Rolex, Chorpard and Paiget, top the list of luxury watches collected by rich Nigerians as alternative means of investment. The global trend, which is gradually catching on in Nigeria, is seeing the rich buy vintage wrist watches not just as fashion statements, but as alternative investment items. The Nigerian market for vintage wristwatches is currently estimated at only N80 million ($500, 000) with a high prospect of growth in the medium to long term, according to those familiar with the industry.
The wrist watches targeted for investment purposes are rare time-pieces wich are often one of a kind. Rolex, Chopard, Paiget and Patek Philippe, are among the most collected brands of wristwatches in the country. The demand for these brands is usually driven by the wristwatches’ condition, scarcity and complications.
Complication means special functions that the watch is able to perform and display. An example of a complication is a moon phase display. Collectors prize their complicated watches because they display useful information. More importantly, a collector appreciates the innovation, skill, and ingenuity that complications represent.
“Typically, Nigeria is a brand driven market,” explains Ify Nonyelu, business development director, Upfront & Personal, dealers in luxury wristwatches. “Status therefore is highly regarded; names like Rolex Piaget, among others, sell more than wristwatches of equal grade but from less known brands. The brand names relate directly to the value placed on the wristwatch in the short and long term. At Christie’s, a famous auction house in the United Kingdom, vintage timepieces are the sixth largest department it has, and this made more than $116 million in sales in 2011 according to Paul Sullivan, a luxury goods critic.
“A watch is a piece of art in itself,” says Daniel Iroegbu, a watch dealer. High end watchmakers have created an allure around their brands. The most exquisite and expensive timepieces are collectors’ items any day. Brands like Patek Phillipe and Rolex have attracted attention to their unique designs.” It is not a surprise that the Nigerian rich are buying fast into this novelty. They are doing so with the aim to make money, just like anyone will collect the art works of renown artists such as Bruce Onobrakpeya or Grillo.”
Smart high-end wrist watch brands are already making in-roads into Nigeria to seize the opportunity which this emerging market offers. “Nigeria is an emerging market with a lot of brand attention,” adds Nonyelu. “Major brands are franchising to Nigerian distributors because they realise that Nigeria is awash with cash and very brand conscious people. The Nigerian market thus offers the best growth opportunity for high end wrist watch makers, especially with the economy of the rest of the world going south.”
A timepiece like men’s Rolex Stainless Steel Black Dial Daytona, which currently sells for N2. 61 million ($13, 592) could costs 30 percent more in a year or two, say analysts familiar with the vintage wristwatch industry. Another wristwatch brand Hublot Big Bang 44mm from Hublot watches, which currently sells for N3 million ($18,900) a piece, is also expected to be worth 30 per cent more in one or two years. Collectors disclose that like old wine ,the older the make and date of the wristwatch, the more expensive and valuable the watch becomes. In 2012, the most expensive wristwatch sold at an auction was a 1928 Patek Philippe chronograph, which was sold in Geneva for $3.6 million, according to online reports.
Nonyelu however cautions that collecting wristwatches as investment item is a very poor option, as they do not attract reasonable value unless they were owned by celebrities.
“There is no guarantee the way the price of these items will swing in the near future,” adds Nonyelu.
“It depends on who is selling and who is buying. Since they are not fast moving commodities, pricing is mainly dependent on non-economic factors, like perception and the ego and cash profile of the buyer at any point. High-end wrist watches do not really count as good investment because it is very difficult to convert them to cash at even purchase value. Relatively, real estate, government bonds are far more liquid, far better storage of value than wristwatches.”
Collectors however have an option to pass on vintage wristwatches to their children who usually cherish such gifts. Rasheed Gbadamosi, chairman, RAG Ltd says he inherited a Rolex wrist watch from his father which he wears occasionally. “I am not a jewellery person but I treasure the Rolex I inherited from my father. He gave it to me shortly before he passed on. He told me it will be useful to me some day. I still have it and I wear it occasionally.”