When I started collecting Speedmasters, the money involved was not as much as today. I did not start as low as some, who tell me all speedmasters were under $1000 and cost more to fix than to buy. I also think there was a lot of confusion as to which was which, and so stories of 2915’s selling for the same money as other 321’s, (or less – people did not like the BA hands!) are believable.
I joined in when an 861 that ran, and had an attraction, was as low as $1300 and would probably fetch $2200 in very nice shape. My first 2998 cost $4000 and shortly after that I paid what I thought at the time was a hefty premium for a perfect 2998-1 with the correct dial and bezel. It cost $10,000 – I think that today the bezel might sell for that.
Are the values today justified? Well money is not getting any interest, UK sterling is falling in value, Stock portfolios are worth less now that a year ago, so people apparently like hard assets, that they can hold in hand.
Rolex Daytonas are now all held by collectors or dealers. There seem to be many more of them that even the entire speedmaster flock of similar years. If you compare the two, Speedmasters could be worth much more than Daytonas in a few years, if people compare production numbers.
Well we are seeing a huge increase in interest, combined with a disappearance from the market of privately sourced watches. I made it a specialty to find one owner watches and have them serviced without touching the aesthetics. Sometimes, i will polish the crystal, or even replace it. It depends on how original the watch is.
Here is the watch which became known as the Salvation Army Speedmaster as it was sold by them after receiving it from an estate. As you can see, from this post service photo, we did no polishing or replacing of service parts at all:
This watch cost a lot of money, over what the chart says it should. I paid more because I place a value on the provenance and I take the view that its better to over pay and own a watch than be one of those sad bastards that you see haunting auction rooms shaking their heads at the prices and at the end of the year have nothing more that a couple of cheap but unattractive watches. In a rising market you have to over pay to get the best.
Now if you search Ebay, which like it or not has been the #1 source for private watches in the last decade, second to none), there are no 2998’s, no 105.012’s and very occasionally a 145.012.
When these do come on they are often poorly worked on psuedo dealer watches that have many parts meeting for the first time in the watch just prior to sale. It seems the general increase in values has brought out the worst in people.
In addition we are seeing sales of watches that are honestly labeled as assemblies, or with major parts that are incorrect, and these are selling strongly. Perhaps the buyers have that missing bezel or dial in stock. If they do not, it could be a long wait.
Its also important to note the growing difference in values between the top examples and the good examples. As buyers become more sophisticated we will see this difference grow.
Here we have two Chocolate Dial 145.022-69’s. One is worth about three times the other. The one on the left is pleasing throughout, with the right kind of dial degradation and colour, combined with a hands that while not fine condition, compliment the dial and case to give an overall attraction.
On the right is a watch that could almost be the same if described – that is it is a 145.022-69 with a chocolate dial, a DO90 bezel and correct equipment. However the hands are too white, the dial plots are too dirty, the body colour is not as strong, or attractive, and the bezel is in much poorer condition.
My point is that in these heady times, prices will be paid for some whatches that while we might intitially feel are outrageous, they are being paid by sophisticated buyers who know exactly how rare an item is.
Another example will be this, selling in Philips 15th May 2016:
Estimated at CHF25,000 to 50,000 it will be interesting to see where it ends up. Do not forget that’s not including premium. This example has the holy trifecta of rare parts, chocolate dial, the lollipop and the BASE1000 bezel. It also has an extract, which is a further example of the Museum issuing extracts to auction houses for certain age watches that they will not do for collectors. That is another story.