The world of watches and motor sport go hand in racing glove. You only have to look at the auction prices being realised for watches owned by movie star drivers like Paul Newman or Steve McQueen at the stratospheric end. But even lower down the millionaire collector market, 60s motorcycle champion Mike Hailwood’s Heuer Carrera Chronograph made £56,000 at auction last year.
But let’s assume you can’t afford a racing driver or bike racer’s original watch. You mightr be tempted by a limited edition motor themed wristwatch, especially one that is produced in association with your fave car manufacturer. If you own a BMW, Merc, Alfa, Bentley, Audi or Maserati then why not buy the factory-approved watch?
Well, the short answer is that some of them are fashion statements, not great watches. If you really want long term investment value, then weigh up all the pros and cons.
The Breitling Bentley is a good example of how an automotive branding exercise adds very little in terms of collector appeal. Bentley commissioned Breitling back in 2002 to create an onboard clock that would enhance the new GT model. Since then there have Bentley themed watches every year, but some enthusists feel the Breitling Bentleys don’t really offer a great deal of interest, given that many have the ETA 2892 movement – or modded variants – inside the cases. I mean, you could just buy a Navitimer right?
The only exceptions I would say are limited edition Bentley models, like the 2019 Premier B01 model pictured, which has a bit of genuine old Bentley Blower dasboard as the dial plate. These MIGHT fetch considerably more money in the future, plus they have the in-house B01 movement inside, so arguably a superior timepiece than a humble ETA powered Bentley watch.
IMHO some motor company watches are very decent value. The Mercedes automatic chronograph in black PVD, featuring a Valjoux 7750 movement costs £1299, which is cheap compared to other Valjoux powered watches like the TAG Monaco, (£4250 approx new) although the Monaco looks fantastic set against the rather utilitarian Merc watch.
The downside with the Mercedes, like any branded watch, is that when it comes to selling it on, your potential market is generally limited to Mercedes owners, or wannabe owners. But still, you should be able to get £500-£700 for any modern era Valjoux automatic with box and papers, even from Cash Converters. In the great scheme of things that isn’t huge depreciation for say 5-10 years of ownership and enjoyment.
A nice alternative to the handsome Gulf Racing stled TAG Monaco, is the Baume & Mercier Clifton, Shelby Cobra edition. OK, it just has an ETA Valjoux 7750 inside and it costs £6500, but it is never going to sell in volume and the stunning looks should attract collectors for decades to come, especially when V8 cars are banned and the Cobra becomes a mythical museum piece.
For me, it is the Peter Brock inspirfed design details, like the Cobra shaped second hand, and the wheel shaped see-through caseback, that set the special edition model apart. It sums up what makes all petrrolheads tick; obsessive attention to originality and detail, improving performance and looks by customising something. Getting envious looks down the Ace Cafe or the local hang-out.
In the end, buy a Swiss watch because you love the way it looks on the wrist, not just the resale value. Otherwise you’re just another trader.