In today’s marketplace, the watch collector is a savvy operator. It’s not like it was 10 or 15 years ago when information wasn’t readily available. To learn you had to attend horologic fairs, join watch and clock organizations and form private groups. It wasn’t so easy.

With the rise of the Internet, people can now educate themselves with a wi-fi connection and a few taps of the computer keys. Blogs, forums and other industry-sponsored sites offer a host of advice, direction and counsel from all over the world. Granted, some of it isn’t very good, but you learn to separate out the gold from the gravel. So you can see why collectors have gotten more demanding, because they’re spoiled.

At the lower end of the spectrum collectors are especially greedy. Buyers want to squeeze every percentage point off the price and haggle over every dollar, while sellers expect an unrealistic return from their investment. At the top end of the market it’s a different story. Things can get a little topsy-turvy as collectors vie for the rare and unusual and are willing to dig deep into their pockets to do so. Sellers obviously love to put up their prized pieces in this environment and watch as the gladiators fight over it and drive up the price, like they did for the above Breguet made by Abraham-Louis himself.

At every level, quality is the name of the game. There are four areas we recommend you evaluate before buying – and understand that the sell price is also affected by these characteristics. They are the 4 Q’s.

Quality of the maker
Quality of the condition & originality
Quality of the rarity & exclusivity
Quality in provenance & freshness to the market
Let’s take a look at this in action.

Patek Philippe 2523/1

Primo maker
Completely original and in excellent condition
Ultra rare
Hadn’t been on the market for 25 years

What happens if one of the Q’s isn’t up to snuff? Take for example, these two Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer chronographs, produced by Heuer for Abercrombie in the early 1950s. While both samples appear to be entirely original, the exceptional condition of one sample results in its having a considerable premium over the value of the average sample.

Provenance is also an important aspect that affects price, especially when a watch comes from a famous or important person. This alone can turn a nice watch that would sell for about for 10K into a coveted collectors’ piece worth almost a quarter of a million dollars, such as this simple pocket watch with power reserve by Patek Philippe owned by super collector Henry Graves

Whether you’re a purchaser or seller it’s important to understand the current environment when navigating the horological landscape. In this way you can make better and more informed decisions.

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