Cheers, Jeers and Ears to the Ground: Big Trends in the Vintage-Watch Market in 2017

 The SHIFTed take on what to look out for in vintage watches in 2018.

Working side by side with our crew over at Analog/Shift, we get to see first-hand which trends pick up steam and what falls flat with the vintage-watch crowd. While it's the accepted consensus the market as whole is booming, there will always be variations leaving plenty of room for speculation on what the next big wave will be. Here's our take on what's hot, what flopped and what should be on your radar in 2018.

Cheers: Golds and two-tones

Rolex_GMT_Master_Root_Beer_1675-3_AS02328_A.jpgphoto c. Atom Moore

We’ve sung their praises in the past, and it’s no surprise to us that gold and two-tone watches spiked in popularity in 2017, a trend we fully expect to see snowball in 2018. Historically, gold and two-tones have been a hard sell compared with stainless steel, garnering a lot of sneers and descriptors like “gaudy” or “tacky.” However, there’s been a sea change in general taste, and people are starting to appreciate just how fashion-forward and straight-up cool these pieces are, us included.

With this new sensitivity and appreciation for precious metal comes new value proposition for solid-gold watches. Take the oft underrated Datejust, like this one here. In past years, a 36mm might have been passed up, especially with men, for something with a little more heft. However, with tastes swinging back to smaller dials for both men and women, we're seeing an marked upswing in interest. There's certainly nothing skimpy about a solid-gold Rolex, and at a current market value of under $9,000, it's almost guaranteed to appreciate in the near future. 

Style trends aside, interest in two-tone and gold with continue to heat up simply due to market scarcity. There’s a finite number of vintage watches out there, after all, so while models like the Ref. 1675 are becoming harder to come by in stainless and, therefore, are more cost-prohibitive, many collectors are turning to two-tone variants of the same model. We predict that two-tone and gold will soon follow stainless steel in the market, making for some very stylish investment pieces.

Jeers: Reissues


Reissues, in theory, can be a great move for a brand. The existence of an entire community of vintage-watch collectors is justification enough to revisit models from decades past. But sometimes a well-intentioned throwback can miss the whole point. Many Swiss companies have tried to capitalize on the market by modernizing vintage models while simultaneously sacrificing features of the original that made it so desirable in the first place.

Take for instance, the Breitling Navitimer 46mm variant, featuring an exaggerated, oversized dial. Billed as a “larger-than-life icon,” it fell flat with a market that is gravitating towards more moderate-sized dials. Contrastly, the Heuer Autavia reissue stayed true to the original design elements (including a stunning beads of rice bracelet) that delighted consumers. Nonetheless, the re-release incorporated an automatic movement, necessitating a thicker case and leaving hardcore vintage-watch geeks lamenting the missed potential of a manually wound Valjoux.

Omega, however, hit a grand slam at Baselworld 2017 with their limted edition "Trilogy" reissues of the Railmaster, Speedmaster and Seamaster — prime examples of well-executed tributes that appealed to collectors' tastes in design, size and movement — and DOXA stunned a potentially hypercritical cult following with the release of the 50th Anniversary SUB 300. Both are examples of brands who understand the appeal of vintage and executed accordingly.

Bottom line: reissue models are intended to appeal to the vintage-watch crowd who are notoriously laser-focused on detail. The closer a reissue stays to true to the spirit of the original, the more success it's bound to have.  Try too hard to "put a modern spin on a classic," and you're doomed to flop.

Ears to the Ground: Vintage Heuer

Heuer_Camaro_AS01024_A.jpgphoto c. Atom Moore

Vintage Heuer was all the buzz in 2017 with two big collector auctions at Phillips bookending the year. Many speculated that this would be the year Heuer would take off and join the ranks of Universal Genève Big Eyes and Rolex Daytonas.

The late 2016 Heuer 100 sale by Crown & Caliber, while touted as a potentially market-changing event, didn’t go nearly as well as expected, though. Bidding and logistical errors plagued the auction dampening any anticipating frenzy among participants and onlookers. This may have unfairly set a negative tone for the second auction that occurred later on in 2017 — which happened to be also upstaged by the Paul Newman auction — and also failed to produce record-shattering results. A series of unfortunate events, yes, however none of this detracts from the quality and inherent value of vintage Heuer.

While Heuer never saw its deserved time in the sun in 2017, we firmly believe this is still a brand to watch in 2018. Specifically, we suggest collectors keep an ear to the ground for Camaros or rare models like this supremely attractive (and undervalued) Autavia Bund.

Nancy Lippincott
Nancy Lippincott

Nancy Lippincott is SHIFTed's Managing Editor. Trained in anthropology, she brings a holistic, culturally observant approach to storytelling. Her background spans both hyperlocal journalism and and global digital-media brands; she spent five years managing Park Slope Reader, a boutique print quarterly, and also contributed to PopSugar and

SHIFTed Blog

Timely musings on vintage watches, men's fashion, cocktails, cigars, travel, cars, racing and more . . .

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