The world of vintage watches can often be a murky one to navigate for newcomers. Big ticket names, big ticket prices and now with the added influx of fake vintage watches sneaking into big auction houses, it’s little wonder that getting into the game is scarier than one could ever imagine.
Luckily for this particular vintage watch investment guide, we have David Seyffer of IWC Schaffhausen on board to help you identify the best IWC timepieces to invest in right now. The best thing is that you don’t even have to be a millionaire to get started. The budget range we’ve specified to Seyffer, who is IWC’s museum curator, sits roughly between the region of AU$5,000 – AU$50,000. It’s prime hunting ground here so pay attention and you could have a future goldmine wrapped around your wrist.
What You Need To Know About Vintage IWC Watches
IWC watches are like Porsches, according to Seyffer, who says that vintage IWC watches should be enjoyed, not hidden away in a vault.
“Even if you have an old one you can still wear them and service them with IWC today.”
“We still have spare parts and we have a good team at Schaffhausen after sales service. You can get nice ones at reasonable prices so people shouldn’t be afraid to wear them in their daily life.”
The beauty behind collecting or investing in vintage IWC watches is that there’s so many variations and designs to choose from across the last five decades alone. This plays into the reason why older IWC timepieces are becoming popular to collect amongst today’s watch fans of varying ages and personal preferences. Seyffer simply describes this renewed interest as: “You like the watch, you like the story behind it, you keep up with this watch.”
“The extensive options may also lead you to wanting more than one and then you’ll start collecting,” he adds.
Where To Buy Vintage IWC Watches
The million dollar question in the vintage watch market isn’t whether you have a million dollars, but where the best place is to spend it to acquire an authentic piece. Seyffer admits this is a tricky question.
“There are a lot of chances to get a vintage IWC watch and it doesn’t matter where you buy it so much, but I will recommend you ask the seller to have the watch certificated at IWC.”
This can be a a tedious process as the watch needs to be sent back to IWC Schaffhausen where it is meticulously checked and held for anywhere between a week to a month to ensure its authenticity. Once this process is complete the buyer can rest assured that their investment is the real deal. When it comes to finding a seller, Seyffer recommends going for names with big reputations or auction houses with a good track record. It’s sometimes about who you know as well. Private collectors can be a great source of vintage IWC timepieces, especially those famous in Florence says Seyffer.
How Safe Are Auction Houses
Recently we wrote about the dangers of buying vintage watches as explained by Eric Wind – a man who has done work for Hodinkee as well as being the ex-Senior Specialist of Watches at auction house Christie’s. Here’s a quick rundown of a few of the advice points he had.
- Unbeknownst to the public, many of the vintage watches out there being sold aren’t in their original condition but are sold at exorbitant price tags which spruik this
- Even major auction houses like Christie’s (Wind’s former employer) have been known to re-touch photos so that watches appear more than what they are
- Do not trust photos – Wind says you have to see and hold the watch
- There are lots of forensics involved in vintage watch buying (UV lights, etc)
- Re-conditioned watches can lose around 75% of its original value ($350,000 vs. $50,000)
- These reconditioned watches extend across many major brands
With that said, Seyffer believes that most of them are safe as it’s on their own reputation as well as the auction house’s to provide the real deal.
“We try to support auction houses best we can. There was a famous IWC watch auctioned recently in NY by Phillips. In the beginning we checked the archives for them because we do not want a famous auction house selling a fake or ‘frankenstein’ watch. This would be devastating for us and the auction house so this is why I say we support auction houses.”
In other words, do your own research as well and don’t just rely on photos to make a decision.
IWC Families You Should Invest In Today
Now for the juicy stuff. Seyffer lists six categories that vintage watch investors should be looking at under the IWC banner. And some may surprise you.
IWC Mechanical Pocket Watches
It’s not one of the first IWC investment pieces one would think of but Seyffer believes there’s heaps of potential down the line if you don’t mind going strapless.
“The market for pocket watches has completely come down. Theres no market anymore which is a pity because you get some really nice highly finished pocket watch movements from the past,” he says.
“From a quality perspective they are perfectly well made; if you take care of them and bring them to service, they’ll keep running.”
Seyffer adds that the value proposition in IWC pocket watches is their traditional watchmaking methods. A good place to start is with the Calibre 52 or 53. Those who want something even more sophisticated can look for a finger bridge movement in a calibre 33 or 35 pocket watch. Another pocket watch to try is the famous first Portofino watch Reference 5252 with less than 200 made. These rarely pop up on the market and retail in the region of AU$20,000.
IWC Vintage Wristwatches
Price Range: AU$3,000 – AU$7,000
Reliable IWC vintage watches to invest in hail from the 50s and 60s according to Seyffer. You can usually pick one up between the price of 2,000 – 5,000 Swiss Francs (AU$3,000 – AU$7,000). Besides the robust quality, the most important thing is that IWC still service these older movements. These movements can be found in watches like the IWC Navigator for the Royal Airforce. Seyffer recommends starting here as the watch can be worn daily alongside its huge investment potential. IWC can even date it for you so that future owners will know it’s a special piece.
Beyond that particular piece, Seyffer says look for vintage IWC pieces with unique dials. The “cool story” behind its design is usually what makes a vintage IWC piece valuable down the line.
Price Range: Circa – AU$10,000
For Australian collectors looking to invest a bit more, an authentic International Watch Company/Jaeger-LeCoultre Mark XI for the Royal Australian Airforce is one of the coolest buys.
“They are not easy to get and you have to beware of fakes,” warns Seyffer. He tells us that there are a lot of Mark XI pieces being sold as authentic Royal Australian Airforce variants so you must be vigilant if you’re going to hunt this one down. In the past some private sellers have used bogus stories of their grandfather flying in the Royal Australian Airforce to try to flip these models.
According to watchcollector who sold one of these pieces in the past for AU$12,000, only 1,020 versions of the RAAF Mark XI exist in the world with not many in circulation.
Price Range: AU$14,000
Another all-time classic Seyffer notes is the IWC Ingenieur – in particular, Reference 866.
“Look for ones in stainless steel or 18K gold or some with 14K gold with a stainless steel bottom,” says Seyffer. “The 866 was launched 1976 and it has a very beautiful dial and not many were made. They are rare and you’ll have to invest $8,000 to $10,000 Swiss Francs to find one.”
The next IWC Ingenieur model to keep your eyes on is the famous Gerald Genta designs. Only 700 – 800 were produced during the 70s and they are really hard to get. If you manage to locate Reference 180032 then get ready to sign that check book.
Price Range: AU$30,000 plus
IWC’s Aquatimers from the late 1960s and 1970s are on another level. Seyffer believes these are high appreciating timepieces which can command up to $60,000 – $70,000 (and sometimes cheaper at auction houses). So if you’re game enough to drop that kind of money that’s beyond our specified budget then this is the one.
Price Range: AU$60,000
Big wallets demand Big Pilots and Seyffer definitely points to the original one as an investment piece. Prices can range between $30,000 – $60,000 but there’s a downside – it’s not wearable due to its 55mm diameter case.
“I wouldn’t wear it incase it cracks or gets a mark. For that price it’s not good to wear even if it’s a good investment.”
“If you go for Big Pilots go for wearable models,” he adds.
IWC Future Classics To Invest In
For those playing the long game, Seyffer recommends looking at the IWC watches from the 1980s which is technically approaching the 40 year mark (feeling old yet?).
The Porsche Design IWC is one good example as it features a unique and striking design amongst the family. The same goes for its successor, the IWC GST. Another under the radar piece is the IWC Da Vincis from the 1980s which currently sit around the $10,000 mark. Seyffer says there’s a lot of value in them and that’s why people are holding on to them.
Finally, Seyffer says to keep an eye on the perpetual calendars and divers watches from that same decade as they’re not currently overpriced on the market.