Investing in watches and jewellery

The rare watch market sprang into life in the mid 1990s, when pocket watches were replaced by stylish wristwatches as the favoured collectible.

In contrast, the jewellery market is one that dates back centuries (perhaps millennia) and is a well-established investment area.

Despite the difference in age, both areas are now underpinned by a large, dedicated demographic of wealthy investors, with a number of watch and jewellery auctions regularly taking place in major cities across the world, particularly Hong Kong and New York.

It should be noted that, unlike watches, modern jewellery intended for the consumer market is not likely to hold its value. Paul Fraser Collectibles recommends placing your money with an item with history, such as the high-profile, record-breaking jewellery of Elizabeth Taylor.


The majority of rare watches are made from precious metals, and there is a long-established hierarchy. Generally this goes platinum, white gold, rose gold, yellow gold and stainless steel. However, some vintage watches that are made of steel are very rare and override this.

Watch brands to consider for investment include Patek Philippe, Jaeger LeCoultre, Cartier, Rolex, Omega and Longines.

Reasons to invest

Growing demand: 70% of the world's wealthy individuals polled for Barclays' 2012 Wealth Insights report own precious jewellery, up from 57% in 2007, making it the most popular of any treasure asset. This increased demand is prompting values to grow.

Both jewellery and fine watches are considered as status symbols in emerging economies, particularly the BRIC countries, who are fast become the world's most avid collectors. Investing in these areas provides the perfect opportunity to capitalise on this new wealth.

Limited supplies: High-end watch brands usually produce limited edition runs of less than 100, guaranteeing that your chosen piece will only become rarer as time passes. Similarly, jewellery with a fascinating story is valued for its provenance, as well as its beauty, and even an identical piece cannot match its rarity.

Low-cost upkeep: Jewellery is among the most resilient of collectibles, seldom deteriorating with age and requiring little in the way of care to hold value.

Open to all: While the most valuable watches and jewellery pieces command millions at auction, the market also has some fantastic entry-level opportunities, enabling the cautious investor to test the water before taking the plunge.

Historical performance

o   Jewellery

ring that once belonged to Jane Austen sold 408.1% past its estimate in a July 2012 auction, achieving an impressive $236,250. What's more, the ring was not even made out of valuable materials.

The 59.6 carat Pink Dream diamond made $83.1m in November 2013, topping the previous world record for a diamond at auction of $46.2m by 79.8%.

Elizabeth Taylor's jewellery collection sold for $115.9m in 2011, smashing numerous world records in the process.

o   Watches

The current record for a watch at auction is held by Patek Philippe's Henry Graves Supercomplication, which totalled $11m in 1999, but is due to smash that record at $16.8m at Sotheby's in 2014.

A pocket watch owned by Robert Burns sold for £39,650 ($64,419) in 2013, making a 1,486% increase on estimate, having been valued at just £2,500.

The Rolex Daytona is one of the world's most collectible watch models, with the world record set in 2013 at Christie's at $1m for a "Paul Newman" model.

Thinking of investing in watches and jewellery?

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