As a noted timepiece specialist and the founder of Analog/Shift, a top-drawer boutique offering a curated selection of vintage watches for discerning collectors, James Lamdin spends his days buying, selling and brokering some of the most exceptional timepieces in the world. Lamdin, who drives a classic 1967 Porsche 912, has an impressive collection in his own right, of course.
Lamdin’s team has a cumulative 40 years of wristwatch-collecting experience. Each month they offer a small, carefully assembled collection of beautiful watches from highly desirable brands like Rolex, Omega, Doxa and Heuer, as well as some lesser known and harder to find models. Each has been thoroughly checked over by a professional watchmaker and is ready to wear.
Vintage wristwatch values have been on the rise since the early 2000s, and records have been set and broken nearly every year at prestigious auction houses in the United States, Europe and Asia. While Lamdin generally recommends buying wristwatches for enjoyment rather than purely as investments (after all, you can wear them while they appreciate), he does offer advice for speculating within the luxury timepiece market; and his recommendations for investment pieces aren’t purely of the vintage nature.
Here are his top five recommendations for modern luxury watches sure to bring enhanced returns in the near future. And surprise—not a single one of them is a Rolex or Patek Philippe:
1. F.P. Journe: Chronometré Optimum
F.P. Journe is perhaps the most respected of the independent watchmakers. With complete vertical integration and an unmistakable aesthetic, the young brand has an impressive story and an even more impressive following.
Collectors and timepiece enthusiasts, captivated by the designs and in-house movements, have embraced the brand, leading to some very strong secondary market and auction returns. Despite production of roughly only a thousand pieces a year, there are 9 F.P. Journe Boutiques worldwide; a testament to their popularity.
This past year saw the launch of the Chronometré Optimum; a non-complicated time-only piece finished in a selection of precious metal cases, which purports to be the most accurate mechanical timepiece ever made. Journe’s Tourbillons and Repeaters are equally impressive, but the efficient simplicity of the Optimum stands out in the line up as a long-term winner. From $86,400.
2. A. Lange & Söhne: Saxonia Annual Calendar
German watch brand A. Lange & Söhne is quite simply the most impressive manufacturer outside of Switzerland. Revived in the early 1990s after a forty-year closure, the brand cemented itself among the greats of haute horology in no time.
Their distinctly German designs, superior hand-made quality, and precious metal cases are sure-bets for collectors, and many pre-owned examples have sold for many times their original prices just a few years after originally retailed.
A favorite in their current line up, the Saxonia Annual Calendar in Platinum is a stunning complicated piece in a relatively small case size. At 38mm, it's dimensions remain much more practical for daily wear than other annual calendars on the market, and as sizing trends continue to move towards smaller, thinner pieces, the Saxonia comes at the right time. It is also priced better than any of its competitors at $58,400.
3. Jaeger-LeCoultre: Reverso Tribute to 1931
They say what is old will be new again, and with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, they’d be right. Originally conceived as a reversible watch for polo players who didn’t want their wristwatches damaged on the field, the Reverso has become a staple of men’s wristwear since its inception in the 1930s.
Launched in 2011, the Tribute to 1931 models feature vintage-inspired hands and dials, simple manual-winding movements, and an ultra-slim case design. Regular production models are priced around $8,000, and are an excellent timepiece investment any day. Furthermore, they are truly great pieces for heirloom purposes, with a steel backside perfect for engraving.
Your best investment would be on one of the 200 US Limited Edition versions made in 2011/2012 which came complete with a very rare and special shell cordovan strap made by the legendary Argentine bootmaker Casa Fagliano. Due to its rarity, the strap alone could be worth thousands in the next few years. Long since sold out, there are only a few available on the pre-owned market. If you find one, don’t hesitate.
4. MIH Watch: All
Haute Horology doesn’t always come with a giant price tag. Case in point—the MIH Watch. Developed by the master watchmakers behind the Museé International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, this unique timepiece is a masterwork of minimal design, featuring an annual calendar complication based on an industry-standard Valjoux chronograph movement. This is the horological equivalent of building a functional lunar module out of a Volvo S60.
Priced new at approximately $6,579 (6000CHF), the MIH Watch has a two-year waiting list to go along with it, and they are rarely sold privately. Although the museum has not announced any discontinuation of the model, nothing this good lasts forever, and once they go out of production they will surely skyrocket in value. In the meantime, they are exceptionally well-crafted, unique timepieces with a great story that you could wear every day.
5. Audemars Piguet: Royal Oak “Jumbo” 40th Anniversary 15202
Few sports watches are regarded with such universal acclaim as the original Royal Oak. Originally launched in 1972, the Royal Oak was the world’s first true luxury sport watch. Penned by famous watch designer Gerald Genta, it featured a signature integrated bracelet and octagonal bezel design modeled after the portholes on the battleship HMS Royal Oak. In the past decade, the Royal Oak line has grown as much in complexity and diversity as the watches themselves have grown in size. The bulk of the “Offshore” lineup is fat and tasteless—certainly not destined to become classics in the traditional sense.
Fortunately for us, the original two-hand “Jumbo” models (reference 15202ST) remain in production, and with a special 40th Anniversary edition launched last year, the Genta masterpiece is sure to remain an icon amongst icons. Although not technically a “Limited Edition,” production and distribution from AP is minimal, and finding one new through an Authorized Dealer can take some doing. Pre-owned models have recently commanded nearly as much as MSRP ($22,500) at auction. Good signs for future collectability indeed.