6 minutes

Rolex Comeback? What You Need to Know About Changes in the Luxury Watch Market

By Thomas Hendricks

Let’s start with a quick check-in on the watch market. If you’ve been following us, you know that in-demand watches from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet have been in decline on the secondary and gray markets since spring 2022; inflation was going up, cryptocurrencies were going down, and tanks were moving into Ukraine. These factors negatively impacted the global economy, including the luxury sector. The decline came after years of runaway growth in the watch market, and while it’s true that what goes up must come down, it’s also true that what goes down might eventually come back up. In recent weeks, we at Chrono24 have started to identify early signs of a potential turnaround. Of course, markets are always tough to predict, especially in unprecedented times like these, but let’s look at some charts for clues.

First, some bad news: If you’re looking to sell a Patek Philippe Nautilus or an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, you may need to exercise a little more patience. Supply for two of the hypest of hype watches is still considerably high on the Chrono24 marketplace, and demand has remained low so far – a true buyer’s market one could say. We’re currently seeing similar trends for sibling models like the Patek Philippe Aquanaut and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore.

However, when it comes to Rolex steel sport watches like the Daytona, GMT-Master II, and Submariner, for example, the tide may be starting to shift at last. Let’s start with the Daytona. We’re looking at the current production 116500LN, both with a black and white dial. It’s important to note that supply is still outpacing demand at this point, as it has been since March of last year, and it’ll be a long time before we see the level of peak demand that we saw in mid-January 2022. That said, it appears that supply is trending downward while demand is on the rise. When we look at the current generation GMT-Master II Batman ref. 126710BLR, we see a similar trajectory, with supply and demand moving closer to an equilibrium. Charts for the current generation Pepsi and Root Beer are moving in the same direction, albeit with a little less momentum. Interestingly enough, demand actually briefly outpaced supply for the Sprite GMT in early January of this year before falling off later in the month. The Submariner is where we see perhaps the tightest gap between supply and demand. The current generation Submariner No Date ref. 124060 is looking especially healthy. Of course, we need to be careful not to overstate the turnaround potential here. For the top 10 bestselling Rolex watches on Chrono24 and all Rolex models as a whole on Chrono24, the situation is more lukewarm, with demand slowly rising and supply slowly falling. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to look at the heat map and see a few bright spots to indicate that maybe, just maybe maybe, the worst is behind us.

Available since 2018: the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO
Available since 2018: the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO

Holiday Recap: Chrono24’s Biggest Sellers

For our next story, we’re looking back to see which watches experienced the biggest bump during the holiday season. Watches have always made great gifts, and this year was no different. It seems Santa forgot to give me my Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, but I’m sure it just fell off the sleigh. Jokes aside, our data analysts did find that 16 watches experienced more than 100% growth during the holiday season. In order to arrive at this list, we compared a watch’s typical sales in 2022 to their sales during the months of November and December. We made sure the watches had at least a few dozen sales to rule out any anomalies. We also ruled out any watches that debuted later in the year since that would skew the sales data. Case in point, the 39-mm Tudor Pelagos was released at the end of August and had a whole lot of sales on the platform during the holidays, but we’re guessing that many watch enthusiasts just bought themselves a little gift. “Oh this package? It’s a surprise, honey. I really can’t tell you…”

The top three watches on our list each saw more than a 200% increase at the end of the year, and all three come from Japan. At #1 is the Grand Seiko SBGX261 with a 233% increase. #2 often sells for under $200 and saw a 224% bump. It’s the hardest reference to say with a lisp: the Seiko 5 SNXS77. And number three with a 214% spike is the Seiko Cocktail Time Mojito ref. SRPE45J1. Look at that dial – I wouldn’t mind opening that as a present.

We saw other affordable watches with more than a 100% increase, including a couple Hamilton Khaki Fields, a Seiko Alpinist, and a Citizen that kind of looks like a Rolex Datejust, Oysterquartz, and President smushed together. Mid-priced holiday favorites included a Tank Vermeil and the current generation Santos, the 36-mm Rolex Datejust, an Omega Aqua Terra, and the Grand Seiko SBGA211. And we also saw an over 100% increase in sales for the Rolex Sky-Dweller 326934 and the white gold Rolex Daytona 116519LN during the holidays.

Grand Seiko SBGA211 Snowflake
Grand Seiko SBGA211

Space Race: Which Omega Speedmaster limited edition offers the best ROI?

We turn now to the Omega Speedmaster. The Speedy has become the hallmark model for Omega, and like a Marvel movie, with success comes spinoffs. The limited-edition program at Omega has been a cash cow for decades, and the running joke in the watch industry is that we now have an unlimited number of Speedmaster limited editions. To make another comparison, it’s not a million miles away from the business model at Nike: Take a classic, give it a slight makeover with a new colorway or embellishment, and reap the rewards of that recharged demand. Virgil Abloh coined this concept as the “3% redesign,” meaning one only has to change a design by 3% to create something new. With that in mind, we’ve done some analysis to see which special Speedmasters get you the best return on your investment. Here are a few key case studies of notable limited edition Speedmasters and their performance over the last couple of years. The data comes from publicly available Chrono24 price charts on watches that are listed as being in “very good” pre-owned condition on the platform.

First up is the Speedy Tuesday Ultraman edition developed in partnership with our friends at Fratello. You could’ve picked this watch up for roughly $9,100 in February 2021, but it’ll now cost you approximately $15,800.

Omega Speedmaster Ultraman – 311.

Next is a personal favorite with the Tintin edition. In 2021, this was selling on Chrono24 for $12,200. Prices had surged to almost $19,000 by July 2022, but they’ve settled down to about $15,800 as of February 2023.

Omega Speedmaster Tintin
Omega Speedmaster Tintin

On the more affordable end of the spectrum, the First Omega in Space could be had for under $5,000 in 2021, around $4,200 to be more specific. Now discontinued, that price sits just under $6,000 today.

Omega First Omega in Space

The list price for the Speedmaster ref. CK2998 when it debuted in 2018 was $5,850. By February 2021, they were selling on Chrono24 for a little over $6,500. Now prices have bumped up considerably to roughly $9,600.

Omega Speedmaster CK2998

Our second to last limited edition is the Silver Snoopy Award. This is the only Speedmaster on our list to have lost market value in the last couple of years. Our data starts in April 2021 with an average price of $27,100. Now, prices are down about $4,000 to $23,200.

The Speedmaster Professional probably has the greatest history of all timepieces in the luxury watch world.
The Speedmaster Professional Silver Snoopy Award 50th Anniversary

Finally, the biggest winner in our analysis is the Alaska Project Speedmaster. Back in the halcyon days of February 2021, you only needed $12,500 to get one on Chrono24. Now? This ship’s gone into orbit with an average price of $21,500 – that’s almost doubled in the last two years. The question for Omega and Omega fans is, what happens next? Up to now, Omega has relied on their history for inspiration, with a range of Speedmasters marking special occasions like anniversaries, galactic voyages, the Olympics, etc. But some are speculating that the MoonSwatch may be the most likely path forward for future special editions. There’s a lot of potential here, and they could even charge more for LE models, further increasing what must already be high margins. The MoonSwatch was the most unescapable story of 2022, and even if you got tired of hearing about it or reading about it, the watch is a smash hit. There are even people making fan art for what they hope to be future versions. Omega likely sees a clear opportunity here to grow their audience, earn press coverage, have lines outside stores, make a lot of money, and release a new limited edition that doesn’t have to be tied to the Speedmaster anniversary calendar. All we’re saying is, this may not be the last time the MoonSwatch orbits around.

The Speedmaster "Alaska Project" has a limited run of just 1,970 pieces and is coveted among Omega collectors
The Speedmaster “Alaska Project” has a limited run of just 1,970 pieces and is coveted among Omega collectors.

About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

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