The enduring appeal of the luxury watch and five stocks worth investing in

“There is a certain mystery in a mechanical watch – smart technology will never take it away”

The humble wristwatch is having a moment. Sought-after watches from Rolex and Patek Philippe often have ten-year waiting lists and regularly sell for many multiples of their gray market retail price. At the other end of the scale, in April 2022, the police had to be called into several Swatch stores to control crowds for the launch of the “MoonSwatch” – such was the hype and excitement.

The “MoonSwatch” pays homage to the Omega Speedmaster worn by the Apollo 11 crew that landed on the moon and on subsequent NASA missions. At €250 it may be plastic, but it’s significantly more affordable than the mechanical Omega version which costs around €7,000.

The MoonSwatch is a chance to capture some of the magical space dust that surrounds the legendary Speedmaster which passed the most rigorous tests chosen by NASA for Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong – it also saved the lives of the crew of Apollo 13 which used its stopwatch function to precisely time their re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

And there is something magical about the wristwatch. I am a watch enthusiast or “watch collector” as I would prefer to be called. I love them for their beating mechanical hearts, for their beauty and for their complexity – “where art, design, engineering, fashion and history intersect” to quote “Watch Gringa”, one of my favorite Watch YouTubers (there are dozens and dozens of them).

This weekend the Waterford International Festival of Time is taking place at the Irish Museum of Time in Waterford City, and I’ll be there to see some of the most remarkable timepieces ever made, and best of all to meet the watchmakers who created them. Their names may not be familiar, but in my world the likes of Vianney Halter, Bernard Lederer and Stepehen and John McGonigle are living legends.

Stephen McGonigle, Master Watchmaker

Stephen and John are from Athlone but have spent most of their working life in Switzerland. Both brothers trained at the Irish/Swiss Institute of Horology (unfortunately now closed), and after graduating Stephen got a job with Cristophe Claret whose watches today start at over €100,000 ( Yes, you read correctly).

“I was only a year out of high school so I was really lucky to work at Claret, and work on minute repeaters, tourbillon minute repeaters and incredible complications for watches later released by Girard- Perregaux, Franck Muller and other big brands,” he says.

After several years working for Claret, Stephen set up as a freelance watchmaker and took on similar contract work while founding McGonigle Watches, initially with his brother. Their first watch had a complex but stripped-back tourbillon movement – ​​a tourbillon improves a watch’s precision by eliminating the effects of gravity by containing the balance wheel and escapement in a rotating carriage – it’s also extraordinarily beautiful to look at.

Stephen’s watches take months to create and aren’t cheap – after the Tourbillon came the Tuscar and then the McGonigle ‘Ceol’ Minute Repeater which costs over €200,000. The Ceol strikes the time more accurately than Big Ben despite its diameter of just 41mm – “you don’t even have to look at it to tell the time,” says McGonigle.

“My clients are not well-known people as the watch collecting community is small and specialized – however, if (well-known collector) Ed Sheeran wants to buy one, I’m sure I can fit it into my schedule …”

In 2021 Stephen launched Magon Watches (www.magonwatches.com) which are considerably more affordable. The first watch is a sports-themed chronograph that costs €9,800, which is less than an Omega chronograph in the same metal. The titanium Fórsa chronograph has some subtle nods to Stephen’s love of rugby and if you spot Robbie Henshaw he’s probably wearing his.

The chronograph movement comes from the highly regarded Swiss manufacture La Joux-Perret, but has been modified and decorated to fit Stephen’s vision for Magon – only once Magon is on the cards next.

Sure, nobody needs a $10,000 watch, but unlike a fancy car or pretty much anything a man owns, a watch is one of the only things you can buy and admire. and which can be passed down from generation to generation.

“My clients have cars and luxury goods that cost more than my watches, but they value the watches they tell me more because they appreciate that heritage factor.”

Sidereus Watches is another new Irish watch brand that is causing a stir in the world of watch geeks. Created by Bryan Leech who trained as a product designer and has worked all over the world creating everything from ceramics and silverware to Apple phones and keyboards.

“As part of the product design course I teach at South East Technical University, Carlow, I started setting up a fourth year project for my students to design watches as I had always been interested by watchmaking,” says Leech.

“But what led to the creation of Sidereus was a talk at the Salon QP called ‘Horology: A Child of Astronomy’ which focused on Newgrange, a Neolithic landmark that marked time for over 5,000 years – it was the spark.”

‘Sidereus’ refers to Galileo’s famous astronomy treatise ‘Sidereus Nuncius’ (Starry Messenger), and the watches draw inspiration from Newgrange and astronomy throughout their design – they are handcrafted to order and limited to 50 pieces per model. Detail is paramount to Bryan – “we’ve branded the crown (winder) and buckle and kept it Irish where possible with Dexter Irish cattle leather straps or the option of a Magee Tweed strap – our cases of presentation in oak are created in Clonmel by Master cabinetmaker Philippe Hétier.

Inside is a very precise Swiss Selita automatic movement and somehow Siderus watches manage to look sporty, dressy and functional all at the same time.

Five mechanical watches to invest in

A quality mechanical watch with dozens of moving parts isn’t cheap, but what else do you own that can be passed down to your grandchildren? A watch is a functional piece of jewelry, a piece of art on your wrist, a conversation piece, a means of self-expression, and part of your heritage – my dad’s 1952 Fortis ticks my wrist at the moment where I write this. All of these watches will survive into the 22nd century.

Seiko 5 Sport Automatic – €295

Everyone needs a Seiko in their collection and the remarkable Seiko 5 has been around since 1963 – it’s a watch classic. The “5” refers to five innovative elements: an unbreakable mainspring, superior shock resistance, automatic winding, water resistance and a date function.

www.keanes.ie

Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 – €695

Stainless steel sports watches on a metal strap are the hottest items in the watch world – a Patek Philippe Nautilus will set you back €130,000 but this 2021 little mechanical beauty from Tissot has a very similar look for a tiny fraction of the price.

www.keanes.ie

Stunned Moonphase – €3,200

Sidereus Moon Phase Automatic polished stainless steel watch, limited to 50 pieces, hand made to order – regulated and tested in Ireland. I can’t think of another watch that manages to look sporty and dressy at this price – suitable for a suit or tracksuit.

www.sidereus.com

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150m Co-Axial Master Chronometer €6,200

In fashionable olive green with a ‘teak’ pattern on the dial reminiscent of wooden sailboats, it looks beautiful and contains the famous Omega Co-Axial movement and Master Chronometer tests proving it is accurate to less than 5 seconds per hour. day.

www.keanes.ie

Magon Fóras Titanium Chronograph – €9,800

The stunning sporty Fórsa Titanium Chronograph by Irish master watchmaker Stephen McGonigle. With a custom-decorated La Joux-Perret movement and subtle nods to Stephen’s love of rugby, it comes in silver and black and is unlike any other watch on the market (at least none that costs less than six digits).

www.magonwatches.com

And finally… Leslie’s favorite watch

Leslie's watch
Leslie’s watch

When my SSIA money arrived in my bank account in 2005, I decided I needed a good watch. Soon I was down a rabbit hole and now own about 15 mechanical watches including brands such as Longines, Zenith and Omega. My most worn watch is my Art-Déco Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Clasique in 18k gold, a watch designed in 1931 for polo players – the case is reversible to protect the dial.

I bought my Reverso from a good friend Tracey Sheeran who had bought it new in Geneva while working for Patek Philippe in 1998. Tracey died much too young a year later and I will never sell it – I am convinced that it would come back to haunt me if I did!

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