Rolex and Patek Returns Beat Vintage Cars and Bitcoin

An unprecedented price surge for the most sought-after second-hand luxury watches is showing signs of settling down after some owners put their Rolex and Patek Philippe timepieces back on the block to cash out, a new index by trading platform Subdial shows.

The Subdial50 index, which tracks global market prices for the 50 most traded luxury watches by value, has declined about 6% in the past 30 days. A black-dial Rolex Daytona reference 116500LN has lost 10% of its value in a month, though it’s still up about 19% in the past 12 months. The blue-dialed Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 steel sports watch — which retails for about £119,000 ($145,230) on the site -- is down about 12% in 30 days after surging 44% in 12 months, the data show.

“In certain models, there has been this big run-up, and they have come back down to a probably a more sensible price where the true underlying demand was,” Ross Crane, a Subdial co-founder and data scientist who helped create the index, said in an interview.

Still, the index, which includes Rolex Daytonas, Datejusts, and Submariners, as well as several Patek Philippe Nautilus references and one Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, is up about 32% in the past 12 months.

That puts pre-owned luxury watches ahead of a slew of other alternative asset investments, including vintage cars, gold, and certainly crypto currencies, which have suffered a steep decline in recent months. The S&P 500 is now poised for its worst first half since 1970, six years before Patek introduced its first Nautilus (which retailed for $3,100 at the time).

Interest in collectible vintage watches spiked during the pandemic as consumers, flush with cash but stuck at home, parked funds in timepieces they lusted over online. Some investors who earned big returns in tech stocks and crypto currencies looked to pre-owned watches as the next hot asset class.

Prices for some Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet references more than doubled as new buyers piled into a market previously populated by staid collector and hobbyist. After Patek ended production of the 5711 reference Nautilus, prices for its most popular model soared ever higher.

Now, with tech stocks and crypto values getting pummeled and interest rates on the rise, some speculators are selling their timepieces again.

The online watch seller and trading platform has also created watch price indexes tracking specific brands, such as Omega, Cartier, as well as Tudor, the more budget-minded sister brand to Rolex. The data show pre-owned Omega watches have lost about 3% in 30 days, while the index of selected Cartier watches is up marginally, and Tudor prices are down about 1%.

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