Do Cartier Watches Hold Their Value? (READ This Before You Invest)
In a time when every watch company is churning out endless numbers of stainless steel sports watches, there is one brand that transcends the trend and focuses on timeless and elegant designs often housed in luxurious materials. That brand is Cartier and not only have they remained a popular choice among the fashion forward clientele, but they have also grabbed the attention of the everyday watch enthusiasts.
Cartier watches have always been a respected brand within the watch community, but in the last several years they have exploded in popularity. This explosion in popularity draws parallels to that of other prestigious brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe. It’s clear to see the similarities in quality and popularity, but how about investment potential? Do Cartier watches appreciate in value?
One of the hottest topics in watches these days is value retention. There are some people who feel that you should not concern yourself with the monetary value of your watch after you buy it as it’s a luxury item and there are others that will only consider a watch purchase if it appreciates exponentially after purchasing.
Most watch enthusiasts fall somewhere in the middle to varying degrees. Perhaps it’s a consequence of having a more limited budget compared to some other collectors but value is moderately important to my enjoyment of watches. Not the most important aspect by any means, but if I decide It’s time to move along from a watch, I can’t stomach the idea of losing a serious amount of money.
As much as I would like to believe that my viewpoint is unique, I’d be willing to bet that most watch enthusiasts, except maybe the uber-rich, feel the same way. What makes our collecting strategy and idea of value different, however, is the subjective parts of this mindset. What is a serious amount of money? What is a reasonable amount of money to lose on a watch?
It’s this dread of losing value on a luxury watch like a Cartier, that keeps me up at night. The quality and design may be breathtaking but I still find myself grabbing my phone and searching the question we’ve all asked; What is my Cartier watch worth? If you’ve been here before, don’t worry, you’re just as crazy as the rest of us! If you found this article by asking this very question, you can relax, you’re among friends.
Let’s take a closer look at some iconic models from Cartier, including the Santos and the Tank, to see how well they retain their value. We will look at new and pre owned examples and will even investigate some examples that might cross the threshold into investment grade pieces.
Do Cartier Tank watches hold their value?
Designed all the way back in 1917 and modeled after the Renault FT-17 French Tank used during World War 1, the Cartier Tank has a history that other watch manufacturers would kill for. The rectangular shape, white dial, and Roman numerals are so synonymous with this design that other brands that use these features refer to it as “Tank” style.
There is something to be said for being the original. The Tank range with Cartier has splintered off into several subsets, including the Tank Americaine and the budget friendly Tank Must. For this deeper dive, let’s focus on the classic, the Tank Louise. The Tank Louis, Ref WGTA0011, is a true luxury watch. The warm rose gold luster compliments the crispiness of the white dial and contrasting black Roman numerals.
This watch oozes sophistication and class. When viewed next to the competition of a Rolex Datejust or Day Date, there is no comparison. One of these is very clearly a dress watch, and the other a jack-of-all trades. This Tank Louis measures in at 33.7mm x 25.5mm with a thickness of 6.6mm and is constructed of 18k rose gold.Keep in mind the sub 34mm case dimension is based on rectangular case shape and will wear much larger than those dimensions would suggest.
Powering this watch is the manual winding manufacture caliber 8971 MC. This movement is based on the Jaeger- LeCoultre Cal. 846 and comes in with a 38 hour power reserve. Not necessarily anything to write home about by todays standards, but if its a movement made by JLC, it’s a good movement. They’re the watchmakers watchmaker for crying out loud, enough said.
If you’re reading this article, I probably don’t need to work too hard to convince you of the merits of this watch. Quality aside, how well does the Cartier Tank Louis hold its value? This watch referenced here sells for roughly $12,800 at the time of writing. The ever volatile second hand market estimates the value of this watch at roughly $9000-$10000 dollars. I may not be great at math, but it looks like you’re losing roughly 20-30% of the value of your watch.
I know what you’re thinking, how could a Cartier Tank possibly be a good value watch? Im just going to buy a Ro…STOP right there! Let me explain! This watch inherently has a few things working against it when it comes to value retention. First, its’ a dress watch. Whether you agree with the sports watch craze right now or not, the fact is resale value for any non sports watch is going to be impacted by the decreased demand.
The other factor impacting the resale value of this Tank Louis is the fact that it is 18K rose gold. It is a luxurious material and therefor marked up appropriately when pricing out a new timepiece. The secondary market often caters to those of us who tend to hold a tighter grip on their discretionary income.
Not always, but a majority of the time, us cheapskates (what a hilarious term to use when discussing luxury watches) are drawn to the lowest point of entry into a watch, which is often a stainless steel model.
Are Pre Owned Cartier Tank Watches a Good Value?
With this 20-30% price depreciation in mind, lets search for that ever present silver lining. What if you are not the one to pop the champagne and give that Cartier Tank Louis its first incredibly painful scratch? If you’re able to find a reputable pre owned dealer, such as Exquisite Timepieces, you can let someone else take that initial depreciation.
You will still end up with a timeless 18k rose gold case and white dial Cartier Tank, powered by a JLC movement that is sure to be the classiest watch at any formal event, or Zoom meeting. The extra bonus you receive when purchasing this model pre owned, is the peace of mind that your money is safe. Is this watch going to explode in value and make you pass out on Antiques Roadshow?
Probably not, but you’re going to own one of the most iconic designs in watchmaking with real historical significance and if you choose to move it along to its next owner, your money will be relatively safe.
Does the Cartier Santos Hold its Value?
So what if you love the Cartier design language, but find yourself lusting after something a little sportier? Lucky for us, Cartier has you covered with another early 1900’s design in the form of the Cartier Santos. This watch was originally designed by Louis Cartier for his friend and Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont as he attempted to be the first person to pilot an aircraft.
Although the design holds onto many of the traits we love about Cartier, this watch does feature some changes that will help satisfy the wants and needs of those in search of something a little more robust. The Cartier Santos, Ref. WSSA0018, is a modern take on the original 1906 design. Along with the history, it carries the timeless design identity of what makes a Cartier a Cartier watch.
This particular model is the large variant and carries a dimension of 39.88mm with a case thickness of 9.8mm all crafted out of 316L stainless steel.. This watch is powered by the in house automatic caliber 1847 MC, which offers 42 hours of power reserve. The design of this watch is more brutalist than the Tank, featuring a rounded square case shape as opposed to the more tradition rectangle of the more formal Tank, but it still wears its Cartier aesthetic proudly.
Where things get more interesting is when it comes to everyday wearability. This watch trades out the traditional leather strap for a stainless steel bracelet with a few party tricks. This bracelet features a unique QuickSwitch feature that allows for tool free strap swaps as well as SmartLink allowing you to resize your bracelet painlessly.
Add to these features the 100 Meters of water resistance and you now have a Cartier watch, that looks like a Cartier, but can hold its own against any everyday watch from the likes of Rolex or Omega. Now that we have a stainless steel sports watch from Cartier, is the Cartier Santos a good investment? Investment, may be a stretch at this point. The retail price of this watch is about $7800 and the pre owned value of this watch is between $7000 and $7600.
All things considered, you can purchase this watch new and have your money be relatively safe, dropping in value roughly 10%. When a watch holds it value this strongly, I would say it is a “no brainer” to purchase at retail. This high residual value does have one unfavorable inverse reaction. The current models may not be as value packed pre owned as they otherwise would be if they depreciated more.
The good news for my fellow thrifty watch enthusiasts is that if you are willing to go back a model or 2, you will find a Santos at the bottom of its depreciation curve. The design of the Santos has been around for a while and models exist with varying levels of features that will dictate the purchase price. If you find an example that is in great cosmetic condition and offers the features you deem most important, you can still score yourself a tremendous value.
What Cartier Watches are Best for Investment?
What if I want a watch that can exponentially grow in value? Does Cartier have any investment grade watches? Absolutely they do! There are 2 different ways that a watch can be a great investment opportunity. The first is to be an exceptionally rare timepiece with history and provenance and the other is to be an undervalued example poised for an increase in popularity. I will give you an example of both of these that I feel represent great options for investment watches by Cartier.
For those of us wearing a top hat and monocle, I present the Cartier Crash. Cartier has released this limited production model a few different times within its history. They are quirky, hard to read, and downright cool! They are, in fact, so rare that pinning down their exact appreciation is no small feat. The last time this watch was listed on their website it was selling for about $36,500.
Pricing for an item like this is generally only available upon request, but one would expect to pay well north of $100,000. If you were lucky enough to score one of these from an AD, chances are you’re not really looking to try and flip this watch. But if you were, you would do just fine on it! What if you are the type of person who likes to trade in the top hat for a baseball hat?
Is there something for the everyday watch enthusiast? Lucky for us, there certainly is. The Must De Cartier Tank. This model was the budget friendly offering from Cartier to help introduce people into the brand. Let’s be clear, it is not the luxury experience that you are getting from any of the watches we have described earlier, but it looks like one. With these models you are generally getting a quartz movement and a gold plated case. Not exactly haute horology, but they’re still pretty nice looking dress watches.
The real value in these Must De Cartier models is the price point. They can be purchased for under $1000 all day long on everyones favorite online marketplace. It is definitely a riskier purchase when you start looking into these dark corners of the vintage watch market. There are Frankenwatches, fakes, and poor condition models a plenty available for you to waste your hard earned money on.
But if you are patient and do your research, you can end up with a very classy dress watch, that is hard for watch manufacturers to achieve at multiples of this price. So, will a Cartier watch last a lifetime? If the last 100+ years are any indication, not only will a Cartier watch last well beyond the average lifespan mechanically when properly maintained, but the style will outlast almost any other timepiece.
There is a design language you get when you purchase a Cartier timepiece and it looks as classic today as it did in 1906 when Alberto Santos-Dumont adorned his watch on a 21 second flight. Are Cartier watches a good investment? This gets a little trickier to answer. Just because a watch will last for ever, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great investment. It is a great investment if what you are looking for is an iconic timepiece from one of the OG watchmakers, with a distinctive style and personality.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to flip this watch to immediately fund your next, Cartier may not be for you. Your money, is relatively safe if you chose to move one of their pieces along, but unless you score one of their ultra rare pieces or end up on the winning side of a risky vintage purchase you shouldn’t expect your money to grow exponentially.
“What is my Cartier watch worth?” In most cases about what you paid for it. In the world of luxury purchases that is a very elite level of value retention. Sure there may be other watch brands that exceed their value once purchased, but good luck trying to find one available to purchase. Cartier has a history that rivals any other watch brand and the quality and design to help you stand out of the pack.
Andy Warhol famously wore a Cartier watch and even commented that he wore a Cartier “because it is the watch to wear!” No mention of value retention or investment potential. He just knew that it was a cool watch to wear, even if he didn’t take the time to wind it. That off the cuff statement sums up Cartier.
The greatest value of a Cartier watch is not in its investment potential, it’s in the way it makes you feel when you put it on the wrist. At the end of the day if it’s cool enough for Andy Warhol, I would guess that it is cool enough for the rest of us!