Back in March, the prodigal son returned. John Mayer returned to the Hodinkee universe, joining Ben Clymer for Talking Watches 2 to show off some 20 watches (mostly Rolex Daytonas) from his collection. See our analysis on how much each piece is worth here.
The video was a follow up to the first-ever Talking Watches, which John Mayer joined Hodinkee for way back in 2013. Like many others, this simple eight-minute video has had a profound impact on my life (some may consider this statement depressing). I was a senior in college when this video was released, still thought John Mayer dropped bangers, and had always had a passing interest in watches. But this video made me feel like it was okay to go deep. And so I did.
Like we did for this year’s Talking Watches 2, we’re going to take a look at the watches Mayer put on display for his original Talking Watches, and see what they’re worth. We’re talking present-day values here. Note that around the same time, Mayer also wrote a little piece for Hodinkee recommending “5 vintage Rolex for under $8,000”. I also tracked the value of those pieces, and it turns out Mayer made some pretty astute recommendations, as some of the watches have more than doubled in value over the last five years. That’s the case with some of the watches you’ll see below as well.
Click here to see our overview of John Mayer’s collection from Talking Watches 2.
Need more Mayer? Read here for Mayer’s “5 Best Vintage Rolex Picks for Under $8,000.”
Patek 5164A (Travel Time Aquanaut)
In Talking Watches 2, Mayer had this Patek on his wrist. It was also his go-to back in 2013, as he led off with this piece and said this was the watch that typically accompanied him on stage. The MSRP is $34,020 for a standard 5164A From Patek. John’s is a Tiffany Dial, so is likely worth at least 15-20% more. Let’s just round up to an even $40,000. John describes this as his go-to when he “just wants to wear a watch.”
“Look closer; look closer still.” — one of the classic lines from this video.
Rolex GMT-Master II Reference 116710 BLNR (Batman)
Sure, the introduction of the Batman on a Jubilee bracelet has gotten a ton of attention in 2019. But let’s not forget the original Batman on an Oyster bracelet, released back in 2013. Mayer had an immediate appreciation for the watch, saying it was competing for wrist time with the Aquanaut above. As a modern, but now discontinued model, there are plenty of examples available around the internet. For example, noted pre-owned Rolex dealer Bob’s Watches has a number of examples priced at $15,000.
“The best contemporary modern watch that Rolex makes.”
IWC Big Pilot Reference 5002
From the family of watches that made Kanye speechless. This is a big watch — about 46mm — but it’s supposed to be that way. Mayer says he loved wearing it on stage because of how easy it was to quickly glance down and pick up the time. A modern tool watch indeed. While now discontinued, this is still a contemporary watch that is readily available on the secondary market, for prices in the range of $8,000 to$9,000.
“You take it off to go to bed — and it’s a clock!”
IWC Aquatimer Original Cousteau Diver’s Watch
This Cousteau Diver’s watch is just cool. With a vibrant blue dial, it’s the perfect summer or vacation watch. It’s not the most expensive or rare watch John shows off, though it is difficult to find nowadays. I’ve seen collectors on forums offer this piece for around $5,000.
“It doesn’t represent going to dinner and having everyone say, ‘ooo what’s that.’ That’s when you’re really having fun as a collector.”
Rolex Submariner Reference 1680 Comex
An extremely rare Submariner made for diving company Comex. As the story goes, the Reference 1680 was not retro-fitted with a helium escape valve, so was not rated to go as deep as the human divers would go. As such, these watches were worn by the office and desk workers. It’s very difficult to find a Reference 1680 stamped “Comex” at 6 o’clock, but we’ve seen examples of the Reference 5513 and 5514, as well as the more modern Reference 16800 all come up for auction in the past few years. The 5513 or 5514 can hammer for prices in the $100,000 range, while the Ref. 16800 sell for a more modest $50,000.
“This is a watch that if you wore to dinner, it’d be invisible unless someone knew what it is.”
Rolex Reference 5513/5517 MilSub
Fixed spring bars, satin case finish, “T” dial, sword hands, continuously graded bezel. The unique superlatives of the MilSub write themselves, and while everyone knows the watch, it’s also extremely rare. It sounds like Mayer has one of the rare “double reference” examples, produced following Rolex's decision to issue a new reference specifically for the MilSub. The military reference was to be the Reference 5517, but Rolex, not wanting to waste any Reference 5513 cases, used these already-stamped ref. 5513 case backs for a short transitional period before all watch parts were stamped Ref. 5517. As few as 1200 MilSubs in total are thought to have been manufactured by Rolex, with an estimated 180 still in circulation. This double-stamped transitional example is surely a small subset of that number.
Mayer showed off a crispy example, worthy of the slight orgasm Clymer had when Mayer pulled this one out. Phillips had a Ref. 5513/5517 up for auction with an estimate of $100,000 to $200,000 back in 2017, but it never sold. A double-stamped example sold for more than $200,00 in Hong Kong in 2016.
Meanwhile, non-double stamped Reference 5513 MilSubs routinely hammer in the $150,00 to $200,000 range (for example, here and here), so it’s safe to say a double-stamped version would reach at least the high end of that estimate.
“You can wear it and hit a door jamb with it and you’d be fine.”
Rolex Daytona Reference 6263
Next, Mayer shows off a reverse panda, non-Paul Newman. He says there's nothing special or unique about this piece, it’s just a great, serially produced watch. Listen, I get where he’s coming from, but this is a cool ass watch. It’s perhaps the epitome of what conjures when someone says “Rolex Daytona”. Screw-down pushers, Valjoux 72 movement, black tachy bezel, Oyster bracelet — it’s just classic. You can probably walk into any auction this fall and come home with this watch, but it’ll cost you for a good, clean example. But, if the Paul Newman Daytonas steal the show that day, you might come home with a relative deal. See some auctioned examples here and here.
“It’s not unique, it’s not special, it’s just great.”
Patek Reference 5970G Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
The Patek Phillipe Reference 5970 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph has been replaced by the Reference 5270, but the prior reference is still worthy of attention. Produced for only 7 years, this was the last Patek perpetual calendar to use a Lemania-based movement; the current 5970 has an entirely in-house caliber. Mayer shows off a white gold version here, which is starting to pop up more frequently at auction as collectors begin to recognize the value of this modern classic. One sold at Phillips for $160,000 just last year.
“As good as it gets, and by the way, as good as it may ever get.”
That gets us to eight watches from John’s original Talking Watches episode. In addition to the 20 he showed in his most recent episode, John’s shown 27 different watches (he showed the Patek Aquanaut Travel Time in both episodes). We know he’s got some others in the vault somewhere, so for now we’ll have to look forward to a Talking Watches 3 in another five years.
The estimated value of John’s collection from the first Talking Watches is a mere $669,000, or about a tenth of the value of the watches he showed off in Talking Watches 2. More than anything, this shows how vintage watch collecting has exploded in the past five years. Not only have John’s pieces risen in value (sometimes exponentially), but John also showed off some more modest pieces back in 2013. The first Talking Watches was almost a justification for watch collecting. John and Hodinkee were still trying to invite people into the hobby, showing them it’s more accessible and cool than you may think. By 2019, Mayer basically said “fuck it, here’s my Daytonas.” But, he continued to show taste and class.
And of course, John signs off of Talking Watches 1 with a few memorable quotes, saying that watch collecting “is not as materialistic as people may think.” Before adding the clincher: “Yes, it’s excessive, but there’s an excessiveness to ambition as well.”