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Feature: 5 Investment Watches Set To Blow Up

The world has gone nuts for luxury watches, it seems, with a surprising number bucking a trend of decades and actually going up in value. We’re seeing more and more demand for particularly desirable timepieces, and more and more timepieces becoming particularly desirable. With the main culprits having long since left Earth’s orbit, where will the investor’s attention turn next? Here are five watches that I think will soon be headed for the moon.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 15210BC.OO.A002CR.01

Remember back in 2019 when Audemars Piguet disappointed the world with the release of the Code 11.59? In an attempt to capitalise on the massive demand for the impossible-to-get AP Royal Oak, the Le Brassus watchmaker introduced a brand new, entry-level luxury timepiece to sway customers into purchasing something that was actually available in stock.

Starting at a whopping £27,500 and only available in precious metals, the Code 11.59 confused and dismayed. Part sports watch, part dress watch, 41m wide yet under 11mm in thickness, the Code 11.59—and the cringe-inducing inspiration for its name—left collectors cold.

But that was back when a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was still a possible proposition. Not a guaranteed one, but not a fairy tale, either. And with a bit of time, some of those unusual design decisions that seemed so obscure at launch—eight-sided case middle, anyone?—are starting to warm up a little. Even the date window—or should I say porthole?—doesn’t seem all that awkward any more. At least it’s the right colour.

From the complex, sculpted lugs to the double-curved crystal and its hall-of-mirrors-esque optical trickery, this may seem far removed from either traditional Audemars Piguet or Royal Oak Audemars Piguet—the brand’s two settings—but then that’s understandable. The watchmaker is trying to write a new chapter in its history, to forge forwards as well as looking backwards, and the Code 11.59 does that. At least it can’t be accused of being derivative. Ish.

So, with the Royal Oak more myth than legend at this point, the Code 11.59 serves as a perfect next step for would-be investors looking to speculate on the next hot ticket item. To be honest, if Audemars Piguet really wanted to guarantee investment success with the Code 11.59, all they’d have to do is release a steel version for half the price.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Travel Time 5524G-001

Speaking of traditional brands trying new things, remember in 2015 when Patek Philippe reminded everyone it once made a pilot’s watch? The 5524G Pilot Travel Time didn’t just confuse onlookers with its categorisation in the very reserved and traditional Calatrava collection, but also with the everything about it. This was a 42mm Patek Philippe watch with mushroom-like crowns sprouting out of it in every direction masquerading as a functional tool watch in no less than sold white gold.

If you thought the Code 11.59 was having an identity crisis, the Patek Philippe was one jump scare away from balancing a slipper on its head and saying, “wibble”. But if we’ve learnt anything in recent years, it’s that bold and unusual watches are the flavour every palate is looking for. Imagine the 5524G as the rugged, wearable watch the Nautilus looks like it should be.

It’s actually surprisingly useful, too, with the calibre CH 324 S C FUS providing a clear, functional way to not only keep track of time in another time zone, but also to see whether its day or night there too. No more accidental midnight calls to, I don’t know, whoever it is people call out of the blue when they’re abroad. And if you’re the one receiving the out-of-hours communication, the generous application of luminous paint on the 1930s pilot-watch inspired hands and markers will let you know exactly how annoyed you should be about it.

There may be many things about the 5524G that could be filed under the hot mess category, like the enormous sub-dial inexplicably devoted to just the date, and the complete inconsistency in crown design between the left and right, but somehow it all comes together in a presentable and desirable package that has cast a fresh light on what has been an old and stuffy Patek Philippe.

Like Audemars Piguet and the Code 11.59, there’s a forwards as well as a backwards to consider, and the 5524G does make you sit and think and if it’s the next big-ticket collector trend. We’re already seeing some outlets testing the water on above-RRP prices, certainly helped by the rumours of discontinuation.

Vacheron Constantin FiftySix 4600E/000A-B442

Whilst Vacheron Constantin’s FiftySix hardly bucks the trend for the big three trying something new, where it does go completely against the grain is by actually being a proper, more affordable—speaking relatively, of course—entry-level model. The prospect of paying less for a Vacheron Constantin than a Rolex Daytona has, since 2018, given a lot of collectors pause for thought—until they remembered the Daytona they’d just got the call for would be worth more than both put together.

But I don’t think that’s forever. Unlike the Code 11.59 and 5524G, the FiftySix is pitched squarely at mid-tier Rolex customers with five figures burning a hole in their Bitcoin as a tempting glimpse into the world of the truly high-end, massively undercutting both of the other two members of the watchmaking Holy Trinity by quite some way.

How exactly is Vacheron Constantin doing this? Here’s where things get controversial. In a very un-Vacheron Constantin move, the brand chose to source the movement from group supplier ValFleurier instead of making it itself, choosing only to finish it instead. And the finish, unlike the rest of the Vacheron Constantin collection, is not submitted for the Geneva Seal, an independent mark of quality issued by the Canton of Geneva.

Bullwash and poppycock, was the initial reaction to this news, but once the feathers settled, it starts to make very good sense. None of the big three are innocent of sourcing movements elsewhere—the most popular Royal Oak has a Jaeger-LeCoultre movement—and Vacheron Constantin is the only one left bothering with the Geneva Seal anyway. With those two concerns addressed, the watch would simply be a lot more expensive.

In fact, the whole ethos of the FiftySix was built around the idea of not having to muck around with waiting lists and all that hootenanny—but that was in the before times. With the Overseas also succumbing to the same fate as the Royal Oak and Nautilus, attention is moving to this peach of a watch, with market prices sitting comfortably around RRP. It’s just a matter of time.

A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus 363.179

If there’s one thing these Royal Oaks and Nautilii have in common—aside from impossible scarcity—it’s superficiality. I don’t mean that in bad way—what I’m getting at is that the effort extended to these particular watches isn’t to be found in how they function, but rather how they look—even if how they look did take all of a few hours to figure out.

And so, in 2019, German watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne, who didn’t seem to get the memo that you don’t need to try that hard anymore, saw the rising interest in cursory watches and thought, “Ha! We can do better than that!” and decided to build the Odysseus, a highly stylised luxury sports watch that actually does something besides telling the time.

It got a new movement, the calibre L155.1 Datomatic, which as well as providing typical A. Lange & Söhne eye-candy, also gains a dense platinum winding rotor to improve efficiency without obscuring the movement. The bracelet has the most thoroughly over-engineered link-swapping mechanism I’ve ever seen, plus a beautifully integrated clasp extension button.

But the real party trick lies on the dial, with the brand-favourite big date double-teamed to include the day as well. With the absence of hidden pushers, you might be wondering how these are adjusted, and if it’s with some obnoxiously fiddly crown setting—but no, it’s not. The crown guards double up as hidden pushers, each changing the day and date respectively.

Where A. Lange & Söhne has been clever with the Odysseus is to offer it only to respected customers it has built a relationship with over the years, which I quite like. Yes, of course it’s about limiting supply and maintaining residuals, but I’d much rather the real connoisseurs who’ve stuck with the brand get that call that some other rando looking to make a quick buck. With that being said, the already strong £20,000-ish price has already started to inflate with incredibly limited supply, so you’ll have to be quick.

H. Moser & Cie. Pioneer Centre Seconds 3200-1200

The real wildcard of this selection is one that won’t be busting any price records just yet, but feels primed for a moment in the spotlight in the not-too-distant future. H. Moser & Cie. is by far the least well-known watchmaker here, the original 1828 name revitalised by family in 2005. Sounds like your average cash-grab, but this has actually been done properly. This is Patek Philippe-rivalling levels of quality and in-house-ness, and it could well be the next big thing.

We’ve seen huge interest in up-and-coming modern watchmakers in recent years, with collectors turning their attention to the likes of early F. P. Journe and Roger Dubuis, hungry for something fresh and exciting—and H. Moser & Cie. is certainly delivering on that front. No more evident is this than with the Pioneer Centre Seconds, a luxury sports watch that seems to offer a remarkable amount for its £11,000 price tag.

The sculpted case, distinguished hands and markers, and blue fumé dial clearly distinguish this watch as an H. Moser & Cie., and it’s as much this attention to brand identity as it is anything else that makes me think the watchmaker has an exciting future ahead of it. But it’s not all pretty face and no brains, because the in-house manufacturing facility has come up trumps for the calibre HMC 200. It’s a beautiful piece of engineering that once again aims to tempt would-be Daytona owners.

So, why should this watch grab an investor’s attention? Because once everything else in the cupboard has been used up, you make do with what you’ve got left. For now, H. Moser & Cie. remains the purchase of a well-meaning but financially fast-and-loose enthusiast looking to buy something sensational that they’ll keep forever, but I really don’t think it’ll be that long before offers start coming their way they can’t refuse. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Bear in mind that I don’t have a crystal ball and that this is all just speculation. You’ll need to do your own research and take your own gambles on investing in any watch. And also, try not to lose sight of the reason these watches exist in the first place: because we enjoy them. Or at least we’re supposed to. Don’t forget to not lose sight of things and actually have a bit of fun along the way.

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