Is the price for luxury watches justified?
“It's like stocks. Understanding the watch market is very difficult «
SZ-Magazin: Mr. Meertz, do you still remember your first watch?
It was a small diving watch from Karstadt - from my godmother. Nothing special.
You run a watch shop and have trained as a watchmaker. When did you get the fever?
When I watched a friend from the sports club work. He was a watchmaker. It clicked.
What kind of people are they who buy valuable watches?
There is no rule: the professor who collects watches comes to me, just like the apprentice butcher who invests his first self-earned money in a Rolex.
How do you advise your customers? Which watch fits which type?
Every brand has a specific image. Rolex, for example, is never known for complicated innovations, but for sportiness: Mercedes Gleitze, who was the first English woman to swim the English Channel in 1927, wore a Rolex, James Bond wore a Rolex Submariner in eleven films, Sir Edmund Hillary climbed one Rolex was the first to climb Mount Everest in 1953. With such PR coups, companies sharpen the image of their brand.
Is that why so many watch manufacturers advertise the feats of their famous wearers?
Marketing plays an enormous role in watches. An Omega Speedmaster, for example, is known because it was on the moon with Buzz Aldrin. The Patek Philippe wearer, on the other hand, is above all proud of the seamless history and tradition of their brand; despite minor negligence in the seventies, they are among the highest quality watches ever.
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Rolex, Omega, Patek - are these the brands that are most in demand?
Patek Philippe is the brand that has always brought top prices at auctions, sometimes millions. There are no more expensive watches. They always built complicated clocks with movements that they made in their own factory; they have always worked at the upper level of quality, or better: given the level. Do people who buy an IWC or a Jaeger-LeCoultre want to differentiate themselves from these watches? No, for the buyers it is also about the brand, but more about certain models and innovations. The IWC Ingenieur, for example, was the first watch that could withstand high magnetic influences without breaking. An IWC also has a very special automatic movement.
If someone comes to your shop today and is looking for a watch that is as valuable as possible - what would you advise them?
There are basically three directions when buying watches: buy new, buy new-used or vintage watches. Buying new or used is a question of budget. There is still no passion for collecting. A classic used watch, such as a Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe, IWC, has a list price. As with a year-old car, you can see what it is still worth. So you can buy all the big brands with a calculation that you can understand.
Can you give an example, please?
A watch that costs around 3000 euros new, I sell used for 1800 euros. That is a little over half the list price, obviously there is a trading margin in it. If you buy a used Speedmaster from Omega or a pilot model from IWC, for example, you make no mistake. Because within the next ten years, the manufacturer will increase the prices for new watches several times, by five to ten percent. The used price is increasing accordingly. But there are also models, such as a Rolex from the nineties, which you bought for, say, 4,000 marks, now 2,000 euros, and which now even brings up to 3,000 euros in the second-hand market - and the successor model costs around 4,000 in stores Euro. They even made a plus with a new model. At the moment the desires are greatest for all Rolex sports models, also in gold, for classic models such as the Omega Speedmaster or an IWC pilot's watch, and for Patek Philippe watches, especially those with many extras such as a perpetual calendar. We call these extras complications. In short: all of these watches are very easy to resell.
Which watches are not only stable in value, but also a good investment?
It is interesting to note that the watches that experienced a particularly high increase in value - apart from Patek Philippe watches with many complications - were models that nobody really wanted: In the 1980s and 1990s, hardly anyone bought a Rolex Daytona Steel model that is now traded so highly in the collectors' market. A Daytona like this costs around 22,000 euros today.
What did it cost back then?
It was like lead for 1200 marks in the window. An offer was once made to a colleague to choose a watch at the end of his apprenticeship. There was also a Daytona and he said, "No, it doesn't want a pig." Because it wasn't bought, Rolex didn't produce that many pieces. That is what makes them so valuable today. The best-selling watch at the time was a Rolex steel gold Datejust. It's not that expensive today either.
Can you conclude from this that the best thing to do is to buy a watch that nobody wants?
That would be the logical consequence. but who knows that?
Are there such clocks?
Clear. Some 1970s models such as the TAG Heuer Autavia or the Omega Speedsonic are relatively cheap. But does that make them worth a lot?
Does it make sense to buy limited editions?
Not necessarily. They are then less common, but many manufacturers overturn with them. IWC has many limitations that also overlap with old ones. An example: the ceramic double chronograph. It came onto the market with a limitation of 1000 pieces - many wanted it, it was traded above price. Then the same watch was released with two small changes, one hand is red, it says Topgun. Other watch manufacturers do this more skillfully, Panerai, for example, who produce manageable numbers and special editions especially for collectors.
So a watch is not suitable as a short-term speculative object?
No. At most if you are very knowledgeable. It's like stocks. Learning the watch market is very difficult.
"When the world ends, there will still be Patek, there will be Rolex - and Cartier."
How can you explain the continued enthusiasm for mechanical watches?
We write the 21st century, every cheap quartz watch tells you the time more precisely than a sinfully expensive Patek. A mechanical watch is a marvel. It doesn't break, it doesn't wear and tear, it can always be repaired and passed on for generations. In addition, a watch is not just for telling the time. It is the only jewelry a man can wear. It is a status symbol. August the Strong had his cabinet of curiosities in which he exhibited watches. Timekeeping became important in the 18th century because it was used to navigate. People want to become part of this story, to have something immortal.
About 30 years ago it looked like the quartz watch would forever replace the mechanical watch. Why did it turn out differently?
In 1969 the first quartz wristwatch came on the market, from 1982 Swatch flooded the market, there were cheap watches, colorful plastic watches. At that time, big mistakes were also made by traditional manufacturers. A brand like Omega was trying to go into the department stores. The watchmaking apprenticeship also changed: we suddenly had to learn electrical engineering! The mechanical clock seemed to be finished. But the zeitgeist changed. Today there is again a great turn to tradition, to craftsmanship. A mechanical watch has a deep soul that everyone can feel and no one can explain. Then the clock knocked, there was a watchmaker at it. It is also becoming more and more interesting for women. Small jewelry watches used to be popular with women. Today, many women buy a watch themselves and want to understand the technology. They no longer want small princess watches, they are breaking into male domains and are increasingly wearing large mechanical watches with many complications.
Does that mean women no longer wear small watches because they would otherwise be considered princesses?
At the moment already. Although there is now a certain clientele again, a very hip one who has recently been asking about this Mini Rolex, which was frowned upon for a long time.
If you buy a new mechanical watch today, how much craftsmanship is there - and how much is prefabricated?
A lot is done by machine. It can no longer be compared with the past. If I take apart a watch from the fifties or sixties, like a Patek, it's more fun than a new one. But that also brings the innovations with them. Such a vibrating system from the fifties is no longer up-to-date today. Today, clocks must not be so heavy and have to be more precise than they used to be.
Doesn't that contradict the philosophy of the watch as a marvel of craftsmanship?
That is why many companies have rebuilt their own factories that they had stopped in the seventies to incorporate third-party movements: IWC, Omega, TAG Heuer, Panerai. Third-party works were accepted in these high-tech watches for a while; this has been balanced out through design and marketing. But now the customer wants something for their money.
The Swatch Group owns 18 watch brands, the group is also the largest supplier of watch movements worldwide. Does that mean that most watches have the same in it?
No, not necessarily. Omega belongs to Swatch, for example, but they have their own manufacture, or Glashütte Original. You have to look carefully. But it is not necessarily a bad thing when a company takes on a third-party work. It depends on what the brand stands for. If, for example, Cartier puts third-party movements in its watches, that's perfectly fine because Cartier never stood for having its own manufacture movement. They stand for a great jewelry tradition.
So jewelry watches are not interesting for real watch enthusiasts?
Jewelry watches are really pure jewelry, which of course have their justification because they are simply beautiful. Cartier is one of the few jewelry brands that is also collected. It's an extremely strong brand. I once spoke to a supplier during a time of crisis and he said: "When the world ends, there will still be Patek, there will be Rolex - and Cartier."
Can you actually wear collector's watches?
Not every one, but you can wear some chronometers from the 1950s without hesitation. You have to handle such watches differently, especially if they are not waterproof and shockproof. So don't shower with it.
What shouldn't you do with a mechanical watch in general?
Playing golf. Acceleration and impact damage the clockwork in the long run. Except for a sports model from Rolex, which is sure to withstand the longest. And tennis isn't good for a watch either.
Finally, a few tips. In your opinion, what would be the perfect watch for ...
... the son:
An Omega Speedmaster. Better than a Rolex. The boy doesn't have to have a Rolex yet. At the Speedmaster, he has technology and history. But not at the age of ten or twelve, please: children don't need a watch. They just forget them in the gym anyway.
… the daughter:
A Rolex Datejust. Silver dial, steel bracelet.
… the wife:
She'll get an old Patek. A manta with a curved shape. In gold, with a black leather strap. This is actually a men's watch, but looks like a ladies' watch today.
... the husband:
Do I have some money available? Yes? Then the man gets an old Rolex Daytona, silver dial, steel bracelet.
Illustrations: Kera Till Photo: Jan Schünke
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