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Apple Watch is cool but real watches are better investments

Suzanne O'Halloran

The Apple Watch (AAPL) may be cool and its $349 price point may not break the bank, but it's no investment, according to watch expert Ben Clymer, founder of the watch-enthusiast website, Hodinkee. “The Apple watch, it's an amazing piece of design, it's an amazing product. I don’t really consider it a watch, it is digital peripheral, it's an add on to your telephone.”  

Whether you are a watch investor or a collector, the most important step in selecting a time piece is the brand: “It sounds almost superficial but there is a reason that a brand like a Rolex or Patek Philippe has lasted so long.”

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Most of these high caliber watches have no battery and often times are manually wound - a feature called mechanical movement. “The level of complication will certainly add to the value, 9 of the top 10 most valuable watches ever sold at auction are from Patek Philippe," according to Clymer. Rock legend Eric Clapton received a windfall when his Patek Philippe 2499 sold at Christie’s for $3.65 million in 2012.

If you’re more of an investor a collector and don’t want to fork over millions, you may want to consider Rolex’s Paul Newman Daytona which can retail between $120,000 to $350,000 according to estimates. And there is also Cartier’s well-known tank design. In Clymer’s opinion, these six figure watches have the potential to generate big returns. “I believe in many watches around the $100,000 mark. I think they will be worth $250,000-$500,000 in the coming years.”

For investors wanting to start in the $5,000 to $10,000 range Clymer recommends the following. “I believe now at $5,000 you could buy a [Tag] Heuer Autavia from the 60s/70s and five years it could be worth $10,000 to $15,000.”

Related: Risks rising for Apple shares as analysts expect a blowout quarter

Zenith, which is known for its chronograph movement [a stopwatch on top of a watch] is also in demand from savvy investors. “Zenith is really one of the great values in watchmaking,” especially for people seeking out a classic movement. “The El Primero, as it is called, is kind of the chronograph movement that people kind of measure against, its still around today in very much the same form.” The retail price is $9,800.

When it comes to collecting watches, Clymer said it really may be all about status: “Collecting is about I have this and you don’t.”

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