Gangnam Style, a mysterious blue and black dress (or was it white and gold?), something like 19 different iPhone editions – a lot really has come and gone in the last 20 years. The world of watches was no exception, witnessing all kinds of exciting developments.
Luxury watches are more than just timekeepers. They embody exquisite craftsmanship, timeless design, and have made their marks as must-have status symbols.
The Luxury Watch Market Over the Past Two Decades
The luxury watch market has experienced an impressive ascent in recent years, with increased worldwide demand for exclusive timepieces. This has been accompanied by a rise in prices and investment potential that are often inherent in luxury goods. Traditional Swiss brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Omega have been able to secure their places as leaders in the luxury watch industry. At the same time, newer brands like Richard Mille have emerged, creating a real stir with their provocative designs and materials. The use of ceramic, carbon fibers, different grades of rubber, and titanium have all helped make watches lighter and more durable.
The importance of design and individualization: Luxury watches are not only precise timekeepers; they are also an expression of individual style and the taste of their wearers. The last 20 years have seen many brands place a greater focus on individualization to make watches that catch the attention of their ever-younger markets. Whether it’s a Rainbow Daytona, or a meteorite dial – watch manufacturers are going the extra mile to achieve one-of-a-kind exclusivity and rarity.
Chrono24 is the world’s largest marketplace for luxury watches. We haven’t just observed these developments and stories from the sidelines; we’ve been a part of them for more than 20 years. The data on watch sales occurring on our global marketplace deliver vast insights into exactly what the most successful brands, models, and trends have been over the past years.
Want to know what the hottest, most popular brands and models have been? Join us as we take a look.
What’s the most popular watch brand?
Rolex Datejust 41 References 126334 & 12600
Rolex dominates the luxury watch market, and the last 20 years have of course been no exception. No spoiler alert really needed here, because if you look at the top five most-sold models on Chrono24 (based on the number of sales), you’ll find three Rolexes: the Rolex Datejust 41 reference 126334 and reference 126300, as well as the Rolex Explorer II reference 16570. These are by far the most popular watch models in our ranking. It shows you how the Rolex Datejust is more than worthy of its reputation, not only as a watch that everyone wears, but also as a watch that everyone can wear. This solidifies even further its image among fans as the most flexible luxury watch on the market. Wear it to a day at the beach, and a night at the opera; you simply can’t go wrong. The Datejust is for many enthusiasts a watch with a “sweet spot” price and good market availability. Critics on the other hand tend away from the Datejust, being less than enthusiastic about how many people have one on their wrists. Some of them even get downright bored when seeing it, desiring a timepiece with (in their opinion) more individuality and character.
But isn’t it exactly these differences of opinion that lend flair to the watch world, and keep it turning?
Rolex Explorer II Reference 16570
Third place on this Rolex sales list was honestly a surprise for me. The Rolex Explorer II is in my opinion a model that’s liked by experienced collectors, as well as those who are new to watches. It’s more of a niche Rolex that unites timeless-sporty elegance with horological significance. One great thing about this watch is how it’s easier to get your hands on, with prices staying on the reasonable side of things when compared to the more hyped-up Rolex models like the Daytona. You’ll also find that the Explorer II is a perfect everyday watch.
Out of our ten most-sold models on Chrono24, seven are Rolexes. With this in mind, we decided to show you the top three models of the four most popular brands. In doing this, we hope to give you an idea of the trends and developments in the watch industry, while also putting a few theories together about why it’s precisely these brands and models that appear so frequently on the wrists or in the collections of Chrono24 users.
Second Place: Omega
Now that we’ve looked at Rolex, let’s check out the number two on our list. With Omega, the Swatch x Omega MoonSwatch “Mission to the Moon” SO33M100 is in first place. This is followed by the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 322.214.171.124.01.005 and the Omega Speedmaster Reduced 3510.50.00. You’ll clearly recognize Omega’s strategy here, with their Speedmaster workhorse being offered in a number of varieties and price categories. The MoonSwatch has shown the (sales) power of social media, from which even traditional watch brands can benefit. As the MoonSwatch opens new pathways for a historical watchmaker like Omega (for Swatch as well, by the way), the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch continues to be optimized with each of its new iterations and releases.
A Popular Choice: Seiko
Seiko takes third place in our ranking, with their most frequently-purchased models on Chrono24 being the Seiko 5 Arabic Dial reference SNK063J5, the Seiko Alpinist SARB017, and the Seiko Spirit SARB033. Seiko’s affordable prices and availability make these timepieces a great choice for those who are new to the watch game. All of these models make for robust, everyday watches, and can be had for under $1,500. Seikos are renown for their outstanding combination of precision, innovation, build quality, and Japanese aesthetics, as seen for instance on the beautiful green sunburst dial of the SARB017. In this price category, you’ll be very hard-pressed to find a better watch, or better value for money.
Strutting Her Stuff: Rolex Sister Company Tudor
Fourth place on our list is Tudor, with the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight M79030N-0001, the Tudor Black Bay GMT 79830RB, and the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue 79030B. These watches make it clear that the Rolex sister company has achieved fantastic things in its own right in recent years, firmly establishing itself in the $5,000 and under price category. And why not? With their in-house movements, Tudor has shown what they can do on the technical level. They’ve also put their outstanding design and marketing prowess on full display. Known for responding to what their customers would love to see, Tudor has released watches like the Black Bay 54. And is there any watchmaker who’s better at vintage-inspired design? With increasingly compact models inspired by their classics of yesteryear, Tudor deliver timepieces that hit the horological zeitgeist, and the hearts of watch lovers everywhere.
And what about the other brands?
You of course might be asking why the likes of Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin didn’t make our list today. That’s only because our ranking was based on the amount of watches sold. You’ll of course find many more interesting articles in our magazine, like the most expensive watches on Chrono24.