The creator of a $150 purse beloved by AOC and Oprah is revolutionizing “it bags” by making them accessible to everyone. Against all odds, it’s working.

Telfar

Tianni Graham, 27, remembers the “before times” – that is, the harrowing months before Telfar introduced its Bag Security Program.

It was early last summer and she, along with thousands of others, was stuck testing their luck each day trying to buy the wildly popular Telfar handbag whose celeb fans include Oprah, Selena Gomez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Solange. But they often sold out before anyone could click ‘check out.’

It turns out, robots and resellers were buying products in bulk, making it harder for real customers to purchase them. So, last summer, Telfar introduced its Bag Security Program, in hopes of giving customers better access to its bags by allowing patrons 24 hours to pre-order any bag on the site, with no limits on how many can be purchased. The bag is then made to order, and shipped directly to the customer.

Its first drop, which happened last August, brought in about $20 million – about 10x what Telfar made in all of 2019.

Suddenly, Graham, who is also a fashion archivist and consultant, had her green Telfar bag. It arrived right before Christmas and was a “present to myself,’ she told Insider, adding that other brands could benefit from implementing a similar program. “It would make things so much easier and make the customer feel like you care.”

The program’s success shows how a luxury brand can create accessibility without losing the allure of exclusivity. The old-school model for luxury brands states the product should be scarce and elite, but the next generation of high-end consumers and entrepreneurs are taking a different route.

Teflar is rewriting the rules of luxury, and this time, it’s not too hard for other brands to follow suit.

Telfar ‘white glove treatment’ is what next-gen luxury shoppers crave

Young consumers look less at price tags and more at brand values when determining where to spend their money; these next-gen consumers want sustainability, inclusivity, and a sense of community. The new “white glove treatment” when it comes to luxury shopping is a speedy online checkout from a brand that cares.

For Telfar’s latest drop this week, customers had the option to use the payment installment plan Klarna, making it even easier for those looking to obtain a bag. While customers will have to wait a few months before receiving the bag, people often spend years on a Birkin bag “waiting list” and most will probably never get one.

Shortly before Telfar’s program ended this week, a spokesperson for the brand told Insider it was, already, “going very well.”

Telfar started with an aim of inclusive luxury

Telfar was founded in 2005 by its eponymous founder Telfar Clemens and has dedicated the past two decades to building an inclusive business model.

In 2014, it released its now-iconic vegan leather handbag, which takes inspiration from a Bloomingdale’s shopping bag. The bags became widely available around 2018 after Telfar won $400,000 from the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, allowing the company to expand production.

Clemens described his brand to The Cut as being “genderless, democratic, and transformative,” purposely seeking to challenge the notion that high fashion is only for a certain group of people, with the brand motto being “Not For You – For Everyone.”

Telfar

Now, Telfar bags come in three sizes, with prices ranging from $150 to $257. (For comparison, Birkin bags go for at least $12,000 while Black-owned luxury brands such as Brother Veilles go for at least $1,295.)

As reported by FT, handbag sales in the US declined 18% between 2016 and 2019. Yet, Telfar stood out – in 2016, the brand earned $102,000, growing to earn $2 million in 2019. Last year, New York Magazine deemed its bag the “Bushwick Birkin” and the brand was on pace to earn eight figures, even as the fashion industry was expected to take a 90% loss in profits due to the pandemic.

Boston Consulting Group’s Head of Luxury Sarah Willersdorf told Insider that Telfar has checked all the boxes on what it takes to connect with next-gen luxury shoppers. She said the brand has a narrative that “evokes emotion” and properly intertwines timelessness, creative partnerships, and culturally relevant authorities. GQ pointed out Telfar’s customer base was built, not through influencers, but through “customer aspiration alone.”

Telfar
Telfar Clemens.

Raising the bar for next-gen luxury

Brands like Telfar are important in proving accessible business models can be just as lucrative. Willersdorf expects other brands to follow similar strategies in a post-pandemic world, as shopping continues to pivot online.

In the old days – a pre-millennial world, perhaps – having too much of a product is thought to dilute its value. The Bag Security program defies that. But even the most tech-savvy luxury brand is often behind the curve, as Insider has previously reported.

“Luxury brands are always nervous,” Joseph Yakuel, CEO and founder of consulting firm Within, told Insider last year. “There’s so much risk to them tarnishing their brand reputation because luxury brand price points are only supported by their perception, and if their brand perception goes down market, their price point gets eroded very quickly.”

Clemens and his artistic director, Babak Radboy, said they aren’t worried about oversaturation. It’s about community, now. The new “white glove treatment” is making sure everybody gets a pair that fits perfectly.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Swarovski crystal heiress Marina Rapahel explains how she achieved record-breaking sales by selling smaller handbags, donating to charity, and using snail mail to reach customers

Marina Raphael
Marina Raphael with her SS21 collection(1)

  • Marina Raphael, 22, launched her brand of luxe handbags in 2019.
  • Despite the pandemic, she said she saw an increase in sales in 2020.
  • To Insider, she reveals how she got her company through the past year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Insider first spoke to Marina Raphael in July 2020, she was in the midst of leading her luxury handbag brand of the same name through the pandemic.

A member of the famed Swarovski crystal family, Raphael launched her eponymous line the year before. It was being sold in high-end retailers such as Moda Operandi; it also captured the attention of Maxima, Queen of the Netherlands.

But now, the pandemic had disrupted in-person shopping, supply chains, and manufacturing. Halfway through the year, it was too soon to have confidence in what the rest of the year would bring.

“As a young entrepreneur, everything was just moving so quickly,” Raphael, 22, told Insider in a recent interview. “But a good entrepreneur has to adapt to any situation and find quick and flexible solutions.”

Now, a few months into 2021, she reflects on her company’s record growth. It turns out, luxury consumers never actually stopped splurging on high-priced goods during the pandemic. Wealthy patrons put their money into handbags, artwork, and fine jewelry – investment categories believed to be less volatile than the stock market.

Raphael, whose bags range from 500 to 1,500 euros ($600 to $1,800), said sales skyrocketed last year, though she declined to share exact revenue figures. The team re-vamped their social media strategy, added charity initiatives to purchases, and even reduced the physical size of its products by 50% to adjust to, what she described as, the new reality of customers’ needs: “carrying less.”

The brand launched collaborations and partnerships, including one with French skincare line Vichy, and expanded its own line to create cosmetic pouches and keychains.

It also released a sustainable collaboration, using upcycled leather and cruelty-free leathers with luxury retailer Luisaviaroma and another line with art director Evangelie Smyrniotaki, which sold out in its first two weeks. Next, the company is about to launch a line with Swarovski Creative Director Giovanna Battaglia. She’s projecting a 420% increase in sales this year.

The luxury brand stayed grounded through hard times by donating 20% of sales

Raphael’s company is headquartered in Greece, but its operations are spread throughout the world. Public relations for the brand is in London, while the sales agent is in New York; quality control is in Australia, and bag production is in Florence.

Marina Raphael with her SS21 collection(3)
Marina Raphael with her SS21 collection(3)

In March 2020, the brand received its spring-summer collection, which gave it stock until August. It combined that with leftovers from the previous collection, but still sold everything by June, she said.

Having a diversified supply chain helped, however. When factories in Italy closed, quality-control in Australia was able to pick up production. The team’s small size of 14 (six of whom joined during the pandemic) made it easy to communicate, despite the time differences. And because retailers were closed, the company didn’t have to worry about shipping out the fall-winter collection.

Another challenge for Raphael was communicating via WhatsApp and Zoom, especially since she had to design handbags without ever touching the fabrics or physically seeing the final product.

At the same time, the brand had to figure out how to sell a luxury product during an ongoing global health and financial crisis. The company couldn’t just stop selling or making the bags, Raphael said. “Then our suppliers would have a problem, our production team would have a problem,” she continued. “They would lose their jobs.”

Marina Raphael with her FW19 collection
Marina Raphael with her FW19 collection

To great success, the company decided to donate 20% of all sales to charities such as Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation and The Hellenic Pasteur Institute. Luxury retailer Moda Operandi implemented a similar strategy last year to huge success, reporting that if an item was attached to a charitable cause, shoppers were willing to spend full-price on it, even if another promotional sale was happening at the same time.

“I think that’s why we didn’t feel guilty about promoting the product, because with every sale we were helping in some way,” Raphael said.

To promote the collections, Raphael’s company began mailing puzzles and other “interactive fun stuff” to patrons. That was very successful too, she said.

“Getting something delivered to your house makes it feel more personal than at a fashion week where you are running to 15 different showrooms,” she said. “That was too much, too fast.”

In the early months, the team was in a state of panic

Raphael credits the success of this time to her team. In the early months of the pandemic, she recalled, everyone was in a state of panic. So she took it to herself to see how she could motivate her employees during this time, listening to their feedback in order to adopt new business strategies.

Smyrniotaki, the content creator and art director, told Insider that Raphael’s “strong personality” and keen leadership skills are what helped get their collaboration off the ground during this time, even with the disruptions. Her bag with Raphael was made with 5,000 Swarovski crystals to represent brighter days ahead. “It is the perfect allegory for the brighter future we see ahead,” Smyrniotaki continued.

Designing the Marina Raphael X Evangelie Smyrniotaki collaboration
Designing the Marina Raphael X Evangelie Smyrniotaki collaboration

Sometimes, Raphael still thinks about those early months of the pandemic. Customers from the United States, especially, were contacting the company in haste, trying to figure out how soon their products would arrive.

“Customers were saying, ‘we want our orders sooner – can you send us the tracking number?’ We have never experienced that before,” she said. “We were questioning, where are they going with the bags?”

Maybe it was to buy themselves gifts to make themselves feel better, she ponders; maybe they wanted to invest in nice things or were just bored at home. It’s more likely a mixture of all of the above, Insider previously reported.

That, or maybe people just really wanted another tote bag.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The fanciest Mercedes sedan now starts at $185,000 – take a look inside the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

  • The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is the latest generation of the company’s most luxurious sedan.
  • Mercedes announced Wednesday that it comes with a starting price of $184,900.
  • The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S 580 is built for the chauffeured and hits dealerships this summer.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For some, the $100,000-and-up Mercedes-Benz S-Class just isn’t luxurious enough. For them, there’s the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

It’s a lavish land yacht that will carry an eye-watering MSRP of $184,900 when it hit dealers this summer, the carmaker announced Wednesday.

Mercedes took the wraps off of the 2021 version of the sedan during an online event in November, revealing a revamped exterior design and a host of new, ultra-luxurious features inside the cabin. It stands to reason that, since Maybach owners don’t spend much time in the driver’s seat, most of the exciting interior upgrades can be found in the back seat.

And – with a wheelbase that’s several inches longer than the standard S-Class – there’s plenty of room back there for swanky features like massaging leg rests, a multicolored ambient-lighting setup, champagne flutes, and copious amounts of wood trim.

Although most of us will never know such luxury firsthand, you can take a virtual look at the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S 580 below:

The new-for-2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class sports a new design with an exclusive, imposing radiator grille.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

It comes in ten two-tone paint options, a signature Maybach feature.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

You can also tell it apart from a standard Mercedes offering by the Maybach lettering up front …

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

And by the illuminated Maybach emblem on the C-pillar.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S 580 has a wheelbase that’s seven inches longer than the standard model, and is larger all around than its predecessor.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

It’s powered by a twin-turbocharged V8 with a claimed 496 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, and it rides on cushy air suspension.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

However, you don’t spend deep six figures on a Maybach for its classy look or its performance, you do it for its palatial interior packed with optional and standard luxury features.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

The leather seats have more massaging capability than before, now offering up ten preset programs, two levels of intensity, and massaging calf rests.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Naturally, the seats are climate-controlled as well, and they now include neck and shoulder heating functions.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

The “executive rear seat plus” package swaps the standard bench seat for two individual rear seats separated by a center console.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Even the Maybach’s new rear airbags are fancy, deploying in a “gentle manner,” according to Mercedes.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

The electronic rear doors swing open at the push of a button and can be operated from the driver’s seat.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

The doors have flush-mounted handles that pop out when they’re needed.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Buyers unsatisfied with the leather-to-wood balance in the cabin can now opt for wood trim on the front seat backs.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

They can also potentially outfit their vehicle with up to five screens, including a digital gauge cluster, a 12.8-inch center touchscreen, a rear tablet, and two rear-mounted displays.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

The entertainment system comes with two wireless headsets.

maybach tablet
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Other options include a refrigerated cubby and a champagne flute set with spots on the armrest to hold them.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

The silver-plated flutes cost $830 each on Maybach’s website.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Some other standard features include 64-color ambient lighting, a fragrance system, and powered window shades.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

For extra comfort, Mercedes outfitted the Maybach S-Class with an active noise-canceling system.

maybach speaker
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Mercedes says the upgraded drive-mode selector now delivers smoother acceleration in “Chauffeur mode.”

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Mercedes said the new model will arrive at US dealers in the middle of 2021.

2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’ve helped over 3,000 clients plan elaborate marriage proposals. The most expensive proposal so far was on a private island and cost over $100,000.

Pics and Petals in NYC
A flower-filled proposal in New York City.

I’ve always been someone who likes a challenge. I started my company right after graduating college in 2008, when I was only 22 years old. 

It wasn’t an ideal economy to be looking for a job or launching a brand new business – most people were just trying to keep their jobs – but personally I’ve found that  if you really believe in what you’re offering and are also meeting a need, then it can work. 

Heather Vaughn Headshot  Founder of The Yes Girls
TYG founder Heather Vaughn.

Around this time, I came up with an idea of a marriage proposal business. I always loved hearing people’s proposal stories, but felt like given the resources and time, they probably could’ve come up with something better and more unique. I realized there wasn’t a business that offered great proposal planning like this, so it was the lightbulb moment for me, so I founded The Yes Girls.

We create a personalized proposal for each client.

Madison Ellis Photography.JPG
Flowers and a fluffy rug for a boat proposal.

I’m very passionate about my proposals and adamant about giving clients an experience that’s personal and customized to their relationship. Each of our clients builds out a relationship assessment questionnaire so we can get to know them as a couple. This is what really inspires the ideas. 

We work with a network of vendors and small businesses to create the proposal event. I love that we get to support other small businesses in this work  including florists, photographers, venues, and even Etsy shops. I love my team of five – you can’t do this work without a good team. We were already set up as a remote company pre-pandemic, so we have that system down.

The company mainly works within the US, but does occasionally plan an international proposal or vow renewal.  

As a team, we’re all very particular with the details. We handle the timeline and contact with the vendors to make sure we’re on the same page, and put together a floor plan so everyone can see exactly how it’s going to be set up following the client’s vision. We also FaceTime the vendors the day of to make sure everything is set up correctly. 

We’ve successfully planned over 3,000 proposals.

Janet Jarchow photography
A beachside proposal.

As more of a boutique, luxury focused service, we don’t necessarily plan 20 events each month because we’re really focused on creating a higher-end quality event that can speak to each couple’s love story well – and we want to make sure we’re giving them the time and personalized service they deserve.  

I’ll always remember my first planned proposal. It was for a client who reached out to me about a week after I first launched my website.

The proposal was in Napa Valley, California, at the stunning Domaine Carneros Winery. We made it a surprise under the ruse of doing  a private tasting and tour. When the couple walked out onto the balcony, there was a sweet setup there with a private bistro table and chairs, a floral arrangement in her favorite flowers, photos of the couple, a pair of wine tasting glasses, and a personalized rose bush to keep and plant in their garden to signify their next big milestone – their engagement. 

This was all set up on a private balcony at the winery overlooking the stunning backdrop of the valley and vineyards. It was so much fun and turned out amazing. I still have the email he sent thanking me when everything was done, I kept it as my motivation that I was doing the right thing starting this business. 

My biggest challenge has been finding and marketing to a niche clientele.

ashley burns photography
A sun-filled summer with a gazebo backdrop.

Over the years I’ve realized that I can’t help everyone and that my service isn’t necessarily for everyone. Whether I’m planning a $50,000 dollar proposal or a $1,000 dollar proposal, it can take almost the same amount of time and energy. It was more important to find my own market and the right kind of clientele.

Even though we’re in such a happy industry, we do feel a customer service-style role, so it’s important to spot the red flags with potential clients.

I’ve never had anyone say “no,” but we did have an incident where the girl being proposed to was hiding because she was so anxious about public displays of affection. We told our client to give her time until she was comfortable coming back out and there were less people around. 

Another challenge is because historically 90% of our clients are male, they can be more “last minute” and don’t leave as much time for planning – so we have some very quick turnarounds. 

We’ve planned a proposal in just one day – but we typically don’t do that anymore, because it can be too stressful. We can plan it within one week’s time, but typically we prepare to plan one to two months in advance. 

Still, we have organized a few proposals for women clients, sometimes proposing to male partners and other times to women partners. 

For the most part, the proposals are a surprise and only one member of the couple is involved in the planning.

Jessica Rice Photography Newport Beach CA
Butterflies decorate a proposal in Newport Beach, California.

I had one request for a co-planning situation, and we didn’t do it because it didn’t seem on-point with what we want to do as a company. 

I know it sounds cliche, but I always say my favorite proposal is whichever one we’re currently working on, because each is  always new and different. Anything that’s really creative and fun to plan is right up my ally.

We’ve planned some really high-end proposals – some that we haven’t been able to share online due to privacy requests – but our most expensive was over $100,000. 

It was on a private island off of Charleston, South Carolina where the gentleman flew in over 30 members of his closest family and friends on a private jet. We did a full-blown engagement party afterward, so it was a “proposal meets engagement party” all-in-one experience. She was really surprised, and it was gorgeous – like something out of a Nicholas Sparks movie, complete with a private villa and a boardwalk right up to the beach. 

We also want to help relationships beyond proposals, and ensure these couples are staying connected in their relationship throughout. I love it when we get to plan events like vow renewals, and re-proposals which is when someone maybe didn’t get to plan a proposal the first time or wants a luxury re-do. 

It’s great to support couples who want to refresh and reset their intentions and commitment to one another. We had a really amazing one where the client was upgrading his wife’s wedding ring, so he decided to re-propose in St. Barth’s, which turned into a full-blown vow renewal. 

As a business owner, I’m always setting new goals. I’m very future-oriented and definitely want to expand the company. I’d say my ultimate goal is to become the No. 1 romantic event planning company in the US. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The elite’s favorite status symbols have become way more expensive over the past 20 years

wealthy person
The elite have turned towards investing in education and health as a means to flaunt their riches.

Showing off wealth is no longer the way to signify having wealth.

Flashing a Louis Vuitton handbag or a multimillion-dollar Bugatti have long been standard status symbols for the elite, but the ultrawealthy have increasingly turned to intangible investments such as security and health to discreetly flaunt their wealth instead. An unlikely reflection of this transformation is the recent history of inflation in the US economy.

Consider American Enterprise Institute’s famous inflation chart, which was once dubbed by Bloomberg as “The Chart of the Century” and has made the rounds on various media platforms throughout the years.

The latest iteration, featured below, shows 54.6% overall inflation over the last 21 years, which works out to an annualized compound growth rate of 2.2%, very close to the Federal Reserve’s stated inflation target.

But as you can see, some services and goods have become way more expensive than others.

AEI
Services have grown more likely to become more expensive over time than material goods.

 

Hospital services, college tuition, medical services, and housing have seen disproportionate upticks past the average 54.6% inflation. Their costs have outpaced the hike in average hourly wages, which have shot up by 82.5%, or 28% more than the average increase in consumer prices.

Meanwhile, consumer goods such as new cars, clothing, computer software, toys, and TVs have become more affordable.

In a nutshell, it seems that the cost of intangible services (with the notable exception of housing) has increased while the cost of material goods has decreased, mirroring the shift from conspicuous to inconspicuous consumption.

The rise of discreet wealth

Inconspicuous consumption is a growing trend among not only millionaires and billionaires, but “the aspirational class.”

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett coined the term in her 2017 book, “The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class,” as the opposite of “conspicuous consumption,” a term conceived by 19th-century economist Thorstein Veblen referring to the concept of using material items to signify social status.

In the US in particular, the top 1% have been spending less on material goods since 2007, Currid-Halkett wrote, citing data from the US Consumer Expenditure Survey. In an era where mass consumption means both the upper class and the middle class can own the same luxury brand, she explains, forgoing material goods for immaterial means is a way for the rich to differentiate themselves.

“This new elite cements its status through prizing knowledge and building cultural capital, not to mention the spending habits that go with it,” Currid-Halkett wrote, adding, “Eschewing an overt materialism, the rich are investing significantly more in education, retirement, and health – all of which are immaterial, yet cost many times more than any handbag a middle-income consumer might buy.”

That inconspicuous consumption often goes unnoticed by the middle class – but getting noticed by a fellow elite is the appeal of the discreet. Investing in things like education, health, and childcare – which have all become more expensive since 2000, per the AEI chart – “reproduces privilege” and “offers social mobility” in a way that flaunting luxury couldn’t, according to Currid-Halkett.

Discreet wealth is just one of many inflation factors

Now, this isn’t to say that discreet wealth is the sole cause of inflation in the US.

Mark Perry, the AEI economist behind the chart, notes in his blog post that economists have attributed several reasons to these trends: Price increases correlate with a greater degree of government involvement in a good or service (like health care) and prices decrease as the degree of international competition for goods increases (like toys).

Mass production has enabled manufactured goods to become more affordable. And college has become more expensive for many reasons, including increasing globalization, increases in financial aid, and ballooning student services.

But the fact that the inflation chart correlates with the rise in discreet wealth indicates the power of demand in driving up prices – and the spending power of the elite as wealth inequality worsens in developed economies.

The more the elite covet sending their kids to high-end preschools and Ivy League colleges, or spending millions to live within walking distance of the country’s best public elementary and secondary schools, or buying their kids boutique healthcare as a way to signify status, the more expensive those industries are going to become.

Call it discreet inflation. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

I help Hermès collectors buy and sell used Birkin bags. They’re almost impossible to get in stores, but I’ve sold nearly $2 million worth through eBay and online.

Hermes So Black 28cm Box Calf Feather Kelly Rigid.JPG
“It’s a handbag, a piece of art, and an investment all rolled into one,” says Caroline Bui, aka The Birkin Fairy.

  • Caroline Bui is the founder and owner of ‘The Birkin Fairy,’ a luxury consignment shop for Hermès products.
  • After working at Hermès for 12 years, she launched the online shop and has since sold nearly $2 million of used Hermès items. 
  • This is her story, as told to freelance writer Jenny Powers.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

It was 1984 when Hermès debuted The Birkin Bag, a handcrafted leather carryall featuring two sturdy top handles and a lock and key closure to ensure all of the bag’s contents remained inside the bag. At the time, the bag, named for British actress and singer Jane Birkin, retailed for approximately $2,000 to $3,000. 

The Birkin Bag would one day become the most sought after bag in the world, a status symbol creating legions of fans and spurring a years-long waiting list of eager buyers from around the globe willing to pay five to six figures for a single bag.

I’ve been interested in fashion since I was a child.

I spent many summers accompanying my grandmother to local garage sales. Born in 1920 and having survived the Great Depression, my grandmother was understandably frugal and recognized the value in good quality objects. 

Caroline Bui  Hermes
Bui holding Hermès bags.

We would sift through items in search of jewelry and pottery that she would later resell for a higher price at her own garage sale. She was an incredible salesperson, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, these experiences taught me the joy and exhilaration of the hunt which would later define my interest in collectible objects that retain or gain value. 

When I turned 17, I spent the summer living in New York City studying fashion illustration and draping at Parsons School of Design. Upon graduating high school, I went on to The Art Institute of Chicago where I earned a BFA while working in sales at Chicago’s newly opened Ralph Lauren store.

Diploma in hand, I returned to New York in 1999 taking on a series of fashion editorial-related jobs at Conde Nast rotating between Mademoiselle, Self, and Allure before moving on back to retail. 

I fell in love with the social component of fashion while working in retail.

While I became accustomed to being surrounded by luxury products, what really fueled my interest in fashion was engaging with customers and helping them find what they wanted. In 2001, I decided I wanted to return home to Chicago and so I requested a job transfer to the location where I’d initially worked.

The following year, I took a sales position at Hermès.

Back then there were only eight of us in the Chicago store, and we were each assigned an area of specialty. Mine was leather goods and scarves – not because I possessed any special knowledge in those areas, but simply because that was the section that needed to be filled at the time. 

As part of my training, I was invited to travel to Paris where I had the opportunity to meet with the craftsman, tour the distribution facilities, and pay a visit to the Hermès Museum, a venue exclusively reserved for staff and select guests. My new work aligned perfectly with my art history background and for me, every transaction was like selling a piece of art. 

Over the years, I assisted thousands of customers and sold countless Birkin Bags.

In fact, one of my longtime customers who was a collector referred to me as “The Birkin Fairy” or “Fairy” for short because my position allowed me to grant Hermès wishes.  

Everyone knows that getting your hands on a Birkin Bag of your own is no easy task. Demand surpasses supply. It takes 48 hours to handcraft a single bag and production is limited. 

Caroline Bui Hermes
A pile of boxed Hermès products in Bui’s home.

It’s almost impossible to be able to walk into a store and buy a Birkin off the shelf. You can put in a request for one, but no one knows how long you’ll be waiting. They’ve even placed a limit on how many Birkins a client may purchase each year. All of these factors have caused a thriving resale market.

Even after working at Hermès for 10 years, I had to get special permission from the powers that be to buy one for myself as a gift when my daughter was born in 2011. A few years later, I managed to acquire a second, less expensive one for $3,000 as part of an employee sale of handbags that do not pass the company’s quality standards and are therefore only offered to employees.

By 2013, I was a married mother of two and wanted to spend more time at home with my family.

In search of more flexibility, I began interviewing at other companies, but when a longstanding client asked if I could help her sell 20 pieces of her Hermès collection, I decided to go out on my own in a different direction.

In 2014, I set up shop from a tiny desk in my bedroom. I invested $2,000 to buy a domain name, build a website, and secure a few basic supplies before officially launching The Birkin Fairy, a secondary luxury marketplace selling pre-owned Hermès products.

The first bag I sold was an orange Birkin that at the time was nine years old. My client originally paid $6,600 for it in 2005, and it sold for $8,700 in 2014.

Hermes Orange 35cm Birkin in Epsom Leather with Gold Hardware. Caroline Bui
This orange bag is the first Birkin Bui sold as The Birkin Fairy.

To date, I’ve sold nearly $2 million of Hermes products online through my website and Ebay.  I sell all items on consignment, brokering transactions on behalf of my clients for a commission ranging anywhere from 18 to 30%. 

All my business is via word of mouth – I’ve never spent a dollar on customer acquisition.

I’m truly a one-woman operation from photographing products to acquiring and selling merchandise to shipping to social media, where I have over 81,000 organic Instagram followers.

Before COVID-19, I traveled across the country to meet with sellers, helping them do everything from evaluate their inventory and determine what they’d like to sell to help them authenticate, organize, and care for their items. One of my clients in Los Angeles wound up having $505,000 worth of Hermès handbags sitting in her closet and after reevaluating the contents, we ended up selling $50,000 worth of handbags and acquiring six new pieces for $98,000. 

My site has featured everything from a well-worn Birkin that sold for $8,000 to the $150,000 So Black feather Kelly Bag that I have up for sale right now, which is only one of two bags ever made.

While I have worked with some celebrities, most of my clients are just regular folks with amazing closets.

The resale market for Birkin Bags has always been robust.

This is because there is so much more inventory online and it’s readily available – for a price. The pandemic has driven more interested buyers online and helped grow my business due to inventory shortages, production delays, and store closures. 

One study from 2017 revealed that over 35 years, the value of Birkin bags rose 500%, with an annual increase of 14%. When you buy a Ferrari and drive it off the lot, it immediately loses value. When you take a Birkin Bag home, depending on how rare it is and how it’s maintained, it has the potential to increase in value. It’s a handbag, a piece of art, and an investment all rolled into one.

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PRESENTING: Inside the career rise of a 29-year-old private jet broker who manages celebrity clients like Diddy and the Kardashians

Kelvin Mensah
Kelvin Mensah.

Kelvin Mensah left his life in New York, where he’d worked retail and service jobs growing up, to move to Los Angeles in 2015. By 2019, Mensah had cofounded his own company, PJKev Approved LLC, and chartered more than 300 jets.

“My first time in LA, I remember going up to the hills and looking at all these mansions,” he told Insider. “That opened up my vision and mentality to how it’s possible to acquire these assets and build wealth for your family. I said, ‘If I could find a niche of close associates with a high-net-worth business, I could make a lot of money from a small percentage.'”

Mensah, 29, is now a luxury lifestyle specialist who arranges private flights for high-profile clients, like the Kardashians and soccer superstar Neymar Jr. By focusing on excellent customer service and fair prices, he’s established a client list of more than 300 people across industries like entertainment and sports.

Subscribe here to read our feature: A 29-year-old private jet broker reveals how he built a career in luxury lifestyle from the ground up and landed celebrity clients like Diddy and the Kardashians

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Meet ‘Bling Empire’s’ haute couture collector, who’s bringing wealthy Asian American Angelenos to Netflix

Christine Chiu
Christine Chiu.

  • Christine Chiu is a producer, philanthropist, collector of haute couture, and cofounder of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery, with her husband, Dr. Gabriel Chiu.
  • Chiu typically attends at least 30 fashion shows a year, and tries to buy something from each (haute couture can cost over $100,000).
  • Her lifestyle will be on display in her Netflix show, “Bling Empire,” which chronicles the lives of wealthy Asian Americans in LA.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

One day, Christine Chiu was speaking to a friend, telling her how much she loved an outfit she’d seen during a fashion show. It was a piece of haute couture, of course. Each one of those is unique, one-of-a-kind, and therefore can only be sold once. It’s also usually quite expensive. Chiu had to get her hands on it.

“I discovered later that [my friend] had changed her appointment time with the fashion house ahead of mine so that she could purchase it first,” Chiu told Insider. “I learned quickly that all is fair in love and couture.”

Not every company can say it makes haute couture. In France, it’s regulated by the Ministry of Industry, which chooses which brands are true emblems of the craft. 

Read more: Inside wealthy kids’ weird, pricey pandemic purchases, from $1,000 Patagonia fleeces to a $31.8 million T. rex

Chiu attended her first haute couture show at the age of 26 and remembers it clearly. She was bright-eyed and filled with excitement. “I was immediately transported to an era of ultimate luxury and refinement,” she said, “and fell in love with these museum-worthy pieces of wearable art.”

During the pandemic, Chiu said her methods for shopping haven’t changed, but her perception of what it means to responsibly consume luxury has. She said she found herself with a great incentive to spend money on brands that took a moral stance. 

For example, Chiu paid close attention when Burberry used its trench coat factories to make hospital gowns, and when Valentino and Balmain donated millions to the COVID-19 relief effort. She also watched to see how companies responded to the Black Lives Matter protests. 

There are rules to this haute couture game

A typical, non-pandemic year sees Chiu attending about 30 shows a year – or about 15 shows per fashion season. She usually buys something from each show and has amassed a collection that includes gowns, capes, accessories, and even shoes. 

Christine Chiu
Christine Chiu attends the ‘Stephane Rolland’ Paris Shows-Fall/Winter 2017-2018 show as part of Haute Couture Paris Fashion Week.

Pieces of couture can easily cost over $100,000 and Chiu said, without naming a price, that her most expensive pieces cost “more than the median cost of a home in the US.” That was more than $300,000 as of the summer of 2020. They cost “less than a Jeff Koons piece of work,” she clarified – the most recent of those just publicly sold for $91 million

A glimpse of her jet-set lifestyle can be seen on her new Netflix show “Bling Empire” which premiered on January 15. The show chronicles the lives of successful Asians and Asian Americans, from various cultural and professional backgrounds, living in Los Angeles. It will feature DJ Kim Lee, investor Kane Lim, and Jaime Xie, daughter of billionaire Fortinet founder Ken Xie.

Chiu is a producer on the show and told Insider that she wanted to show the journey of herself and her husband – with whom she founded Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery in 2006 – in balancing western expectations with eastern values and traditions. 

Chiu’s journey began in Taiwan, where she was born. (She moved to the United States when she was 5 years old.) Her husband, on the other hand, is from Hong Kong, and he came to the US at the age of 2.

“Bling Empire” will show the Chiu family as philanthropists, raising awareness for their favorite charities and organizations; as world voyagers living a jet-set life, and of course, in lots of couture. “It was an incredible experience full of laughter and tears for me,” Lee told Insider about her experience working on the show, adding that Chiu “definitely knows how to throw the best parties.”

Knowing how to throw a good party is a staple skill on the jet-set circuit. In fact, Chiu said one of the main reasons she buys haute couture is for events – weddings, red carpets, film festivals. That’s all changed with the pandemic, however. But let’s pretend, just for a moment, that it’s the year 2019. 

This would see Chiu in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Those are just the big named fashion cities, not including the trips that come in between. Each city has its own fashion houses, and each house – whether it’s Chanel, Givenchy, Armani, or Christian Dior – has its respective traditions, and desired protocols.

Christine Chiu
Christine Chiu attends the Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2019 2020 show as part of Paris Fashion Week.

Generally, Chiu said, the experience of buying haute couture starts like this: each house gives a presentation, commonly known as a fashion show. From there, the game begins.

Clients of haute couture have to be invited, as reported by The Wall Street Journal’s Christina Binkley, and they are usually introduced by someone who knows someone super well-connected to an haute couture house.

During fashion weeks, these invite-only individuals are allowed to book private appointments to get a second look at what was shown at the presentations. 

“Some houses would hire a model [to] ‘re-model’ the client’s selected pieces,” Chiu said. “While in other circumstances, the designer walk meets with clients to discuss [their] inspiration and make personal recommendations.”  

Once the potential buyer selects their favorite look, they can suggest further customizations to the outfit.

After a deposit is put down, the person waits six to 12 months for the piece to be produced.

During this time, there are at least two to three fittings to make sure the look is all coming together as desired, Chiu said. 

Read more: MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, gave away more than $4 billion over the last 4 months to help those affected economically by the pandemic

There are a few rules to the game, however. For one, it’s a faux pas to ask about price – or discounts, for that matter. And sometimes fashion houses will only sell one look per country. Chiu told Harper’s Bazaar that when she can’t get an outfit as an American, then she’ll try to buy a Taiwanese citizen, promising to only wear the outfit in that country.

Trying to buy haute couture with morals 

Before the pandemic, Chiu said she always tried to find a way to use fashion to highlight social justice causes. Even before the pandemic, she said she would request fashion houses to donate a percentage of her purchase to an organization they both support, which, she said, has led to contributions to further AIDS research, education, and increased access to medicine for impoverished communities.

Her Netflix show is also being used as a vehicle to highlight some of her favorite charities and organizations, she said. The show went into development in early 2018 and upon its premiere, became one of the few shows to have an all-Asian ensemble. Participants hail from various cultural backgrounds, including Vietnamese, Singaporean, and Korean.

Christine Chiu
Christine Chiu alongside her husband and her son.

Chiu said the original premise of the show had nothing to do with showcasing wealth; rather, it was primarily about revealing the cultural pressures, morals, values, and expectations Asians living in the United States are often confronted with. That doesn’t mean wealth won’t be on display, however, even if the scenes on-screen are much different than the reality Chiu finds herself living. 

Snuggled up in Los Angeles, there isn’t sweatpant couture, yet. Chiu said she’s buying sunglasses, bathing suits, sneakers, and exercise attire. She’ll be, probably on the couch, watching her show like the rest of us, sporting high-quality, sustainably sourced, comfort clothing.

“After all,” she said. “The thought of running through Erewhon [Market] in platform Louboutins, lugging a Himalayan Birkin is very much a thing of 2019.”

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The sneaker resale market exploded in 2020. These were the most expensive sneakers that sold on The RealReal this year, where some pairs went for up to $20,000.

Most expensive sneakers of 2020
The sneaker resale industry has continued to thrive amid a pandemic.

  • The sneaker industry thrived in 2020.
  • Hyped collaborations and a surge in demand for the Air Jordan brand helped keep the sneaker resale market hot.
  • Luxury consignment platform The RealReal shared a roundup of the most expensive sneakers to sell on the platform in 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

2020 was a fantastic year for sneakers, pandemic notwithstanding. 

While lockdowns and store closures initially hurt production, the industry quickly bounced back, thanks to a variety of factors that helped ignite demand for certain pairs.

Across all sneakers available on resale platforms, Air Jordan soared above the rest in 2020, in part, thanks to the launch of ESPN’s Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance.” 

Read more: In the ‘year of Jordan,’ GOAT CEO says demand for the retro sneakers has skyrocketed for reasons other than the ‘Last Dance’ documentary

Beyond Air Jordan, a slew of interesting new releases this year also fueled the hype.

The controversial Ben & Jerry’s-themed “Chunky Dunkys” and the Grateful Dead SBs are still fetching more than $1,100 and $700 on StockX, respectively.

Thus far, the $2 billion sneaker resale market has proven to be somewhat pandemic-proof. GOAT, a leading sneaker resale platform, saw a surge of new sellers joining the app at the start of pandemic. StockX, another leading sneaker resale platform, announced in a July report that it had surpassed 10 million lifetime sales and had its two biggest sales months ever during the months of May and June.

As 2020 draws to a close, Luxury consignment retailer The RealReal shared a roundup of the most expensive sneakers to sell on its platform in 2020. From the always popular “Back to the Future” themed Nikes to the Tom Sachs Mars Yard, here were the top sellers:

10. Nike Air Force 1 Low Scarr’s Pizza

Nike Air Force 1 Low Scarr’s Pizza

Sold for: $5,000

These sneakers were a result of a collaboration between Nike and Scarr’s Pizza, a New York City restaurant. The shoes were released for friends and family in August of 2019 and were inspired by the restaurant’s retro look. 

9. Nike SB Dunk Low “Reese Forbes Denim”

Nike SB Dunk Low 'Reese Forbes Denim' Sneakers

Sold for: $5,250

Released in 2002, this sneaker marked skateboarding legend Reese Forbes’ second Dunk collaboration. The denim-on-denim silhouette has made this pair iconic.

8. Nike x Tom Sachs Mars Yard Shoe 1.0

Nike x Tom Sachs Mars Yard Shoe 1.0 Sneakers

Sold for: $5,300

Designer Tom Sachs collaborated with Nike to launch this sneaker that was inspired by his experiences with NASA scientists. The sneaker initially launched in May of 2012 and was re-released in 2017.

7. Jordan 1 Retro Legends of Summer Red Glitter

Jordan 1 Retro Legends of Summer Red Glitter Sample Sneakers

Sold for: $6,500

These glittered sneakers launched during Justin Timberlake’s and Jay-Z’s fall 2013 “Legends of Summer” tour. At the time of the release, only a few pairs were given to fans.

6. Nike Air Force 1 Low G Dragon Peaceminusone Para Noise

Nike Air Force 1 Low G Dragon Peaceminusone Para Noise Sneakers

Sold for: $8,000

This low-top sneaker features a yellow leather Nike swoosh and daisy embroidery on the tongue.

5. Jordan 1 Retro Legends Of Summer

Jordan 1 Retro Legends Of Summer Sneakers

Sold for: $8,000

These limited edition Jordan 1s are were also from Justin Timberlake’s and Jay-Z’s fall 2013 “Legends of Summer” tour. This pair only surfaced on the resale market about a year after it dropped at the concert. 

4. Nike MAG “Back To The Future”

Nike MAG ‘Back To The Future’ Sneakers

Sold for: $9,995

The shoes inspired by the ones Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly wears in”Back to the Future Part II” was released in 2011. A product description on the Stadium Goods website describes the shoe as “perhaps the most sought-after sneaker of all time.”

3. Jordan 3/8 Retro ‘Kobe Bryant’ PE Pack

Jordan 3:8 Retro ‘Kobe Bryant’ PE Pack Sneakers

 Sold for: $11,875

The Jordan brand released these special-edition Jordans on February 14, 2016, to celebrate basketball legend Kobe Bryant. These sneakers are a tribute to Bryant’s 20 years in the NBA and feature the colors of the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to Amir Azarcon, The RealReal’s sneaker and streetwear expert, this limited edition pack became even more popular after the sudden death of Kobe Bryant in January.

2. Air Jordan 1 High OG Dior

Air Jordan 1 High OG Dior

Sold for: $16,500

Designer Kim Jones collaborated with the Jordan brand for this iconic Dior sneaker, which Azarcon described as the sneaker of the year. Launched in April of 2020, this pair represents a successful cross between sneaker culture and the luxury fashion space.

1. 2005 Parra x Nike Air Max 1 Hyperstrike Albert Heijn Amsterdam

2005 Parra x Nike Air Max 1 Hyperstrike Albert Heijn Amsterdam Sneakers

Price sold for: $20,000

These sneakers were one of two pairs designed by Dutch artist Pieter Jansen (Parra Patta) that were inspired by his hometown of Amsterdam. The colors on this pair represent Albert Heijn, a Dutch supermarket chain.

“This is one of the most coveted Air Max’s in the world, and this pair sold in less than 24 hours on our site,” said Azarcon.

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

From Rolex to Audemars Piguet: The 11 best watch investments for aspiring collectors

Rolex GMT
A Rolex GMT, Reference 1675.

  • Buying luxury watches is an investment — both for your style and your finances
  • Although new watches are nice, vintage watches are the ones that almost dominate the watch sector.
  • Secondhand watches are also very popular. A 2018 Bain report found the secondhand market to be worth nearly $25 billion, with watches and jewelry making up over 80% of all secondhand market purchases.
  • And some watches, such as Rolexes and Patek Philippe, have the potential to resell for thousands more than their purchase price. 
  • Business Insider spoke to three watch experts to see which they recommend to those looking to start (or expand) their watch portfolios and they recommended 11 stand-outs. The list includes both new and secondhand watches. 
  • The watches include a Royal Oak Jumbo Audemars Piguet, which goes for about $27,600, as well as a Patek Philippe Nautilus that can go for nearly $45,000.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Drake owns a Richard Mille worth $750,000. Justin Bieber has an Audemars Piguet worth $50,000. And Jay-Z has a Patek Philippe worth at least $2.2 million

They’re watches, of course. 

High-net-worth-individuals have been buying high-end watches for years, but the trend has accelerated along with so much other spending at the upper end during the pandemic.

For example, the Sotheby’s Important Watches live auction concluded Tuesday and brought in $10.4 million – a 27% increase from last year – with a Patek Philippe Ref 2499 retailed by Tiffany & Co. selling for $818,600. A Cartier Ecran Mystery Clock went for $564,500, while a Rare Salmon Dial Audemars Piguet Royal Oak sold for $441,000. 

New watches can be very pricey and collectible, but vintage watches are the ones that almost dominate the watch sector. In fact, secondhand watch sellers are almost as popular as the auction houses that sell blue-chip artwork, and the websites that resell Birkin and Chanel bags

According to Deloitte’s 2019 “Global Powers of Luxury Goods” report, the average annual sales made by the top 32 watch and jewelry companies topped $2 billion in 2017, but a 2018 Bain report stated that the secondhand market was worth nearly $25 billion, with watches and jewelry making up over 80% of all secondhand market purchases. 

As for where to look in secondhand? There are certain stand-out names.

“Brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet are controlled by families and not investors,” Tim Stracke, CEO of the watch resale site Chrono24, told Business Insider earlier this year. “They have limited their supply for more than a century. They have a super long-term view and they value brand reputation higher than short term profits. This will very likely prevail for future generations and keep the value of their watches up.”

Business Insider spoke with three watch experts to find out which watches are the best to invest in, and which ones they would recommend to those looking to start (or expand) their watch portfolios. The list includes both new and secondhand watches. Keep reading to find out the 11 stand-out watches they recommend. 

Business Insider spoke with three watch experts to see which watches they would recommend for those looking to invest.

Bob's Watches Couch Rolex $250,000

The experts Business Insider spoke to all recommended the same brands: Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. These brands, in addition to Richard Milles, are synonymous with luxury in the watch world and make for a good long-term investment.

Tim Stracke, the CEO of Chrono24, a platform that allows customers to buy and sell pre-owned watches, told Business Insider that these top watch brands are known for their quality and craftsmanship, and are not produced en masse. 

“They are not available in unlimited numbers,” Stracke told Business Insider. “That’s why the demand is rising and prices remain stable or even grow.”

Audemars Piguet: Royal Oak Jumbo, Reference 15202ST

Audemars Piguet   Royal Oak Stahl

Retail Price Estimate: $27,600

Stracke told Business Insider that historically, “steel sports models from iconic brands” are usually the ones that out-perform the global stock indexes. 

One of his top picks is the Audemars Piguet: Royal Oak Jumbo, Reference 15202ST, pictured above. 

Patek Philippe: Steel Nautilus, Reference 5711

Patek Philippe   Nautilus Stahl

Retail Price Estimate: $74,796

He also recommends the Patek Philippe: Steel Nautilus, Reference 5711. And said that mechanical watches such as this “hit the ‘zeitgeist.'”

“They are a counterpoint to the ever-growing digitalization of our everyday life and remind us of the beauty of true craftsmanship,” he said. “Certain watch models are more sought after than others, which is mainly due to the brand reputation of the Swiss brands in terms of their craftsmanship.” 

Omega Speedmaster “First Omega in Space”

Omega   Speedmaster First in Space

Retail Price Estimate: $5,300

Another watch he recommends is the Omega Speedmaster “First Omega in Space” which he said is a “hidden champion” in watches. He also pointed to the fact that, over the last three years, this watch model has increased in value at a steady 10%. 

“[It’s] a great version of the legendary Moonwatch at a more affordable price point,” he said. 

Rolex: GMT, Reference 1675

Rolex GMT

Retail Price Estimate: $16,000 

Paul Altieri, CEO of Bob’s Watches, has similar recommendations for those looking to invest in watches, and one of his favorites is the Rolex GMT, Reference 1675.

“I always encourage folks to buy what they love and not what will end up being the ‘best investment’,” he told Business Insider. “Historically speaking, Rolex has done fantastically well appreciating in value in the past few decades. And they are — for the most part — affordable luxury.”

Rolex: Daytona, Reference 16520

Rolex Daytona

Retail Price Estimate: $27,500

Another one of his favorites is the Rolex Daytona, Reference 16520. 

“I am partial to the Rolex Submariner, Daytona, and GMT models,” Altieri continued. “You really can’t go wrong here, whether it’s a new model, pre-owned, or vintage.  As long as it’s an original honest example.” 

Rolex: Submariner, Reference 16800

Rolex Submariner reference 16800

Retail Price Estimate: $9,195

He is also a huge fan of the Rolex Submariner, Reference 16800. He pointed out that all of the three Rolex sports models — the Submariner, Daytona, and GMT, have increased substantially in demand over the past few years, as demand is what typically drives valuations. 

“They have all proven to be great investments over time,” he finished. 

Patek Philippe: Nautilus, Reference 3800

Patek Phillipe Nautilus
Patek Philippe Nautilus, circa 1978, in stainless steel. The Nautilus is arguably the most famous of Gerald Genta’s designs and adorned by collectors, new and old.

Retail Price Estimate: $44,900

Adam Golden, CEO of Menta Watches, also said it was best to stick with “blue chip” watches, such as the ones previously mentioned, and said he loves the Patek Philippe: Nautilus, Reference 3800, pictured above. 

“Patek Phillippe Nautilus, circa 1978, in stainless steel,” he said. “The Nautilus is arguably the most famous of Gerald Genta’s designs and adorned by collectors, new and old.”

Longines Vintage Chronograph, circa 1940-1950s

Longines chronograph
Incredibly rare Longines chronograph, circa 1940-1950s, powered by their important Cal. 13ZN movement

Retail Price Estimate: $3,000

However, he does say that it might be worth looking at other watches, like the Longines Chronograph from the 1940-1950s, as a good possible investment. 

“If you want to swerve off the beaten path, find models within “other” brands that have large cult followings,” Golden said. “For example, Longines chronographs from the 1930-1960s with Caliber 13ZN or 30CH movements — they have a rabid fanbase and will always be desirable, albeit to a smaller audience.”

Omega Speedmaster, Reference 2998-2

Reference 2998 2 Omega Speedmaster,
Reference 2998-2 Omega Speedmaster, which is one of the earliest Speedmasters produced by Omega, and one of the only references to use the famous “lollipop” chronograph hand. Early Speedmasters, such as this example, are grails amongst collectors, and finding well-preserved examples has become exceedingly difficult.

Retail Price Estimate: $37,500

Like Stracke, Golden is also a huge fan of the Omega Speedmaster series and recommends Reference 2298-2.

“It’s one of the only references to use the famous ‘lollipop’ chronograph hand,” he said about the watch. “Early Speedmasters, such as this example, are grails amongst collectors, and finding well-preserved examples has become exceedingly difficult.” 

Audemars Piguet: Royal Oak, Reference 5402

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Reference 5402, circa 1970s. Designed by Gerald Genta, the Royal Oak is the focal point and main attraction for the legendary watchmaker, and these first execution models have soared in popularity – finding a nice example has become harder and harder. This particular example is a first-series, or “A” series, meaning it was the very first batch of production, of only allegedly two thousand were produced.

Retail Price Estimate: $124,660

Another model Golden recommends is Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, Reference 5402, circa the 1970s, and designed by Gerald Genta. 

“The Royal Oak is the focal point and main attraction for the legendary watchmaker and these first execution models have soared in popularity,” Golden told Business Insider. “This particular example is a first-series, or “A” series, meaning it was the very first batch of production, of only allegedly two thousand were produced.”

Rolex: Gilt-dial Submariner, Reference 5513

Gilt dial Rolex Submariner
Gilt-dial Rolex Submariner, Ref. 5513, circa 1966. This dial variant is nicknamed the “Bart Simpson” due to the similar appearance of the coronet on the dial to the famous character’s head.

Retail Price Estimate: $28,500

Finally, Golden is a big fan of the Rolex Gilt-dial Submariner, Reference 5513. This model, he said, has been nicknamed the “Bart Simpson” because its coronet on the dial is similar to the famous character’s head.   

“Whenever I have someone ask me ‘what is the best watch to buy for investment purposes,’ my answer is usually the same — watches should, as a whole, not be treated as investments — they should be worn and enjoyed, as intended,” Golden said. “However, if you want to “protect” your purchases and asset, make sure you do your homework, and buy a watch in good condition, and as original as possible.” 

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