Six recommendations for a discontinued pre-owned watch to buy

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For Throwback Sunday this week, we thought we’d take a look at the pre-owned watch market and recommend 6 discontinued of the best.

The pre-owned market is heating up. Auction Houses have been pushing record sale after record sale. So we thought a handy guide to pick up “bargains” might just be the thing for us to do. Here are our top 6.

There are perils in the pre-owned market. Caveat Emptor! So before embarking on such an exercise, we highly recommend the following:

  • know what you are buying. Know the watch as intimately as possible. Learn as much as possible about the nuances, the variants. Not only to avoid buying a fake piece, but also a franken piece.
  • buy only from a source you know. Known dealers, or known experts are good options.

Six recommendations for a discontinued pre-owned watch to buy

We are making these recommendations for discontinued pre-owned watches. And do not recommend New In Box, or Like New in Box pieces, especially highly desirable pieces at elevated prices above retail. Please do not buy from the grey or black market. These sellers do not contribute to the promotion of the watches, and merely take profit because of distribution discrepancies within the system. True that some manufacturers are willing participants to the supply (or lack thereof) problem, leading to long waitlists, and improbable delivery dates. Supporting the grey/black market will only encourage it, and deny true collectors from getting access to desirable pieces. Like what National Geographic promotes in their ivory campaign – “When the buying stops, the killing will too”. This adage will apply equally well here. When the buying stops, the waitlists will too.

With this in mind, this is our list. All the watches can be found in the pre-owned market for less than the original retail prices. This means that all the watches on this list are not on any hypebeast list. By design, we intentionally left out the super desirable watches. So no AP, no Rolex, no Patek Philippe, no VC (which is increasingly become more and more “it”), and certainly no independents.

Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph

Glashütte Original is perhaps one maison which is frequently under-rated. They make all their movements in-house in Glashütte. They have their own dial manufacture in Pforzheim. And as part of The Swatch Group, have access to all they need within the group. The watches are well designed with good aesthetics. The finishing is excellent, especially considering the more modest price levels that they are targeted at. There are many to pick from, and our recommendation is for the Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date Special Limited Edition in Green released in 2019. The retail price was SGD 19,800.

This is an excellent chronograph, whose movement is built in the classical way, and decorated in the high end haute horlogerie style. Yet it does not carry the very high price tags of the pure play haute horlogerie chronographs, but aimed at the more modest, sporty, stainless steel cased market. What sets it apart from its competition is the seventies inspired case design and the absolutely gorgeous dials. It straddles a nice balance between a nicely made and finished chronograph with a modest price. A win-win in our books.

Parmigiani Tonda 1950

Another gem of a watch. Parmigiani Fleurier is another one of the complete manufactures in the market. They have inhouse capability for almost all parts for the watches, with the exception of indices and hands which they purchase from a partner. Through their own manufacutres, they have capabilities in case making (Les Artisans Boîtiers), dials (Quadrance & Habillage), movements (Vaucher and Parmigiani Fleurier), components ((Atokalpa and Elwin). Full manufacturing. All in-house.

Our choice is the most classic offering in their lineup – the Tonda 1950. Designed to mark Michel Parmigiani’s 60th birthday in 2010, the Tonda 1950 is unveiled, its name referencing his birth year. This is the brand’s first ultra-slim watch, it displays the fundamental aesthetic codes designed by Michel Parmigiani. Our pick is the 2020 Edition in stainless steel and dark blue dial. Retail price when new was about SGD 14,000.

The watch design is clean. Simple. And classical. Finishing is excellent – from the case, to the dial and hands to the movement. The movement is quite beautiful, and is reminiscent of the Chopard L.U.C which is our next recommendation. And the similarity is more than skin deep. More on that in the L.U.C section below.

Chopard L.U.C

The series started off as a dream by Karl-Friedrich Schuefele to build watches with in-house movements which are top top quality. The first L.U.C was introduced to the market in 1996, after the brand established a complete manufacture in Fleurier. Karl-Friedrich originally worked with Michel Parmigiani to design the first Chopard L.U.C movement, and hence the similarities between the PF movement we saw above and the L.U.C 1.96. Work began in 1993, and by 1995, it was clear to both parties that their visions for the movement was divergent. They decided to part ways. Each taking the unfinished collaboration work, and completed the design on their own.

Our recommendation for Chopard L.U.C is to look for one of the early models. Either the magnificent 1860 1.96, which is the top tier movement meeting COSC certification and the Geneva Seal. Or the L.U.C 3.96 equipped models, like the José Carreras limited edition shown below.

Chopard LUC José Carreras. Limited edition of 1000 pieces, of which 400 are in the white dial shown above, and the rest in a black dial. Steel case.

The 3.96 is remarkably similar to the 1.96, but finished to different degrees. The LUC Calibre 1.96 is a Geneva Seal bearing basic movement while the 3.96 edition is by no stretch second class. Both are COSC certified chronometers and the only point of distinction beyond the vaunted Seal is the use of Breguet over-coil hairspring and swan-neck fine adjustment regulator in the 1.96, while the balance of the 3.96 comes equipped with a flat hairspring. The original retail price of the Carreras when new was about SGD 7,500.

Girard-Perregaux Laureato

One of the lesser luxury steel sports watches, our next recommendation is the GP Laureato collection. The way is paved by the mighty Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Aquanaut, and increasing so the Vacheron Constantin Overseas. With newcomers like the Chopard Alpine Eagle, the Moser Streamliner and even the Bell & Ross BR 05 coming strong. But the Girard Perregaux Laureato is an old timer, which is not as popular as it should be.

The range is designed by an unknown designer, as confirmed in a discussion we had several years ago with Stefano Macaluso. But the design is no less as iconic and as beautiful as those by Genta or Hysek. Our pick is the 2016 Laureato in 42mm steel. Retail when new was SGD 15,300.

The movement is the calibre GP01800-0013. The movement is based on the older, also in-house Calibre 1800. Finishing is excellent as well, with perlage, Côtes de Genève, and anglage. All executed to the levels commensurate of haute horlogerie. The movement is entirely made and finished in-house. From designing to producing and adjusting, everything is done on site at the Girard-Perregaux manufacture. There are small details that make this movement not just agreeable, but beautiful. For instance, the balance wheel cock alone boasts 3 different finishes.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

The JLC Reverso is one of the icons of the industry. It is the most recognisable non-round watch in the market. Deemed by many connoisseurs as a must-have watch in any collection, the success of this reversible, rectangular watch is not just down to its timeless design, but also interesting origin. Born of a challenge from the 1930s, the Reverso was originally designed to withstand the polo matches of the British Army officers in India. The idea of the reversible case was to conceal the dial and protecting it from mallet strokes. Mighty origins indeed. Yet, pre-owned examples are relatively modest in their asking prices. Our pick is the 2014 edition of the Grand Reverso Ultra Thin. Retail price when new was about SGD 15,000.

The movement is the ultra thin JLC Caliber 822/2, 2.94mm thick, hand decorated in a slim case measuring only 7.2mm thick. The case is the classic Grand Taille size, and very elegant and suitable for both feminine and masculine wrists.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

Last and certainly not least, we needed to include the iconic Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch. While we do agree that this last entry is probably selling at a premium in the pre-owned market vis a vis their new retail prices, we figure it is still high value for money, as the replacement Moonwatch models, especially the highly sought after limited editions are all way more expensive. Our pick is one of the early models. The Ref. 145.022 gets our nod. This example uses the Caliber 861, an upgrade from the original Caliber 321. Caliber 861 was subsequently succeeded by Caliber 1861, and then the Caliber 1863 (which is decorated as it is meant for models with open casebacks). The design is a timeless classic. Great legibility. Good performance in timekeeping and reliability. And excellent choice as a “tool” watch.

The title “The First Watch Worn On The Moon” says it all; it is a testament to the quality and achievements of both Omega and Lemania. It was the only watch that had passed a series of stringent tests that were carried out by NASA, defeating competitors such as Rolex and Longines-Wittnauer.

Prices are somewhat all above the original retail, and more or less all over the map. But the vintage pieces can still be found at relatively affordable prices, depending on year of production and condition. Fratello Watches has an excellent Buyer’s Guide.

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it. Our suggestions to start the list. All the picks on this 6 watch list can currently be purchased pre-owned for less than the original retail prices when new, except for the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. But it is such an icon, and still relatively modest in prices, especially considering its superb providence and heritage. We just had to include it.

Do tell us what you would put on such a list.