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The World of Watches

Ettagale Blauer
From the Print Edition:
cigar case, Summer 93

(continued from page 2)

There are also some specialty watchmakers who have come on the market in recent years. For instance, when Ira Kriëger found he couldn't get back home by boat under the local bridges because the tide had come in, he created a watch that shows the ebb and flow of the tides. The tidal watch was chosen by a boating magazine as the Christmas gift of the year, and Kriëger found himself packing and shipping watches from the back of his law office. The tidal watch was soon followed by a hunter and fisherman's watch, which allows calculations based on the feeding habits of fish and game. Every one of Kriëger's watches is a chronometer, which means it has been certified by a recognized body to perform according to certain standards of accuracy. The certificate is specific to each watch. The watches are now carried by over 300 retail outlets across the country.

Apart from the new models put out by the top names, there is also a thriving market in vintage watches. Most shops sell a range of vintage watches for well under $10,000. In Los Angeles, Ken Jacobs took the shady phrase "Wanna Buy A Watch?" and turned it into a successful retail business. He says, "These watches became popular during the time that contemporary styling was horrible, in the '60s and '70s. These watches are still uncollectible."

Jacobs sells many lovely old American watches for $500. "You can get a great classic Hamilton or Gruen from the '30s and '40s, very stylish and in great condition. You can get gold-filled Hamiltons from the '30s, '40s or '50s for under $500. It's a fashion look and a reliable timepiece; you can find the same watch in 14k gold for $1,000.

Buying a watch that's only slightly old--one or two years--is a bit like buying a one-year-old car; it's nearly new yet the appraised value depreciates dramatically as you drive out of the showroom. Jacobs advises, "A year- or two-year-old Audemars Piguet or Patek has plenty of life left in it, and you can get it for 40 percent to 60 percent off list price."

In the final analysis, the choices run the gamut from vintage collectibles to the latest thing from the biggest names. If you're not satisfied with just any old plastic watch off the counter, then there is plenty of opportunity. And, over the long run, if you invest in an outstanding timepiece, you may end up with an object that increases with value over time.

Ettagale Blauer is a freelance writer who frequently covers jewelry and watches.


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