The Quartz Watch Collection: Is it Worth it?

I know you are wondering whether quartz watches are worth to collect or not. Whenever you start scrolling on Instagram and Pinterest, all you see is mechanical and automatic watches.

Does this mean that a quartz watch is not worth collecting? Not really. However, from a financial standpoint, very few quartz watches have appreciated in value when compared to mechanical and automatic watches.

It is not worth collecting quartz watches from a financial standpoint. Quartz watches lack what watch collectors want: a mechanical or automatic movement. Quartz is cheap and made to be accurate, whereas mechanical watches are made with precision engineering and built on heritage.

Needless to say, quartz can absolutely be worth collecting from a personal perspective. If you see a quartz watch in a shop window that just speaks to you, there is nothing wrong with buying the watch. You shouldn’t expect it to increase in value. However, it can/will give you a lot of joy.

If you’re looking for a quartz watch that is worth collecting, I would recommend a Grand Seiko Snowflake. If the retainment of value isn’t important for you, I would recommend the stellar Seiko Presage Cocktail Time with a white dial, stunning.

Is it worth collecting quartz watches?
Is it worth collecting quartz watches?

Are Quartz Watches Worth Collecting?

Quartz watches are not a typical collector’s choice. Quartz watches are not very collectible for different reasons. When thinking of a collector who has millions in his watch collection (such as the Youtuber Producer Micheal), the watch collection rarely consists of anything but mechanical and automatic watches.

Reasons why quartz watches are not the desired collectibles:

  • Quartz watches are mass-produced and identical.
  • Quartz watches are programmed through electronics and require very little skill compared to mechanical watches. Adding complications to a quartz watch is simply adding additional PCB parts.
  • The history and heritage of quartz watches are poor compared to the alternatives.

If you are a collector who thinks innovation should be the show off your collection, quartz watches should be found somewhere in the collection as they nearly wiped out mechanical and automatic watches in the Quartz crisis. The reason quartz watches were invented was to keep accurate time. Not like nowadays, where we collect watches because of their appearance and heritage.

The few collectible quartz watches in today’s market are either from the first types of innovation or driven by marketing/hype.

The invention of quartz watches put its mark on the watch industry in the 1970s and early 1980s. The quartz watch could keep accurate time within +/- 1 second per day, where most mechanical and automatic watches are accurate within +/- 20 seconds per day.

Audemars Piguet Quartz Royal Oak Price
Audemars Piguet Quartz Royal Oak Price

Needless to say, the quartz watches have yet to become collectible as the mechanical and automatic watches. Some quartz watches have managed to become collectible, such as the first-ever production Quartz watch: Seiko Quartz-Astron 35SQ. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak as a quartz watch has also become a collectible watch. Furthermore, Cartier Tank Solo quartz in gold has been another quartz watch that has held its value.

The Cartier Tank Solo is often endorsed as an excellent first high-end quality watch to any collection. The watch has a classic look, and given a reputable company makes it, people are drawn to it.

Quartz watches can be very collectible for the sentimental values. If you like the look of a particular quartz watch, you should buy it regardless of the depreciation of value.

To be honest, I don’t understand why quartz watches get a bad reputation. They are reliable, accurate and only require a battery change every 2-5 years (with some mild servicing as well). All this functionally comes at a very low price compared to mechanical and automatic watches.

The complexity of adding, let us say a chronograph function, to a quartz watch is so low. Therefore, it is also very cheap for the customer. Whereas the same function of a mechanical/automatic watch requires a lot of additional hours for the complex function to work.

Do Quartz Watches Hold Value?

The general quartz watch is not the desired collectible. One reason is that quartz watches is a simple mass-production process. The process is done in highly automated factories with assembly lines pushing these circuit boards with a few gears out in thousands per batch.

In contrast, mechanical and automatic watches are made from high precision machined parts that virtually doesn’t tolerate any tolerance variance. The pieces are assemblies to a whole watch in laboratory-like facilities by high skilled watchmakers.

Quartz watches don’t hold their value. Only very few quartz watches can keep their MRSP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price). Collecting quartz watches for value gains will often end in disappointment.

Quartz watches can be just as beautiful to look at as mechanical watches. There are many examples of watches that have been made in both a quartz and a mechanical/automatic version.

First is the Cartier Tank Solo. Second is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Lastly, is the Omega Seamaster Professional 300M.

These 3 watches were all made in quartz and mechanical/automatic version. The case, dial, hands, crown, back case are virtually the same. Hence only the movement sets the 2 versions apart. Customers wanting high accuracy can choose to purchase a quartz watch. Whereas, customers wanting a fine art timepiece can get the mechanical/automatic version.

What Affects the Price of a Watch?

Many things affect the value of a watch. The initial price of a watch is rarely maintained for a longer period of time. There are several reasons why a watch will increase or decrease in value. Whether your intention is to invest in watches or enjoy them by wearing them, there are some considerations to have in mind.

Things that affect the price of a watch:

  • Box and papers.
  • Service history.
  • Replace parts (dial, hands, etc.).
  • The current state of the watch.
  • Precious metals in the watch.
  • Hype, marketing, or other price inflation factors.

The different aspects of the valuation is why it can become a collectible watch or not. Collecting watches is often an aspect of making or retaining the value of the watch. Having a watch you can wear while being sure it doesn’t decrease is value is nice to have. What is even better is to have a watch you can wear and know it is increasing in value.

However, if you wish to have a watch you can wear and have it increase in value as you wear it, there are some things you need to learn/understand. If you miss some of these steps, you can make the watch worth much less than you originally paid for the watch.

Box and Papers

Ever heard the term “full set”? If you have not, it is about time you get familiar with the term. Having a full set means that the watch you are about to purchase or sell has all the original box(es) and papers along with the watch itself.

If you’re not a collector, you will find cheaper watches by looking for watches without box and papers, which is a good thing. However, if you ever intend to sell the watch at a later point in life, having the box and papers can significantly increase the value of a watch.

The specific price increase can vary a lot from brand-to-brand. Vintage Rolex watches see price increases of up to 20% if the box and papers are fully intact.

The papers is to ensure the authenticity of the watch. The papers can hold valuable information in terms of collection value: What is the place of purchase, price, year, conditions, pre-owned or not, etc.

Service History

The service history is very important for collectors for several reasons. The main thing being: Does the watch work as intended, or is it neglected? The service history can reveal a lot of details for the experienced watch collector.

It is to say that some parts are known to be worn out before others, some more critical than others. If the watch has been indeed neglected, the watch might be beyond repair and would need a new movement. If the watch is in critical condition, whole parts of the movement might have to change, which will mean the watch will be slightly less valuable as the parts are no longer the original.

Even when the watch is repaired, and components are replaced with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts, the watch can decrease in value. To ensure the right price and value, knowing which components is no longer original (original meaning the components initially released inside the watch) can change the price.

The most optimal is when the watch has been serviced in due time, and the components have solely been maintained and not replace. Replacing parts from the movement of the watch does not increase or decrease the value of the watch significantly.

Serviced Parts (Dial, Hands, etc.)

In addition to the service history and internal parts that have been replaced, some even more essential and often replaced and maintained external parts, is the dials, hands, case, bezels, bracelet, and date rings of the watch.

There are examples with vintage watches being worth almost double the value if they had retained the original dial, bezel, hands, bracelet, etc. In the video below, a woman is getting an appraisal for her husband’s vintage Rolex GMT. The value of her watch is between $8,000-$10,000. If everything had been original, the watch could have been worth $15,000-$20,000.

Having the original (visual) parts on a watch is where the value is gained. From the example you see above, the poor women potentially lost $10,000 from servicing the watch. While it is not her fault as she did not know, do not let it happen to you.

The manufacturers will actually replace the hands, dials, bezels, etc. to make the watch look fresh. Often the manufacturer keeps the replaced parts to prevent the users from selling the parts to copycats. At times the manufacturer gives you back some of the parts. In the picture below you can see the parts I got back after a full overhaul of my Omega Seamaster Professional 300M.

Parts From A Full Serviced Omega Seamaster Professional 300M
Parts From A Full Serviced Omega Seamaster Professional 300M

If you have even gotten a watch serviced and the dial, bezel, hands, or anything else has been returned I would encourage you to save them, as it potentially makes the watch worth more (if the returned parts are the originals).

Current State of the Watch

The current state of the watch is, of course, important to a potential buyer, but also when collecting. When looking at a quartz watch, it is nice to know if the battery has removed before 15 years of storage. If not, the battery most likely has eroded and destroyed the entire movement. If the watch is mechanical or automatic and has been stored for 15 years, the lubricants might have hardened, making the watch damaged.

This is one part of why the service history is essential. When looking through the papers and you find a gap of 15 years since the last service, you know it has been neglected. Neglecting of a watch is terrible despite it being a mechanical or quartz watches.

Another vital history you need as a collector, besides the service history, is how the watch has been used. Let us say the watch you are buying is from a world star traveler. He has spent half his time alive diving in exotic waters and pool resorts, he has been in and out of airports (which has metal detectors = magnetism) and generally has been treated rough.

Even if the service has been maintained in the past, you need to consider when the service should happen again to avoid damages. If the seals are torn from the chlorine in the pools, whether the watch has been through high-powered metal detectors, etc.

While none of the above stated is a problem when serviced in the recommended intervals, the watches are not always used in the recommended environments, which will impact the service intervals.

Precious Metals in the Watch

Precious metals are commonly used in high-end watches. The precious metals holds some value in itself. However, precious metals is not always the prefered material.

A good example is white gold and stainless steel variations of the Rolex models. While the costs of white gold Rolex watches are way more expensive, they have not increased the same percentage as the stainless steel models have between 2008 and 2020. While both models have increased significantly in value, the stainless steel models is slightly more desirable.

Hype, Marketing, or Other Price Inflation Factors

Hype and marketing is methods used by the watch manufacturers to push the brand to the consumer. Some manufacturers have makes sure there is price inflation on their watches. A lot of hype has happened to Patek Philipe when rappers started wearing these diamond covers timepieces everywhere.

Marketing is also a big factor. Companies such as Richard Mille, Audemars Piguet, and Seiko is seen on, e.g., professional tennis players. This showed the general public their watches are durable and using the “famous factor” making other people want the same watches as the pros

However, the biggest infiltrator to the price of a watch is the manufactures limitation on production. Rolex has mastered the art of price inflation. More or less, all newer Rolex watches are bought from waiting lists. This is due to their limited production of watches each year. However, they make enough watches that most people can get hold of a Rolex, yet not enough to where the price decreases or stays the same.

Are Automatic Watches Better to Collect Than Quartz Watches?

Depending on the servicing and care taken for a watch, both modern quartz watches and automatic watches can outlive their first owner. However, automatic watches can outlive the quartz watches.

There is nothing “right” to collect. The collection you make must depend on the style and interest you have. If you are an investment collector, your interest is to make money. Whereas, if you’re pilot, your interest is to see time in different time zone.

If you are in any doubt whether there is more love and passion for making mechanical and automatic watches than quartz watches, have a look at the video below from Swiss Watch Gang. He talks about the Jacob & Co. product line, their innovations, and technology they put into their watches. Jacob & Co. is one of the biggest luxury brands, and the five- and six-figure price tags can often be questioned.

However, when you understand how much innovation goes into the watches, you also understand why the mechanical and automatic watches are more collectible compared to quartz watches.

Jonas Henriksen

AllInWatches is founded by Jonas, who has a great interest in mechanical watches. All aspects of manual and automatic (mechanical) watches is a big interest and have been a passion since 2015, where the first automatic watch was purchased. Seeing the transparent case back and discovering the heritage of watchmaking piqued an interest in horology.

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