When collecting vintage watches, certain details about a watch can dramatically effect it's value.
For example, how great it's movement was or wasn't, how well received it was or wasn't, i.e. it's considered to be beautiful or not.
Significance is also key. A great example is the Speedmaster. NASA approved, and the first watch to go to space and the moon means it's historically significant.
On the more subtle side, if a great watch suddenly becomes hard to find (rare), that will also raise it's value (supply and demand 101).
And even more subtle, if a particular watch is an early example or not. The idea being that the earlier an example a watch is, the less likely people knew it would have become "significant" in the future, so that particular purchase was more astute, etc.
And if we look at specific components, it's no secret the dial is pretty important. The movement is the heart of a watch, without it you have nothing. But the dial is the face, the component that makes it attractive or not, and the most obvious part of a watch. Its the part that helps market it the best and easiest. That part that helps it's owner "show it off" the easiest, etc.
And if it happens to be a dial, that for whatever reason did not have high production runs, i.e. was rare, then you could really have something valuable.
A great example of this is the vintage Rolex Daytona with "exoctic" dial (a.k.a. Paul Newman dial).
I've said this before, I think those exotic dials make that variation of Daytona one of the most beautiful watches of all time. But the standard dialed Daytonas were also beautiful. So the big question becomes are you willing to spend up to $100k more just because of that exotic dial?
And it's a difficult question to answer, because while there are a lot fewer exotic dialed Daytonas around, its not as if the standard dialed Daytonas are a dime a dozen. They're not.
And $100k buys you a decent pre-owned Ferrari (for crap's sake!).
But still, because it's such a big difference in look (the standard dial vs. the exitoc dial), I can *almost* get it.
But then people get stupid. really stupid.
Take a look at the image above and look for the difference between the two.
The original photo is on the left. Its an early Rolex Submariner ref.5513. And whats unique about this watch is that it happens to have the "explorer" dial, which means it has Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9.
Up to this point, I'm still *kinda* on board. But only *kinda*, because while that is a unique dial for a Submariner, there's a reason why Rolex eventually changed it: it's ugly.
But, whatever, that's subjective.
But there's something different between the original photo on the left and the doctored one on the right. Something that alters it's value by A LOT!
Can you see it?
In the meantime, let me put a Submariner's value in perspective (and I am referring to standard issue, not military issued submariners):
A typical Submariner ref.5513 from that era, could be had for as low as $4500 ...if you're lucky. And maybe up to $8000 on average. Not bad for a classic that looks good and historically important as it was probably the first real dive watch.
Here's a picture of an early 5513 with a 1.6million serial number:
Subjectively speaking, I think that looks a lot better than the "Explorer" dialed one above. But no matter, because I could live with the "Explorer" dialed version being worth more, just not up to $100k MORE!!!
That's right, the "Explorer" dialed version above is apparently estimated to auction for $80,000-$100,000, and what that probably means (because Rolex collectors are tools), is that it will go for even more.
So, what is the difference between the two pictures above?
For shit's sake!
Who in their right mind would pay up to $100k for a $5000 watch, just because of a stupid underline?
And here's the point:
If it was something truly meaningful, something that really made a difference, something of supreme significance in some way, shape or form. I'd say ok. But its none of those things.
All it is, is about 4mm of faded white ink.
Arguments to the contrary will say crap like, "that underline is an indication it is an early example, hence it's value."
Bull crap. You know what is an early indication it's an early example?
It's friggin serial number!!
I can't even begin to name the ways it'd be drop-dead easy to forge something like that. And I won't listen to anyone who says otherwise. That's like a man saying he can always tell when "she's faking it".
What's worse is that this stupid underline cheapens the watch. It changed the focus of admiration from something of substance, to something irrelevant.
In other words, Instead of honoring an early example, one we know is an early example because we can verify it's production year buy it's engraved serial number (significant), you will find people ooo-ing and aww-ing about the damn underline itself (irrelevant).
So, people will say "...wow, it's one with the 'underline'" and not, "...it's serial is 1.6million, can you believe this was made all those years ago and its still functional?"
And this only happens within the Rolex world of collecting. No one would ever behave this way with a Patek. With Patek they'd actually ooo and aww about the movement, it's decorating, it's precision, it's complication, etc. real meat and potatoes.
Of course, Rolex does not have a repertoire of watches to match the movements, decorating, precision, or complication of any Patek, so maybe thats why?
But still, the "underline" changed the conversation.
And not only do I think thats worth nothing, It makes us all look like a bunch of douches... well, the guy who bought it anyway.