A classic watch tells more than time; it could possess unique craftsmanship, high-engineering technology, or significant tradition that many buyers or collectors find appealing. When a person buys a watch, he may know which brand he likes, but he might end up confused about which model to take as there could be countless models and variations that each brand presents.
Among popular timeless timepiece brands like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe, there is a broad array of classic collectible watches that are worth investing in. Whether you’re looking to invest in your first luxury watch or would like to add to your existing collection, choosing the right timepiece is important.
This article presents a list of classic watches worth collecting for both first-time and seasoned watch collectors.
Characteristics of collectible watches
Before presenting the list of classic watches worth collecting, you should be aware of what characteristics of a watch make it a good collectible.
The definition of “classic watch” may vary from person to person in the watchmaking world. As there is no official criteria for this, choosing a classic watch depends mainly on your personal preferences and things you want to prioritize as a collector. Regardless of your preference, here are the factors that make specific timepieces stand out more than the others.
- Recognition: Among the community of watch collectors, members refer to each other when determining which classic watches are worth collecting. Whichever makes it to the hype in the community is normally a key indicator of a timepiece’s potential spot in one’s collection.
- Heritage: Refers to specific brands and models with centuries of experience and milestones, just like some Swiss manufacturers. Moreover, some classic watch models have made an impact during their time, so they are still found valuable until today. For example, British musician Eric Clapton was known for his affinity for Patek Philippe timepieces, which are sold for millions today.
- Investment value: Many collectors consider future resale value before buying a watch. This is because watch lovers often find themselves wanting to invest in another piece five years later or more. Owning a watch with good resale value allows collectors to change a piece without losing a lot of money.
Top 8 classic watches worth collecting
For emerging collectors of classic watches, here are a few suggestions:
- Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is one of the legendary, pioneering classic watches still available today. It has revolutionized the world of diving watchers not only for its aesthetic value but also for its high-quality engineering. It uses materials found in aeronautics and can resist water up to a depth of 300 meters.
Some of the most famous wearers of this watch include Ralph Lauren, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, and Sir Roger Moore.
- Patek Philippe Nautilus
In the world of watches, Patek Philippe is a brand known for good investment value, timeless design, exclusivity, unparalleled craftsmanship, and brand recognition. The Patek Philippe Nautilus is one of the most sought-after models from this brand. Released in 1976, this watch was marketed as one of the first sports luxury watches in steel with its rounded octagonal shape, porthole case construction, and horizontally embossed dial.
Check A Deep Dive Into the History of Patek Philippe Nautilus for more information.
- Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch
Featuring a black dial covered by scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, this version of a stainless chronograph from Omega is popular for its appearance on the space suits of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong when they stepped on the moon’s surface in 1969. Earlier, in the 1950s, it made its debut on the wrists of racing drivers. Since then, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch came out with several variations that showcase the model’s versatility and beauty.
For other Omega models worth collecting, check Omega Watches: History and Best Collections to Buy.
- Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Another famous dive watch pioneer, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is a slick-looking Swiss watch built to withstand deep waters. Since its introduction more than 65 years ago, this watch has retained its timeless design—a rugged military build that can survive even the roughest of terrains. Photographers, explorers, scientists, and environmentalists find this timepiece close to their hearts.
- Breitling Premier B01
Designed with a touch of both classic and modern, Breitling Premier B01 features a stainless steel case with an army green dial. It was reissued in 2018 as Breitling moved towards sportier styles. It is one of the most versatile watches on the market, so for those who like modern watches with a classic hint, this piece is worth going to just about any occasion.
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
It is the story behind this iconic timepiece that makes it one of the most highly regarded watches today. Back in the 1970s, owner Audemars Piguet asked popular Swiss designer Gerald Penta to create a distinct watch for the Italian market—the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Years later, other brands have released their own versions of the Royal Oak but none has topped the original. Its octagonal bezel, steel case, “Tapisserie” dial, and integrated bracelet have become this timepiece’s trademark.
If you are a first-time watch buyer, you may refer to The Best Audemars Piguet Watch for First-Time Buyers for other suggestions.
- TAG Heuer Autavia
Revamped for modern adventurers, the classic TAG Heuer Autavia retained its retro-esque crown for optimal ease of use and to pay homage to the first line of classic Autavia watches initially released between 1933 to 1957. This design was specifically made for race car dashboards and airplanes.
The new collection released since its comeback in 2019 includes seven suave retro-style references, which come in either bronze or stainless steel.
- Tudor Black Bay
Commonly known as the “sister” brand of Rolex, Tudor watches are great for watch collecting also. The Tudor Black Bay, for example, can make a lovely addition to a timepiece collection as it takes inspiration from vintage Submariners. It features retro-ish aesthetics but with modern-day technology, such as an in-house movement.