James R. Kelly III started collecting limited-edition timepieces in 1988 for two reasons: They don’t depreciate, and they are investments he enjoys. His collection includes 12 Jaeger-LeCoultre, three Panerai, two Franck Muller, two Piagets, and two Bregets. He owns a Grand Memovox by Jaeger-LeCoultre, roughly valued at $50,000; an A. Lange & Sohne Time Zone in rose gold with a leather strap and a deployant buckle (or folding clasp) that costs $2,600 alone; and a platinum Rolex President, appraised at $42,000.
Kelly, 60, CEO of KELLEE Communications Group Inc., an airport concession and telecommunications company, paid $18,000 for his first collectible timepiece, a Patek Philippe Annual Calendar in white gold with a leather band, at Tropicana Jewelers in Montego Bay, Jamaica. He has since acquired eight additional Patek Philippe timepieces through New York City-based Wempe Jewelers, to which he turns religiously to support his pre-purchase research, including what a watch may command at resale. Though Kelly has acquired 90% of his collection through Wempe, he says auction houses and estate sales are also reliable venues.
Larry H. Barkley Sr., president of Georg Jensen USA (www.georgjensen.com), offers tips on what to consider when purchasing a luxury watch:
Limited editions, including discontinued designs, are strong investment pieces because they grow in value. Bvlgari produced a plastic limited edition with a gold index as a loaner for customers — who didn’t return them. They became popular and started selling for $300; in 2001 one sold in an online auction for $3,000.
Movement is also an important factor in the value of a timepiece. “Swiss-made movement is verification that it is a fine timepiece and highly regarded,” says Barkley. Quartz movement registers on the low end of the value scale, automatic movement falls midrange, and the top of the precision tier is tourbillion — a regulating device that cancels the effects of gravitation on the precision of a watch’s movement.
Regular servicing of timepieces is important to maintain time precision, says Barkley. “Quartz, every two years; mechanical, every 15 to 18 months,” he advises. “Your timepiece can lose a few seconds if it’s not serviced at the appropriate [time].”
For an independent guide to buying, visit www.luxury watches101.com and check out the JCK Las Vegas show (www.jckgroup.com). Preview new releases at the premier watch and jewelry tradeshow, the Basel and Geneva Fair in Switzerland (www.baselworld.com).
For Kelly’s guide to collectible watches, visit blackenterprise.com/watchguide