Building a Collection -- Vintage vs Modern, pt 4

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Yes, the year is almost over but it will not end and neither be complete without part 4 of our beloved series -- Vintage vs Modern. The former three parts you can find in this blog -- just earlier. :-)

This time we throw some light on the differences between vintage and modern watches when building a collection. I think it is easy to agree that preservation of the art, craftmanship and ideas condensed in a collection and its handover to the next generation is one of the central aspects of collecting. And by the way, a collection starts with one or two pieces -- so even when someone owns just one watch, we would call him a collector if he has bought and holds for the mentioned aspect. Also, it is obvious that 'next generation' does not have to be necessarily ones own children, but anybody that takes care with the same enthusiasm.

Now, there are two major differences between vintage and modern pieces when building a collection:

    1. you simply can buy a more significant collection in vintage pieces with the same amount of money than modern stuff;
    1. in case you decide for modern watches, you do exactly what almost everybody is doing and so the relevance of your collection is very small;

Now, let me explain: It is a fact that you pay a significant premium over pure production costs and this premium contains marketing costs, manufacturers returns, cost for marketing and especially marketing costs. Yes. But that means there are just a few cents per dollar left that could be spend for the watch -- and that's it: you buy a rather cheap machine made piece of steel, just because the marketing that you paid, told you to do so. ;-)

EXCURSUS: Have you ever wondered why stainless steel is the non-plus ultra material to make watches of in the last years? Is it the scratch resistance or the reduction of material costs?

Anyway, when you check nowadays Patek ref5711-1A (steel, sure): market price new and fresh approx CHF75'000. And there are hundreds available, right now. And thousands that have been made and some more thousands that will be made, sure. Compare this to some low volume made Pateks from the 1970s or 1980s -- yes, they are not cheap neither but what you can buy for this CHF75'000 is a different story in terms of horological relevance, rarity and worth collecting: perpetual calendars, beautiful automatics, jewelery watches etc -- all this cumulative for the same price. Sure thing.

And this brings us to our 2nd aspect: most of these ref5711 will be collected and not worn. So, when in 50 years someone looks for a unworn ref5711, then there will be hundreds or eventually thousands available -- ref5711 fresh out of the box and unworn in 2070. They will wait right in their boxes until the market price hundred-folds just as the ref3700 did, right?

And now, lets take the perspective of the next generation you hand over this collection in fifteen years from now, either this one 5711 or the handful of beautiful 70s & 80s Pateks, that were originally made in much lower quantities back then and that are available nowadays only in single digit numbers. What do you think will be the reaction in the first and in the latter case? Sure thing, once again.

So, I suggest to search for a niche and collect what actually not everybody wants and foremost collect what you like -- even when it is outside of the beaten paths.

And you know, this holds true for other brands than Patek as well, sure thing, right?