value of the watch.
- Consult auction experts. Seek insights from auction site experts if they’re available. Such experts offer professional evaluations based on their experience and market knowledge.
- Consider market trends. Be aware of current trends in the watch market. When certain styles or brands gain or lose popularity, the fluctuations correlate with the value of the piece.
How does keeping the bill and packaging help for selling a watch?
Keeping the bill and packaging of the watch shows the ownership and value that is reinforced by the watch’s provenance. This authenticity enhances the appeal and selling price of a watch. The list below presents a more detailed overview of the benefits of keeping a watch’s bill and packaging if you plan to sell it in the future.
- Proof of authenticity: The original bill and packaging serve as indisputable proof of the watch’s authenticity. In a market where counterfeits are common, these elements reassure potential buyers of the watch’s legitimacy.
- Indication of good care: Retaining the original packaging and bill creates the impression that the owner has maintained the watch well. This perceived care can increase buyer confidence and the watch’s value.
- Enhanced resale value: Watches sold with original packaging and documentation usually command a higher price. Enthusiasts often seek complete sets, as they consider them more collectible.
- Historical preservation: The original packaging and bill have historical significance for vintage or antique watches since they add supporting evidence to the piece’s overall story and value.
How to sell my watch?
Follow the ten steps below to sell your watch.
- Determine the watch’s value. Research your watch’s value based on its brand, model, age, and condition. Consult online marketplaces, and auction results, or seek appraisals from professional watch dealers.
- Gather all relevant documentation. Compile all documents, including the original bill, warranty card, service records, and any other paperwork that proves authenticity and maintenance history. These documents significantly enhance the perceived value of the watch.
- Prepare the watch. Ensure the watch is in its best possible condition. Consider having it serviced or cleaned by a professional to improve its appearance and functionality.
- Photograph the watch. Take high-quality, clear photographs of the watch from various angles, including close-ups of any unique features or serial numbers. Quality visuals positively influence a buyer’s decision.
- Choose the right sales platform. Select an appropriate platform for selling, such as online marketplaces, auction sites, or specialized watch forums. The type and value of your watch should dictate the optimal sales platform.
- Set a realistic price. Set a price that reflects the watch’s market value considering its brand, model, condition, and unique attributes based on your research and appraisals.
- Create a detailed listing. Write a clear, honest description of the watch. Your listing should highlight its features, history, and any unique selling points. Include the quality photographs taken earlier in this listing.
- Respond to inquiries promptly. Engage with potential buyers professionally and promptly and be ready to provide additional information or photographs upon request.
- Negotiate wisely. Be prepared to negotiate the price, but establish a clear minimum value below which you’re not willing to sell.
- Ensure the transaction’s security. Once a sale is agreed upon, choose a secure method of transaction. Consider using an escrow service to protect both parties for high-value transactions.
How to package and ship a watch after the sale?
Follow the nine steps below to package and ship a watch after the sale.
- Select appropriate packaging. Upon completing the sale, choose a sturdy box that comfortably fits the watch along with additional padding materials. The box should be rigid and durable to protect against impacts during transit.
- Wrap the watch securely. Wrap the watch in a soft, anti-static material to prevent scratches and static damage. If the original watch box is available, place the watch inside it before putting it in the shipping box.
- Cushion the watch. Use bubble wrap, foam, or packing peanuts to fill any empty space in the box. Cushioning ensures the watch remains immobile and is thus protected from shocks and vibrations.
- Enclose important documents. Include the watch’s documentation, including the original sales receipt, warranty card, and authenticity certificate if available. Place these documents in a separate, sealed envelope inside the shipping box.
- Seal and label the box. Securely tape the box shut and label it with the recipient’s address. Do not state the contents or the value of the parcel on the exterior to deter theft.
- Choose a reliable shipping service. Opt for a shipping service that offers insurance and package tracking, and requires a signature upon delivery. Doing so ensures the security and traceability of the package.
- Insure the package. Insure the package for its full value to safeguard against potential loss or damage during shipping.
- Provide tracking details to the buyer. Share the tracking information with the buyer so they can monitor the delivery after shipping the watch.
- Confirm receipt. Follow up with the buyer to confirm that the watch has arrived safely and in good condition after the estimated delivery date.
How to valuate luxury watches?
To accurately valuate luxury watches, you must develop a comprehensive understanding of six vital elements. Firstly, examine the brand and model, as certain brands and specific models hold higher value due to their reputation and market demand. Secondly, consider the watch’s age and rarity: Older and rarer models often command higher prices. Thirdly, assess the watch’s condition. A watch in pristine condition is valued more highly than one with wear and tear. Fourthly, take note of the watch’s movement type, complexity, and materials. Intricate mechanical movements add more value compared to standard quartz movements. Parts like the dial, case, and bezel, are often made from precious metals or adorned with gemstones, both of which increase the watch’s value. Fifthly, factor in any historical significance or provenance associated with the watch. Watches with a notable history or prior ownership by prominent individuals fetch significantly higher prices. Lastly, consult with professional appraisers or use reputable online valuation tools for a more precise assessment, especially for high-end luxury watches where market trends and collector interests heavily influence the value.
How to valuate watches according to brand?
The five steps below provide instructions for valuating watches according to their brand.
- Identify the brand. Recognize the brand of the watch. All watch brands have varying levels of prestige and market value.
- Research brand-specific market trends. Look into current market trends specific to the watch’s brand. Some brands may have higher demand at certain times, influencing their value.
- Understand brand history and reputation. Delve into the history and reputation of the watch’s brand. Renowned watchmakers with a long history of craftsmanship and innovation often hold higher value.
- Compare the watch with similar models. Compare the watch to similar models of the same brand. This comparison helps you understand how specific features or variations affect value within the brand.
- Consult brand-specific pricing guides. Use pricing guides or valuation tools tailored to the brand of the watch. These guides provide more accurate estimates since they’re based on brand-specific data.
The following are two examples that illustrate how watches of the same brand vary in price based on the factors we’ve discussed above.
- Rolex Submariner: The Submariner’s value is influenced by its iconic status, durability, and the prestige of the Rolex brand. Prices vary greatly based on the year of manufacture, condition, and any unique features. The current production models include the Submariner ref. 124060, priced at $9,100, the Submariner Date ref. 126610LN at $10,250, and the Submariner Date ref. 126610LV at $10,800. The higher price of the 126610LV is partly due to its green ceramic bezel, which is more coveted in the market. On the other hand, vintage Rolex Submariners are valued much higher than even the newest gold models due to their desirability among collectors. The secondary market prices for discontinued models such as the “Kermit” Submariner reflect this high demand, with prices often being more than twice that of black bezel references. For instance, the Submariner 116610LN starts at $13,795, while the 116610LV (green bezel) starts at $23,995.
- Omega Speedmaster: The Speedmaster is known for its space heritage, and some editions (especially those associated with NASA missions) are highly valuable. The valuation depends on factors like the specific model, its historical significance, and overall condition. For example, the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch starts from $2,860, while the Speedmaster ’57 (a modern reissue of the classic 1957 model) starts at $4,030. Meanwhile, the limited edition “Snoopy” model, which commemorates NASA’s Apollo 13 mission, has a much higher price point of $15,085 due to its unique historical significance and limited production.