Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe are the bestselling watch brands on Chrono24. They’re also the names you’ll see the most on social media. Delve a little further, and you’ll also find a small group of models that sell particularly well – really well. And it’s been like that for some time. So let’s find out which models these are and why they top so many lists.
Before we jump in, let’s first discuss what the most popular watches are and what their popularity means for the watch market. Kicking things off with Rolex, their biggest sellers are (no big surprise here) the Submariner and Daytona. While all of the Genevan company’s different steel sports watches are in high demand, these two lead the pack. When it comes to Omega, their top model is, of course, the Speedmaster. This industry icon has been one of our platform’s bestsellers for years. And with a legacy like the Speedmaster’s, why wouldn’t it be? Shifting things to Patek Philippe, their stand-out model is the Nautilus. This 1970s icon is their biggest seller on Chrono24.
The Brands That Matter
There are several reasons why these specific watches have become so popular. The first and most obvious reason is that they are high-quality timepieces from some of the world’s finest mechanical watchmakers. While Patek Philippe is (arguably) a step ahead in both quality and price, Omega and Rolex are best in class when it comes to producing simply excellent timepieces in high numbers.
A second reason why these four models are so popular is that they all have unique heritages and stories that captivate the community. The greatest story of all belongs to the Speedmaster, which became the first watch worn on the Moon in 1969. What could be more exciting than owning a timepiece that played a role in one of humanity’s greatest achievements?
Watches With a Story to Tell
The Rolex Submariner was introduced in 1953 and quickly became the most popular diving watch around. It has since become the archetypical diving watch, with countless brands copying its aesthetic. The Rolex Daytona’s story tells the tale of speed and glamor. Its most famous wearer is, without a doubt, Paul Newman. Fans quickly named the Daytona on Newman’s wrist after the Hollywood star, and it is now one of the most popular and sought-after watches ever produced.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus is part of Gérald Genta’s legendary trilogy of luxury steel sports timepieces that redefined how we look at watch design. The Patek Philippe Nautilus, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and the IWC Ingenieur tell a story of design innovation in the 1970s when mechanical watches were feeling the strain of the quartz crisis. All three showed that there was a new way to experience sports watches: with integrated bracelets, ultra-slim movements, and incredible looks.
Adding up the sales figure for these four models makes it clear that they make up a large chunk of the market. This can have several effects. Prices increase any time demand is higher than supply – a phenomenon we’ve certainly seen in recent years, with prices for these watches climbing to levels well beyond and, in some cases, more than double their list prices.
One unwanted side effect is that this has attracted a crowd aiming to invest in (rather than enjoy) watches. Indeed, several models have become good investments with a realistic chance of earning 10-15% annually on what you originally paid for them. It’s something that’s good for some folks’ pockets but not so good for watch collecting.
Where does this end?
For me, watches are objects best enjoyed on your wrist. They capture the magic of time and tell amazing stories. These stories help us form personal connections with our timepieces and should encourage us to wear them. It’s never been about any kind of return on investment for me. A true enthusiast never purchases a watch solely to flip it. Don’t get me wrong: This doesn’t mean you have to hold on to your watches forever. But many enthusiasts (understandably) look down on watch flipping.
One of the negative side effects of treating watches as investments is that it makes them unaffordable and inaccessible for so many enthusiasts. This effect is most notable when it comes to early-generation vintage pieces and the latest releases. Iconic vintage models have always been expensive and coveted by serious collectors. However, some of the prices now being commanded by vintage Daytonas, Submariners, Speedmasters, and Nautiluses are simply out of reach of most people who would truly enjoy some extraordinary first-generation timepieces.
The same is also true for the newest releases. A good example is the Rolex Submariner ref. 124060, which debuted in September 2020 with a list price of $8,100. The hype surrounding this watch was incredible. Not being able to buy one from an authorized dealer means demand on Chrono24 has been massive, with prices starting at around $14,500. And unfortunately, you’re not the only one with the “I’ll just buy a previous generation model and get a better price” mentality. Plenty of potential buyers are thinking the same thing, driving the prices for these Submariners up as well.
Considering all of this, people have started looking to other watches from Omega, Rolex, and Patek Philippe, exponentially driving up prices for the Rolex GMT-Master, Datejust, and Explorer; the Omega Seamaster; and several Patek Philippe timepieces. So, while Chrono24’s four most popular models don’t necessarily dictate prices across the entire market, they do impact industry price levels and how customer behavior.
So why are people still so hungry for these watches? If you’re interested in one of them, maybe a good look in the mirror would help answer this question. Why do you need or want one of these timepieces? Because your friends have one? Because it’s what’s hot on social media? Maybe it’s a good investment? It’s up to you to figure this out. But for me, the fun of watches is in so much more than their monetary value. And my wish for you is that this will be your experience when searching for the right watch. Happy hunting!