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Why it's a buy: With proper care, a good mechanical watch -- the kind that needs to be wound -- lasts virtually forever. (Not so the typical quartz.) Buy used, and you can save 20% or more off the retail price.

Plus, the downturn has pushed prices on secondhand watches about 20% lower than they were at the end of 2008, according to Antiquorum, an auction house. The pre-owned watches at right-- a 1990s Rolex, a 1950s Longines, and a 1940s Hamilton -- are now selling for $1,000 to $2,000 apiece, a few hundred dollars less than before the recession.

The strategy: Buy from a respected maker, such as Rolex or Longines, and you'll probably be able to sell it for as much as or more than you paid for it, says John DiDonato, owner of, a vintage-watch retailer. To ensure that it holds its value, get it cleaned and oiled every three to five years.

Protect yourself: To avoid getting stuck with a fake, buy only from authorized dealers listed on the brands' Web sites or secondhand shops that offer warranties and returns (see