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Vintage Watches Looking Ahead To 2022

A message from the vintage desk: Four trends we are watching going into next year.

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If you've stopped by one of our weekly Vintage Watches articles, you may have seen my name nestled in the bunch. Picking out a favorite from each week's drop is one of the best parts of my job – a 1960s Favre-Leuba Bivouac back on March 24 sticks out in my mind as a highlight, as does, more recently, a 1967 Tudor Submariner.

A 1960s Favre-Leuba Bivouac Ref. 53213 on bracelet

A 1967 Tudor Submariner Ref. 7928

With the year coming to a close, we're doing some reflecting here at the vintage desk while also looking to an extremely compelling 2022. As has been consistently covered right here on HODINKEE over the past few weeks, the tension between interest in vintage and modern watches has never been more palpable. Under this macro theme that is sure to play out over the coming months – if not beyond our upcoming year – here are four trends that the team and I are looking to in 2022 to better understand the vintage market. By no means is this a comprehensive list; many collectors are more interested in 1980s solid gold Rolexes moving into next year than they are looking at Heuer Carreras – that's the way it goes. Let me know in the comments where your focus is as we flip over to 2022.

1.) Gold Dress Watches (Particularly AP and Vacheron)

A lot has changed in watches since 2013. Essentially unchanged is the value found in vintage gold dress watches from top-of-the-market brands like Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, and IWC. Ben Clymer wrote about it then and no one listened. Wait, isn't he some kind of Nostradamus around here?

Ben Clymer's 2013 vintage gold dress watch pick 

Using a photo of an AP that is very similar to the two yellow gold watches we have offered over the past few months, Ben points out the downsides in this category. "Well, you have to be OK with yellow gold … and you have to be comfortable with a 'vintage' size." These hold true in (almost) 2022. As do the positives from 2013, like the finishing that is "every bit as impressive as today's dress watches from the same marks," Ben writes, and, most notably, the prices.

A 1960s IWC Caliber 89 in 18k yellow gold

A 1950s IWC Caliber 89 in 18k yellow gold

Over eight-and-a-half years ago, Ben noted prices of a solid yellow gold IWC being between $2,000 and $4,000, while something from AP or Vacheron would probably start in the $4,000 - $6,000 range. In 2021 we sold two yellow gold IWC caliber 89s (here and here) for around $3,500, two yellow gold APs (here and here) for just under $5,000, and a claw-lugged Vacheron for $5,900.

A 1970s Audemars Piguet dress watch in 18k yellow gold

A 1959 Audemars Piguet Ref. 5043BA in 18k yellow gold

The song remains the same here, providing the backbone for a vintage watch market where value is always there if you care to look for it. In 2022, I will be closely following these dress pieces and actively buying them to offer on Wednesdays. If recognition and asking prices do go up in this category, I see that as a very healthy sign. After all, when Ben quoted the above prices in 2013, a Heuer Bund could be had "for between $3,000 and $4,000 all day long" and mechanical Cartier Tanks were under $10k.

2.) Is Heuer Back?

In an extremely comprehensive and great read of an article recapping all of the New York watch auction season happenings of 2021, Logan called out and even asked my opinion of a vintage Heuer market that is, as he puts it, showing signs of life. My language is even stronger in this area of the vintage watch world. I see Heuer as one of the best buys at the moment.

A 1960s Heuer Carrera '45' Ref. 3647T with red tachymeter

The rare Heuers are flat-out making a statement at auction like the most recent Phillips sale with a "full lume" ref. 2446 Autavia and an "MG" ref. 3647 Carrera. Also, back in March, the tides were shown to be turning on a "screw back" ref. 2446 Seafarer at Sotheby's. The top of the Heuer market is reestablishing itself. And I say reestablishing due to the reverberations of Phillips' 2017 "Heuer Parade" with no fireworks that collectors often reference.

Further dispelling almost five-year-old scares is the middle of the vintage Heuer market. Seen nearly every week in our vintage drops, as well as offerings from other sellers in this space, your "standard" Carreras, Autavias, Monacos, and Monzas, to name a few, are backed by consistent and feverish demand. The rare watches at auction help, of course, but through larger market changes there is no getting around the natural beauty of what vintage Heuer offers.

A 1960s Heuer Autavia Ref. 7763C

In 2022, expect something from Heuer just about every week. We will mix it up, as we always do, from Camaros to Pasadenas. If you have a great Heuer that isn't getting enough wrist time, we are always willing to chat about it at vintage@hodinkee.com.

3.) THE Rolex Daytona

If I will get comments below for anything here being "hype" or "cringe" it is sure to be the next few paragraphs. One, I welcome your thoughts and, two, there is no denying the grip that this chronograph from Rolex holds on the minds of vintage enthusiasts. Love it or hate it, the Rolex Daytona will continue to dominate a portion of the vintage world in 2022.

A 1973 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph 'Daytona' Sigma Dial Ref. 6265 with box and manuals

Manually wound Daytonas have lined the auction catalogs of each major house for years. Vintage-focused Talking Watches episodes are no stranger to Paul Newmans, 6239s, 6263s, and all of the other nerdy Daytona details you can think of. This is one of the most important watches in the world of vintage. That all being said, is a vintage Daytona a value play here at the end of 2021?

For his New York auction season round-up, Logan posed a similar question to the two Erics – Ku and Wind – and this pair of industry experts answered with strong opinions, as usual. Ku, the "super dealer" and founder of Loupe This, noted that the vintage Rolex market is "a little bit soft" but Wind, the proprietor of Wind Vintage and newly-minted podcaster, disagreed with the term soft, favoring "stable and still growing" while quick to point out that "there's now an actual value proposition to buying a great steel vintage Daytona for under $100,000, especially when modern Nautilus and Aquanauts are going so insane."

A 1983 Rolex Daytona 'Big Red' Ref. 6265

I have to agree with the two Erics here. Of course, we are always looking for great vintage Daytonas but over the past few months, the immediacy on the HODINKEE vintage desk has been much higher. We have to go and find exceptional Daytonas in this time where offering one poses great value to our end buyer. If you have been thinking about going after that "Big Red," "Sigma," or "Baby Blue" Daytona for years, now might be exactly the right time. Into 2022, the Daytona market will serve as a decent marker for the greater vintage market's health, just as it has for over a decade at this point.

4.) Military Watches

In the face of ever-growing alternative niches to spend your watch money, vintage's competitive advantage is and always will be singularity and personality. Be it if you know the full story or have no idea what life the piece has lived before being fixed to your wrist, each vintage watch has a unique history. The patina on the dial or the scratches and nicks on the case will never be exactly the same from watch to watch. There is no better representation of this competitive advantage in the vintage market than the niche of military watches.

A 1979 Benrus Type II Class A

In November, we built a military-inspired collection around four pieces from the collection of Grahame Fowler. Of my work in 2021, researching the stories behind and writing about this group of 19 watches was some of the most rewarding. Moreso than the other trends on this list, sourcing and selling more military and military-inspired vintage watches in 2022 is personal to me. Especially at the price point, it is really hard to beat what you are getting here.

As a market trend, watching the military niche has always been compelling. As more Rolex Mil-Subs, Mil-Spec Omega Seamaster 300s, and Marine National Tudor Submariners hammer at auction, the middle of this market becomes all the more intriguing. Those well-known military watches are one thing but I see some collectors wary of dipping their toes into a vintage niche where knowledge and expertise are immensely important yet difficult to obtain. Fakes are out there.

The caseback of a 1976 Lemania Two Button Chronograph Ref. 818 for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm

The caseback of a 1960s Heuer Bundeswehr Sternzeit Reguliert Ref. 1551SZ

Buying from a reputable seller is always the best way to mitigate this risk. I hope that the HODINKEE Shop's continued offering of rock-solid military-inspired and -issued pieces can help bring some clarity to this market. The watches are just so good.

Want to sell your vintage watch through the HODINKEE Shop? Click here. Questions or thoughts? Send us a note at vintage@hodinkee.com, or let us know in the comments.


To view the entire current selection of vintage watches available in the HODINKEE Shop, click here.

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