Journal of Investment Strategies

Luxury watches: a viable alternative investment or mere speculative trend? An analysis of two decades before the pandemic

Simon Ulmer, Patrick Schmid and Andreas Widenhorn

  • Collectible watch returns averaged 5.5% (7.7% nominal) for the period between 1999 and 2020.
  • Collectible watches outperformed the S&P 500 Index and other collectibles such as art and classic cars.
  • A hedonic pricing model revealed a variety of significant price-driving determinants in luxury watches (authenticity, rarity, famous pre-owner etc).

In this paper we investigate the investment performance of collectible watches traded on the secondary market using a novel data set of more than 60 000 watch auction results over the period 1999–2020. The risk and return characteristics of the as yet uninvestigated collectible category of watches are determined. The annualized real US dollar geometric mean returns of collectible watches was 5.5% (7.7% nominal) over the two full decades between 1999 and 2020, outperforming the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and other collectible assets such as art and classic cars. Comparably low standard deviations in the prices of collectible watches led to attractive risk-adjusted nominal Sharpe ratios that were inferior only to those of gold. Moreover, the returns of the series were positively correlated with both inflation and equity investments. In a further detailed analysis, a hedonic pricing model provides detailed insights into price-driving determinants in luxury watches, such as authenticity, rarity, type of watch, brand, famous pre-owners and many more.

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