EDITOR’S PICK: 3 gold sports watches that are cheaper than their steel siblings EDITOR’S PICK: 3 gold sports watches that are cheaper than their steel siblings

EDITOR’S PICK: 3 gold sports watches that are cheaper than their steel siblings

Zach Blass

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes it’s worth going for gold. Particularly when it can prove cheaper than stainless-steel. Our resident watch boffin Zach Blass casts his eye over three value propositions that are good enough for King Midas himself.

Stainless steel watches have definitely captured the hearts and wallets of collectors, with consumers joining waitlists for desired models and praying they can snag one “at-retail”. The VIP nature of the access, and the level of spend it takes to get in the good graces of dealers, has become so significant it is arguably less expensive to just cough up the premium on the grey market.

gold sports watches

Still, it can leave a bitter taste in your mouth knowing you’ve paid almost twice as much as the retail price of the watch. It’s just the principle really. But what if you could get your money’s worth without having to give into the infuriating, and enimgatic ecosystem of these hot watches? What if instead, precious metal options were on the table and you could actually save money? Here are three gold sports watches that are cheaper than their steel siblings.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut (5167 versus 5066J)

gold sports watches

The Aquanaut is the most casual line of watches from Patek Philippe. A cousin of the Nautilus, this porthole cushion watch allows the wearer to have the haute mechanical aspects of the brand without the overt flashiness that can come with many haute horology pieces. Paul McCartney, for one, is well known to wear the watch religiously as his daily wearer. While it may be the most affordable Patek Philippe sports model in the catalogue, at a current retail price of $21,650 USD, like any other steel sports model from the brand they are relatively unobtainable – leading buyers to resort to grey market dealers. So what does the 5167 go for second-hand? $55,000-70,000 USD.

gold sports watches
Image: Greunberg Watches

My proposed solution? Investigate the Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5066J. While a now discontinued reference, its essence is pretty much the same with only one concession – the watch is a classic 36mm in favour of a then modern 40mm. With this reference, however, you get all the hallmarks of the modern version. It’s powered by the same 324 SC caliber, the dial is the same black embossed configuration (with some available with patinated tritium markers!), and a dial-matching embossed tropical rubber strap. The strap does not sit perfectly flush to the case, but this earlier configuration of the strap does have the fixed flare that the modern strap has – making this the more wearable Aquanaut configuration. The 5066J is also equally as water resistant as the 5167 (assuming the watch has had a recent service), with a depth rating of 120 metres. The biggest thing the 5066J has going for it that the 5167 doesn’t? It’s yellow gold! So Zach, what is it going to cost me? Prices range online from $40,000-60,000 USD.

Rolex Daytona (116500LN versus 116515LN at retail)

gold sports watches

Arguably the most sought-after watch in the entire world, the stainless steel Daytona is a watch you spot everywhere in the wild but inside a case available for purchase at retail. The 40mm stainless steel chronograph was outfitted with a sleek black ceramic bezel in 2016 when it was first announced at Baselworld four years ago – and there are no signs of demand slowing down. It has consistently sold well above retail since its debut, now commanding over twice its retail price with an average after market sale value hovering now above $30,000 USD.

Image: James Edition

Before you take the premium plunge, have you considered the 116515LN in everose gold? Sure it is on an Oysterflex rubber bracelet, instead of a precious metal bracelet, but the watch really pops with its everose gold case and nicely paired dial configurations. It also has a ceramic bezel for equally robust scratch resistance as the stainless steel model, and being a current catalogue watch also uses the same in-house 4130 caliber. Its retail price is $29,700 USD, and while in high-demand is a bit more feasible than queuing up for the unobtanium stainless steel model and less expensive than coughing up the steel premium as well.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (15450ST.OO.1256ST.03 versus 14700BA)

gold sports watches
Image: Xupes.com

The Royal Oak, alongside the Daytona and Nautilus, is one of the hardest models to source at retail. With distribution tightened up, the well of supply has slowly dried up across the lineup with even the smaller diameter references hard to find. The 15450ST.OO.1256ST.03 is the 37mm stainless steel version of the Royal Oak and, due to its scarcity, the prices have soared on the grey market – reaching a price range of $35,000 – $45,000 USD, with grey dials on the lower end of the spectrum and blue skewing higher.

gold sports watches
Image: A Collected Man

The 14700BA is a now discontinued version of the Royal Oak, coming in a case size of 36mm. While the watch does not feature an exhibition caseback like its modern siblings, the reality is the majority of the value of a Royal Oak stems from its world class and exquisite case and bracelet finishing – aesthetics that are actually visible when wearing the watch. Sure, it’s nice to be able to see a gorgeous movement as well, but that concession can be viewed as a positive here as it only means more precious metal was used in the build of the watch with a solid gold back. The watch has a nice dark grey dial with a tapisserie pattern, gold hands and markers, with a gold date disc to blend with the case colour, which provides tasteful contrast to the grey backdrop. Astoundingly, this full gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak on a bracelet can be had at a price anywhere between $23,900 – $28,000 USD, which means there are definitely options available at a lower price point than its modern steel siblings (especially if you compare it to the even more in-demand 41mm references).

Final thoughts

gold sports watches
The 3800 steel and precious metal models can typically be found for less money than the current 5711. Image: A Collected Man

The examples above are just a few instances of gold sports watches being less expensive than their steel siblings. Typically speaking, the path to find watches that meet this particular parameter is to look for pieces that are older and smaller than the current models sold. With many of us actually wishing watches would stop growing in diameter, it may not only be about finding better value or price but also a better fit.