models are easier to imitate, but not everyone minds having a ‘replica watches’
Watches that might have been worth between £1,000 and £2,000 relatively recently can now fetch multiples of that as collectors look at more affordable, less appreciated makes. Vintage pieces by makers such as Longines, Tudor, Heuer, Breitling, Omega and Zenith are being fiercely fought over when they appear for sale privately, through dealers or in the auction rooms.
For owners who have kept genuine examples of such watches tucked away in drawers and in the backs of cupboards while they were hardly worth the effort of selling, the price hikes have brought welcome windfalls. But the buoyant vintage market is also proving a boon for fakers. They recognise an opportunity to make money from watches that, in many cases, have been cobbled together from diverse parts to create apparently collectable models — which are actually all but worthless.
Values of these models have certainly rocketed. In 2010, for example, a Heuer Autavia Reference 2446 — a popular driver’s chronograph of the 1960s favoured by the late Formula One star Jochen Rindt — was sold by Bonhams in London for £5,400. But late in 2016, Christie’s New York achieved $125,000 for an identical watch, albeit one that was in better condition.
A replica watch is not necessarily a bad thing, however, at least according to classic car authority Robert Coucher, who proudly sports a 1920s Patek Philippe which was transformed from pocket watch format to a wristwatch. “I wanted a vintage Patek Philippe wristwatch but the prices had become out of reach. I discovered, however, that Patek pocket watches are far less expensive — so I bought one and had it converted to wear on the wrist. I realise it isn’t a factory product, but it’s still a beautiful piece with a genuine Patek Philippe movement that keeps perfect time, and it was considerably more affordable than the ‘real thing’.