Quartz watches are nowhere near as popular as mechanical watches in the collecting community, but that wasn’t always the case. Following the introduction of quartz watches in 1969, the world of mechanical watches was pushed to the brink of collapse. This is one of the reasons why a lot of watch fans don’t like quartz today. Another reason is that quartz watches lack the element of wonder that more complex mechanical machines inspire.
Having said that, there are plenty of luxury quartz watches that are simply stunning in terms of looks, technical brilliance, and/or unbelievable accuracy. The word “quartz” is often associated with cheap, but we’re here to prove that wrong. Here are five luxury quartz watches that you should take a closer look at if you want a special timepiece that has the potential to make you a good sum of money over a longer period of time.
1. F.P. Journe Élégante
Let’s start this list off with one of the most popular luxury quartz watches currently available. The F.P. Journe élégante is the perfect example of what makes quartz watches so brilliant, but it’s not just your average quartz watch. François-Paul Journe doesn’t do ordinary. For him, the art of watchmaking is about problem-solving for any timekeeping instrument, from clocks and pocket watches to wristwatches, either mechanical or quartz. In the case of the élégante, Journe sought to address the issue of limited battery life for quartz watches.
If the F.P. Journe élégante is worn as part of a rotating watch collection, the quartz caliber 1210 has a battery life of up to 18 years. This was achieved by equipping the timepiece with a motion detector in its dial that recognizes whether the watch is being used or not. If the watch has not moved for 35 minutes, it goes into an energy-saving “sleep” mode, while its microprocessor continues to keep the time. When you pick the watch up again, it senses that it’s being used, and its hands automatically reset to the current time. This is an innovative solution to a very practical problem. Add in the classically inspired look, the elegant 40 x 48-mm case, and the luminescent sapphire dial, and you end up with something truly special that is much sought-after by watch fans all over the world. The élégante has an official list price starting around $13,000; however, prices for some élégante timepieces on Chrono24 have increased to over $40,000 and show no signs of slowing down. Is this not one of the most stunning quartz watches you could imagine?
2. IWC Ingenieur SL Quartz Ref. 3303
A watch that already enjoys the status of a classic is Gérald Genta’s IWC Ingenieur. It is one of the three watches that make up Genta’s famous trilogy of modern luxury sports watches with integrated bracelets that all debuted in the 1970s. The legacy started with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in 1972, followed by both the Patek Philippe Nautilus and IWC Ingenieur in 1976. The latter was born when IWC asked Genta to come up with a modern version of the brand’s Ingenieur model, which translates to “engineer” in English. The Genta-designed Ingenieur SL “Jumbo” ref. 1832 has since become a classic in the industry. While it may be less groundbreaking than the Royal Oak or Nautilus, it is still a stunning watch. If you want to call one your own, expect to pay between roughly $40,000 and $60,000.
But wait, has Genta designed any quartz watches? Well, IWC actually released a quartz version of the Ingenieur, the ref. 3003, in 1976. This watch features the same case as the mechanical version, as it was compatible with both mechanical and quartz movements. When IWC updated the movement in 1980 to its slimmer quartz caliber 2250, this was no longer possible. As a result of the change in movements, IWC had to update the case and dial, but the brand did so brilliantly. The designers also redesigned the bracelet, making it slimmer and more comfortable. The end result is pure brilliance. Plus, with only 149 pieces produced, this is a rare beauty that will only go up in value. Expect to pay between roughly $15,000 and $20,000 for a ref. 3303. This is a lot of money, but prices have been steadily rising over time, and I don’t expect that to change.
3. Girard-Perregaux Laureato
If you know a little bit about watches, you’ve probably heard of the Girard-Perregaux Laureato. The watch is the most popular model in the brand’s current collection, and it is a great alternative for those who want the style of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, or Vacheron Constantin Overseas, but don’t want to spend a ton of money. But what many people don’t know is that Girard-Perregaux released the original Laureato in 1975, a year before the Nautilus and Ingenieur came out. The watch was named after the movie The Graduate, or Laureato in Italian. It features a slim overall design, much like Genta’s famous creations. Additionally, the case features a raised octagonal bezel and an integrated bracelet.
The Girard-Perregaux Laureato was released in a two-tone gold and steel version, featuring a white dial with a Clous de Paris pattern. The original was powered by the brand’s in-house chronometer-certified quartz caliber 705. The combination of gold and steel was very popular at the time, and quartz was winning the battle against mechanical watches. It proved a popular combination, and the Laureato was a big commercial success for Girard-Perregaux from the get-go. In recent years, there has been a renewed sense of appreciation for the original Laureato that is linked to the rise in popularity of modern luxury sports watches. Finding an original Laureato can be tough as they are rare specimens, but if you do find one, it will very likely increase in value over time.
4. Rolex Oysterquartz
Two years after Girard-Perregaux released the Laureato, Rolex introduced the Oysterquartz. The brand’s take on a quartz watch has become legendary among Rolex fans, but it is not always as widely loved as their mechanical models. When Rolex introduced the Oysterquartz, the watch had already been in development for five years. The reason behind the protracted release was that Rolex wanted to produce the quartz movements in house, and they needed to live up to the brand’s high standards. In 1977, Rolex finally introduced the Oysterquartz Datejust powered by the quartz caliber 5035. The brand also released the Oysterquartz Day-Date, which was powered by the quartz caliber 5055. Both models featured an instantly recognizable angular 36-mm case with a tapered integrated bracelet. The style is typical for the era, and with the recent rise in popularity of 1970s-inspired watches, the Oysterquartz has also been gaining traction.
The Rolex Oysterquartz was produced for roughly 25 years before being discontinued in the early 2000s. Rolex produced an estimated 25,000 Oysterquartz watches in total, which is not a lot for the Genevan brand. It’s definitely worth taking a look at the various versions of these watches. The Oysterquartz Datejust is available in stainless steel or a two-tone combination of stainless steel and yellow gold. The Oysterquartz Day-Date comes in yellow or white gold, making them a lot more expensive, but looking at prices today, you may be surprised by how affordable they are. The solid gold Day-Date versions start at roughly $12,000 and move up to $30,000 for rarer models. A Datejust model can be yours for between $4,000 and $10,000, depending on the condition. If you ask me, there is only one way to go with the Oysterquartz: a two-tone Datejust model with a gold dial. It’s pure 1970s bliss.
5. Cartier Tank Must de Cartier
The same year that Rolex introduced the Oysterquartz, Cartier introduced the Must de Cartier Tank. This watch was created to pay tribute to the original Cartier Tank that was introduced six decades earlier in 1917. The Tank Must was available with a simple quartz or mechanical movement and a vermeil silver case. This marked the first time the brand released a watch in a non-precious metal that was produced in large numbers. Available at a very affordable price, buyers had the choice of a wide array of different dial colors. The watch was Cartier’s answer to the quartz revolution, and it was a way of saving the brand in challenging times.
The first Cartier Tank Must models were released with plain dials in black, blue, and red. The dial featured nothing but the double “C” emblem and the “Must de Cartier” logo with gold vermeil hands hovering above it. If this sounds familiar, it might be because Cartier reintroduced colorful Tank Must models last year to much acclaim. The original 1970s Tank Must models with a plain blue or red dial are also highly sought after. Expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,500 for one of these historic timepieces. Considering the incredible rise in popularity of Cartier watches, I only expect the Must’s popularity to increase over time.
There you have it, a list of five quartz watches that could make good investments over time. If you buy any of these timepieces, you will have an amazing watch to wear for the foreseeable future, and who knows? You might even be able to make some money in the long term. But remember, it’s most important to buy a watch because you love it. If the investment turns out to be a good one, you can consider selling it, but you’ll get plenty of enjoyment out of it in the meantime. Well, that leaves me nothing more to say than: happy hunting!