Eric Brahms of Greenwich, Connecticut is the President of Mae Capital, a hard money lender, and watch dealer. Mae Capital is an expert in a range of financial services, such as residential real estate bridge loans, private collateralized loans, and the acquisition of commodities, luxury timepieces, and precious stones. Brahms is a self-taught expert on vintage watches who has spent more than 20 years learning the subtleties of well-known companies like Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Rolex. He is regarded as an authority in the sector because of his vast experience in the vintage watch market, which has sharpened his expertise in authenticity and valuation.

Due to his proficiency with many Rolex Paul Newman RCO Daytona’s, Brahms has become well-known for his ability to obtain and certify rare timepieces. In the vintage watch market, his ability to adjust to the needs of investors and collectors has made him a trusted dealer. He protects the integrity of every watch through painstaking authentication procedures, guaranteeing collectors authentic and immaculate watches.

What initially drew you to the world of vintage watches, and how did you begin your career in this field?

I got my first Rolex when I graduated High School, but I first got bit by the bug in 2000 when I purchased a Rolex Gilt 1675 GMT for $6400. I sold it 3 months later for $12,000 and realized that a nearly 100% return on investment in 90 days wasn’t possible in any other financial vehicle I was aware of. So, I scaled it up and began buying and selling watches full time making better returns on my money than the stock market or real estate.

When discussing the vintage watch market, what trends have you observed recently, particularly regarding investment and collectability?

As has been the case for the last 30 years, the Rolex Stainless Daytona is still the king of the hill when it comes to immediate profit. A $15,000 MSRP watch still gets $33,000 on the secondary market in 2024. All the top brands like Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Phillipe are now available on the secondary market for less than if you were to buy it directly from the dealer. Again, there are a handful of models that still command huge premiums by all manufacturers, but 95% of what is being offered for sale can be purchased for less on the secondary market now.

Rolex Paul Newman Daytona watches are iconic within the vintage market. What distinguishes these watches from other collectible timepieces?

What makes the Paul Newman so iconic primarily is the fact they no longer make it. Anything that is discontinued has the potential to become exceptionally desirable, but first and foremost it’s a Daytona. The original Paul Newman dials have a unique art deco font and uncluttered simple layout. It has this allure because it’s been worn by movie stars, billionaires, athletes and powerful men for over 50 years.

Could you share insight into the very first moment you handled a Rolex Paul Newman? How significant is it for a vintage watch expert to meet such masterpieces?

Ask any vintage watch collector or dealer what is the one watch that always makes their heart skip a beat and they will all say a Daytona of some iteration. I never get tired of looking at or handling Paul Newman’s as they come in yellow gold, black dials, white dials, metal bezels, bakelite bezels and then they all patina a little differently on the metal and the dials… every one is a bit different, but each one is a masterpiece.

In the context of vintage Rolex watches, you’ve mentioned specific authentication criteria. Can you explain these features and how they affect a watch’s value and authenticity?

The amount of knowledge required to accurately authenticate a vintage Rolex takes years of research and knowledge. Literally, there are probably 100 points of interest on any single watch and knowing what dial, bezel, pusher and movement configuration differs on every single watch every single year. Running changes are made constantly and knowing the correct pushers on a watch from 1970 will not be the same as the pushers on a 1973 (for example) are nuances that can only be understood after handling hundreds of watches. A service bezel can reduce a stainless steel Daytona’s value by $10,000 and on a gold watch $20,000 over its original counterpart. So if you can’t tell the difference between the service part or original part, then you can’t make an accurate assessment of a watch’s value or originality.

There seems to be a rich narrative behind every vintage watch. How important is provenance, and what kind of history adds the most value to a timepiece?

Provenance can only add value to a watch, but in the end a flawless original watch usually commands a premium over a poorer example with provenance. Again, it depends on the provenance. Paul Newman’s actual Paul Newman Daytona sold for 17 million at auction and the watch itself was a very poor example. I wouldn’t have paid more than $100,000 for that watch if it was offered to me by a collector or dealer, but when it belonged to Paul Newman himself, the provenance trumped everything else. If a watch was owned by a President or major movie star, then the condition of the actual watch is secondary to its owner. Marlon Brando’s Rolex GMT was actually missing the entire bezel assembly and sold for over 5 million dollars. Had it not been owned by Marlon Brando, the watch was probably worth $9000.

In preserving horological treasures, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and how do you ensure these timepieces maintain their integrity?

This is the biggest challenge in preservation and restoration. Knowing when to leave a watch alone and how aggressively you go with the restoration. This is a judgment call and for me I re-cut a case when it’s rounded, but still thick. When it’s over polished and thin then you have no choice but to become aggressive and have the case laser welded and completely refinished. I prefer to do nothing, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to find watches that need no work at all.

With a focus on not just watches but also other luxury commodities, how does one establish expertise in such varied collectible markets?

If you want to be an expert in anything it takes time, trial and error, research and educating yourself on what it is you want to be an expert in. It’s the same for watches as it is for baseball cards, diamonds, modern art or even ballpoint pens. If that’s what you love then start reading books and dipping your toes in the small stuff before you jump into the big items and deep water. Slow and steady wins the race.

You have made a mark with your approach to investing in fine watches and precious stones. What advice would you offer someone who aims to blend passion and investment strategy like him?

The one common trait that all successful dealers in any market have is that they know their commodity. Every watch dealer is a watch collector. Every art dealer is an art collector. Most dealers have transitioned from being collectors into being dealers and making a living out of a hobby or passion. If you love watches, then it’s easy selling them because your passion will be clearly apparent by any collector who is looking to procure pieces for their collection.

Lastly, for our audience who might be taking their first steps into collecting vintage watches, could you share a piece of advice on how to start building a valuable collection?

As self-serving as this may sound, it’s the best advice I can offer; Speak to a reputable dealer and ask them all the questions you can think of. There is absolutely no way a layman is going to find an investment grade timepiece on their own. If they are fortunate enough to have one fall into their hands by some miracle, they will have no idea what parts are genuine, service or aftermarket or how to determine if a dial has been refinished or relumed or is just incorrect for the year of production. If you don’t know what you’re handling then you have no way of determining value or originality.  Get into a relationship with a good dealer and they will do all the heavy lifting, all you have to do is write the check.


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