The Value of a Wristwatch – Factors Used by Experts to Determine the Price of a Watch

Wristwatch experts determine values by considering all of the internal and external components of the watch as well as the current market conditions and trends.

Elements that determine the value of a wristwatch:


The manufacturer of the wrist watch is certainly one of the factors that determine value of the watch. The most popular and sought after wristwatch in the world is one by Patek Philippe of Geneva, Switzerland, with all other things being equal; that is: case style, metal, features, type, etc. Other important brand names, but not necessarily in the order of their importance, are A. Lange & Sohne, Audemars Piguet, Baume & Mercier, Blancpain, Breguet, Breitling, Bvlgari, Cartier, Chopard, Concord, Chronoswiss, Corum, Ebel, F.P. Journe, France Muller, Gerald Genta, Girard-Perregaux, Glashutte, Hublot, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega, Panerai, Parmigiani, Piaget, Roger Dubuis, Rolex, Ulysse Nardin, Vacheron & Constantin and Zenith.

There are, of course, many quality brands other than these, but for those seeking the very finest watches in the world, these manufacturers are at the top. Values are always based on what someone is willing to pay. For these fine watches, collectors and others who value fine craftsmanship are willing to pay more than a million dollars for the finest luxury wristwatch.


Public popularity, fads, and fashion determine which contemporary style is preferred at any given time.

Today, ladies are wearing larger style watches…even men’s watches like the Rolex Daytona, Datejust, Submariner and Yacht-Master. The large Cartier Tank Americaine is very popular now, as is Cartier Ballon Bleu. Glam and glitz ladies like diamond watches …the Chanel J-12, the Chopard Ice Cube, the Patek Philippe Twenty-4, and the Piaget Protocole. Always popular is the classic ladies Rolex President as well as the Rolex Pearlmaster .

Men are wearing the A. Lange &Sohne ref. 1815, the Patek Philippe, ref. 3919, as well as the Breitling Bentley and Panerai Ferrari models. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore in rose gold is highly sought after and of course Rolex continues to be popular, particularly the 2-tone, steel and gold, blue dial Rolex Submariner.


A wristwatch has the advantage over most other collectibles-It is useful. This single factor puts the wrist watch at the top of the list of vintage collectibles both for enjoyment in wearing as well as for future long-term investment. An originally expensive wrist watch will always have some value. Commercial grade “junk” will always be junk.


Case Metal: The intrinsic value of the case metal is the only value that some vintage watches have. Many metals and materials have been used for cases of the years including platinum, 9-10-14-18-22karat gold, silver, gold-filled, gold plated, nickel, stainless steel, plastic and ceramic. The Patek Philippe watch in platinum is one of the most sought after contemporary timepieces today.

Case Markings: Many vintage wristwatches by makers and jewelers such as Patek Philippe, Cartier, Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Tiffany, Hamilton, etc., were cased, boxed and timed at the factory. These watches, in their original marked cases, are worth much more than watches in unmarked cases. All wrist watch companies, making movements, at one time or another and sometimes for the entire life of the company, sold movements ONLY, with dials marked according to the specifications of the buyer, which were then cased in custom made or standard cases supplied by many American and European casemakers. These are sometimes described as “Contract Cases.”

Case Style: The style of the case of both the contemporary watch as well as the vintage timepiece plays a part in determining its value. Hinged lugs, curved cases, enamel cases, “Art Deco” style cases all make the vintage piece stand out from the others, thus increasing the value to collectors. Style and shape of the contemporary piece are factors in today’s price based on current popular trends.


Here are some things that are particularly important when pricing a watch:

Dial: Is the dial original? Most wrist watches have metal dials. If it is metal, has it been refinished or does it need to be? Is the dial bent or scratched? Are there any damaged or missing markers? Are the hands damaged? Is there discoloration? The move valuable the watch, the more valuable the dial.

Case: Notice the amount of wear. If a gold case, is it bent or dented from rough or has the gold been worn through. Have the lugs been bent, damaged or replaced? Are the spring-bar holes worn? Initials or other inscriptions usually diminish the desirability and value of the watch.

Bracelet: If you are buying a watch with a permanently attached bracelet, be sure that the bracelet is the correct length. Some types, particularly mesh-type bracelets, are costly to have shortened and even more expensive to have lengthened. Leather strap bands show wear, but are usually replaceable. A generic strap will cost considerably less than a factory-made strap. Does it have a tang buckle or a deployant clasp?

Crown: The original crown is important when they were marked, such as Patek or Rolex.

Movement: Whether the movement is original or not and whether it is in good running condition and complete without botched repairs are factors in pricing the watch. The finish should be good with no corrosion, rust or scratches.

Of course, there are several other factors involved in pricing vintage and contemporary watches, which will be included in future articles. In general, the true value of a watch is the price that a collector or investor, who wants the wristwatch and has the money, will pay another collector or dealer, who knows the value.