Written By: Vahid Moradi
Vintage watches can make for stunning accessories fit for everyday wear and special occasions. Cartier, for example, is an in-demand watch brand with enduring styles that can hold value or increase in worth over time.
But with a brand as classic and luxurious as this one, one might wonder how much is a Cartier watch. While these items can hold priceless sentimental value, determining the actual monetary worth of a vintage wrist watch can be a difficult task. In the guide below, we’ll explore all of the criteria that a Cartier authorized dealer like CJ Charles will examine when determining pre owned Cartier watch price points.
5 Factors That Impact Cartier Watch Costs
Regardless of whether you’re curious about how much a Cartier watch costs because of a gift, an heirloom, or an interest in purchasing a wrist watch in the future, it’s important to remember that several factors affect the going rate of a vintage watch. Obviously price tag of each Cartier watch model varies and here are the factors that determine them:
#1 Overall Condition
While brand certainly impacts the value potential of a watch, the overall condition of a piece can very quickly create a rather large differentiation in price.
There are several particular aspects of watch condition to consider when determining the cost of a Cartier.
Wondering how Cartier watches hold their value? A lot of it comes down to cosmetics. For example, a vintage Cartier Tank with lots of scratches and dings is likely going to be less appealing and therefore less valuable. Although some minor, surface-level damage can be fixed by experts, not all can, and the price often takes a hit to account for any necessary cosmetic repairs.
When it comes to watches, there are a few cosmetic features to watch out for:1
- Case features – A significant portion of watches are made of precious metals, and all of these components can be susceptible to scratches or dents.
- Crystal and dial – Two of the most important parts of any watch are the crystal that protects and enables viewing of the watch dial within. Over time, the crystal can become scratched or cracked. And with repairs, sometimes the small instruments used to tinker with watches can cause small scratches on the dial. Because the watch face is really the centerpiece of the watch, any cosmetic issues with the sapphire crystal, dial, or crown can significantly lower the value.
- Strap – Ideally, a vintage watch will come with its original strap or bracelet made with precious metals. With time, however, the various materials used (whether metal, leather, or something else) can be prone to damage and wear and tear, especially with regular use. Although the watch face is the centerpiece, the strap is a large part of the overall look of the piece—any cosmetic abnormalities can stand out like a sore thumb.
Although aesthetics are important, a watch will retain only a fraction of its full value if it cannot keep time. To stick with the car metaphor, a pristine exterior on an old Jaguar will only go so far if the car has severe mechanical issues.
Watches are extremely delicate machines, so cosmetic appearance does not always align with the state of internal mechanisms. It’s always best to take a fine watch to experts to determine functionality.
Like some fine wines, vintage watches can actually increase in value with age. It all depends on the watch’s patina.
Patina is a term used to describe the natural aging process of objects. Technically, it refers to the oxidation process of metals, which alters the coloring of metal materials over time with increased exposure to air. Generally, however, the term is used in reference to a wide range of visual indicators of age: fading and discoloration, wear, and small nicks and scratches.
Unlike cosmetic blemishes on a vintage watch, which are indications of real damage rather than just age, patina is a highly sought-after factor in vintage watches2. For those interested in previously owned watches and older models, there is a logical rationale here: if the desire is a mint-condition watch that appears as-new, the buyer could purchase a brand new watch from a Cartier store.
Patina, it is argued, adds that je ne sais quoi quality to the watch: one-of-a-kind character.
Most buyers and collectors of vintage watches will not trust patina alone to indicate the authenticity of a piece, however. Instead, they hope to find indicators of legitimacy that would have come with the watch in the original purchase:
- Box – Usually a strong cardboard or leather container, this box is what the watch originally came in.
- Papers – This refers to the identification information included with the watch upon original purchase. Sometimes on paper or card, “papers” typically include the original make and model information as well as a unique identifier, or serial number, which can help experts to certify the watch’s authenticity.
Although it is certainly possible to buy and sell a Cartier watch without a box or papers, complete vintage watch sets with these items almost always sell more quickly and at a higher price thanks to the ease in determining their legitimacy.
#4 Demand: Pop-Culture Trends and Rare Finds Drive Up Value
Of course, in a globalized economy driven by supply and demand, the desirability of a vintage watch can significantly impact its price. For example, the best Cartier watch styles for ladies may change over time.
It is often the case that as styles and trends shift over time, vintage items will suddenly become quite popular. However fleeting or lasting, trends can transform a lesser-known item into a pop-culture sensation seemingly overnight, driving the price up along with its status.
Rarity can also make certain styles or models incredibly expensive. If there are few remaining pieces on the market, for example, they can become highly collectible.
#5 Comparable Sales
For watch experts, one of the most reliable ways to determine the value of a watch is to research the going rate of very similar watches in recent sales.
For rare, high-end, and otherwise expensive timepieces, this might entail an examination of large auction house sales. Sotheby’s and Christie’s, for example, are two of the most prominent sellers of fine art as well as luxury goods. Both have watch collections as well as a history of selling Cartier pieces, and documentation of the details of these sales can be readily found online.
Experts can also examine their own records or recorded sales of pieces similar to the one they are valuing online.
Cartier Watches: A Priceless Legacy
It’s probably no surprise that brand is one of the factors that most heavily impacts value, as this is true of most items, not just watches. Consumers and collectors are willing to pay a premium for brands that are associated with luxury, prestige, and quality. For that reason, an individual may not mind paying the price accompanied by a Cartier timepiece.
To be sure, Cartier is one of the most well-known and well-respected luxury brands. And more than that, the brand created the first mass-produced wristwatch!
But like many brand names, worldwide success and name recognition didn’t happen overnight: it was cultivated over decades. Cartier was founded by jeweler Louis-François Cartier in 1847 in Paris to cater to the upper-class elite of this bustling 19th-century city. By the turn of the century, Cartier had opened a shop on the very prestigious Rue de la Paix, though it wasn’t until 1904 that the brand began expanding its business beyond jewelry into watchmaking.3
After the trailblazing Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to Louis Cartier about how difficult it was to use a pocket watch when in airships, Louis designed a luxury watch that could be worn on the wrist. The result was the Cartier Santos-Dumont, a flat and square wristwatch that appealed to the style of Progressive-Era timepieces. The Cartier Santos watch became the first of such mechanical watches made on a widespread scale as well as the first pilot’s watch. Thanks to its commercial success, Cartier followed up with the Tonneau in 1906, the Baignoire and Tortue in 1912, and then finally in 1917 the model that has since become synonymous with the brand: the Cartier Tank Tank.3
The sleek aesthetic and superb quality of Cartier unisex watches from the beginning came to define the brand as a leader in both jewelry and wrist watches, a reputation that has lasted well into the 21st century. In fact, in 2018, Cartier was named “the number one luxury brand in the world” by the annual Kadence Luxury Index.4
Among watch aficionados, Cartier is first-rate. The history, quality, and appeal of Cartier all contribute to its world-class reputation, which means that even pre-owned vintage watches have price tags to match. Whether the Santos de Cartier, the Pasha de Cartier, or the classical Cartier Tank watch collection caught your eye, there's no denying the value of this brand.
CJ Charles: Your Trusted Cartier Experts for Watches
So, how much does a Cartier watch cost? It depends on all of the factors listed above. It can therefore be nearly impossible to accurately value a vintage Cartier watch model, or any brand for that matter, without the help of experts who can examine the intricacies of these highly mechanical items as well as confirm authenticity.
In the end, the only way to be confident in the valuation of a Cartier watch is to take it to experts like CJ Charles for a quote. That way, if you’re looking to sell a watch, you can be sure you’re getting a fair price, and if you’re looking to buy, you can be sure that you are not being overcharged. Browse our collection of mens and womens Cartier watches today.
CJ Charles is here to help you with all of your Cartier watch needs. Whether you would like to sell your watch or are interested in getting a quote, CJ Charles can help you figure out exactly how much your watch is worth.
We also offer a variety of pre-owned luxury watches, including exquisite gold and rose gold watches that are timeless in design. If you’re interested in used branded watches, check out our collection of pre-owned Cartier watches for men or women, IWC Schaffhausen, Panerai or used Rolex for sale. We can help you find the perfect timepiece on your budget.
Written By: Vahid Morai
Vahid Moradi’s lifelong passion, dedication, and commitment for the jewelry industry led him to become the respected owner of CJ Charles Jewelers in 1988. From that moment, Moradi’s single focus in business was to become recognized as the pinnacle of value and world-class quality in the his Community. Over 34 years later, CJ Charles continues to grow and thrive as a successful, family-owned business that consistently provides exceptional service to all their clientele.
- WatchBox. How to Determine Watch Condition. https://www.thewatchbox.com/blog/determine-watch-condition.html
- Christie’s. Aged to perfection — The patina trend in watches. https://www.christies.com/features/The-patina-trend-in-watches-8023-1.aspx
- Chrono24. The Remarkable Story of Cartier: From Jeweler to Watchmaker to Ultimate Luxury Brand. https://www.chrono24.com/magazine/the-remarkable-story-of-cartier-from-jeweler-to-watchmaker-to-ultimate-luxury-brand-p_68275/
- FashionUnited. Cartier tops international luxury brand ranking. https://fashionunited.ca/news/fashion/cartier-tops-international-luxury-brand-ranking/201806256419
- Bloomberg. Your Grandfather’s Watch Could Be Worth Thousands: Here's How to Tell.