Most popular super-luxury watches in SA

Super luxury watches are a booming market in South Africa, according to a report from New World Wealth, following a global trend of a growing luxury goods market.

Not long ago, when one thought of exclusive men’s watches one would probably think of brands such as Rolex, Breitling, Omega, Tag, Cartier, IWC, Panerai, Jaeger Le Coultre, and Longines.

However, a whole new world of exclusivity has emerged. This of course refers to the rise of the so called ‘super-luxury’ watchmakers, New World Wealth noted.

According to Bain & Co, the number of luxury consumers worldwide has more than tripled over the past 20 years to 330 million world-wide.

Global luxury spending amounted to approximately US$900 billion in 2013, with the personal luxury goods segment (which includes watches, clothing, accessories and jewelry) accounting for US$240 billion.

Africa accounted for US$2 billion of the personal luxury goods segment in 2013.

The total global watch industry is worth approximately US$40 billion in revenue a year the report said, with Switzerland accounting for a high 54% of global revenue in 2013.

This, despite only accounting for 2% of watches produced that year.

Luxury goods company, Richemont – which was founded and is run by South Africa’s richest man, Johann Rupert – accounted for 16% of global watch revenue in 2013.

Watch Complication

In horology (the study of clocks and watches), complication refers to any features of time-telling beyond simple second, minute and hour movements.

This includes more complex time-keeping, as well as calendar tracking, moon phase tracking, alarms etc.

While common in digital watches, these features are mechanically produced in many luxury watches, requiring hundreds of tiny components, hand-placed with incredible skill.

“Over the past 10 years, the global super-luxury men’s watch industry has grown by more than five times in terms of revenue, whilst in SA it has grown by even more,” New World Wealth said.

“As one local retailer put it: ‘watches have become to men what diamonds are to woman’.”

While not all super-luxury watches are for men, it is the male segment that has been the bigger riser over the past decade, the group said.

Specialist luxury watchmakers only make handmade watches which are mechanical, and often contain high levels of complication, which fetch a high price in the market, and carry greater prestige.

“A couple of years ago wealthy South Africans would need to order these watches through relevant retailers overseas or travel to places such as Bond Street in London to buy them,” New World Wealth said.

“However, now most of these brands can be purchased over-the-counter from local stores.”

These are the top 5 most popular luxury men’s watch brands in South Africa, as well as the most expensive timepiece ever sold under the brands.

Ulysse Nardin Royal Blue Tourbillon
Ulysse Nardin Royal Blue Tourbillon

5. Ulysse Nardin

Ulysse Nardin is a Swiss watchmaker, as are all the brands on the list.

The group has been making watches for almost 170 years, and specialises in marine chronometers, according to New World Wealth.

The group’s watches range from the relatively affordable (under $1,000) to well over $600,000.

The most expensive Ulysse Nardin watch is the Ulysse Nardin Royal Blue Tourbillon, which can cost as much as $1.25 million, with cheaper versions starting at $280,000.

Vacheron Constantin Kalista
Vacheron Constantin Kalista

4. Vacheron Constantin

Vacheron Constantin is a Swiss watch manufacturer that falls within the Richemont group.

The luxury watchmaker’s prices range from around $5,000 for low-end luxury watches all the way up to $2.8 million for elite bands.

The company’s most expensive watch is the Vacheron Constantin Kalista which cost $5 million at the time it was made in 1979.

The 118 emerald-cut diamonds which litter the watch’s casing are valued at closer to $11 million today.

Breguet Marie Antoinette
Breguet Marie Antoinette

3. Breguet

Breguet forms part of the Swatch Group, and also manufactures writing instruments, women’s jewelry, and cufflinks.

The company’s watches retail from a lowest price of around $5,500, to $600,000. Special editions and select models from collections can cost over a million dollars.

The group’s most expensive watch is the the Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette Number 160.

It was originally intended for Marie-Antoinette, but was only completed 34 years after she was beheaded.

The original watch ended up in a museum, but was stolen and has never been recovered. The reproduction is worth about $10 million.

Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4
Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4

2. Franck Muller

Franck Muller is South Africa’s second favourite luxury watch brand – and has watches available from ‘only’ a few thousand dollars.

Of course the most expensive watch the company has is slightly more than that, with its Aeternitas Mega 4 carrying a hefty $2.7 million price tag.

Why such a steep price? It happens to be one of the most intricate watches in the world.

It features 36 complications and is made of no less than 1,483 individual components.

Patek Philippe Supercomplication
Patek Philippe Super complication

1. Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe & Co is a Geneva-based ultra luxury watch maker that is famous for its Super-complication watch which has sold for a record at auction.

According to NWW, Patek Philippe is the largest of the super-luxury watchmakers, accounting for 3.0% of global watch revenue in 2013.

In November 2014, a Patek Philippe Super-complication pocket watch sold for an astounding $24 million at a Sotheby’s auction, following a previous record of $11 million in 1999.

Other products in the Patek Philippe range are relatively more affordable, selling from anywhere between $19,000 into the millions.

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Most popular super-luxury watches in SA