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Is Shortage a Justifiable Motive for a Watch’s Excessive Value Tag?


Picture: A. Lange & Söhne

Disruptions to produce brought on by the pandemic have exacerbated an present manufacturing problem, which was beforehand dominated by spurious complaints about manufacturers artificially limiting manufacturing. We are saying spurious right here as a result of manufacturers do deliberately restrict provide, oftentimes primarily based on their means to do the type of watchmaking they need, and to handle high quality. Rolex, to make use of the instance of the most important maker of watches above CHF3,000, takes a few yr to make one watch, begin to end. That is based on unbiased estimates from a wide range of commerce publications, boards, Quora and Watchfinder.com. In any case, this illustration could be scaled all the way down to work with manufacturers that make considerably fewer watches. Hold it in thoughts when you think about the manufacturing data from the manufacturers.

A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus
Picture: A. Lange & Söhne

Take the instance of A. Lange & Söhne, whose Odysseus mannequin is among the most sought-after within the luxurious sports activities watch class; it bought for nearly thrice its retail value at a Phillips public sale in New York in 2020. The model continues to emphasize that it produces roughly 5,000 watches yearly, and doesn’t intend to go far past that. That is even supposing the Odysseus mannequin solely debuted on the tail-end of 2019.

Piaget Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Ultra-Thin
Picture: Piaget

The Glashutte agency has been saying one thing like this for greater than 5 years, and probably so long as 10 years. Fellow Richemont model Piaget has likewise been saying its manufacturing ranges for watches stay at 20,000 items yearly since 2008. These sorts of numbers would possibly seem to be smokescreens, however we must always at all times do not forget that up to date watchmakers favor to maintain their manufacturing at optimum ranges, slightly than going for optimum outcomes. This combines with the very fact all manufacturers — together with Rolex — typically launch clunkers or simply fashions that may finally be retired. When whole collections such because the Audemars Piguet Millenary are retired (no less than in a typical gent’s model), the ensuing capability is just assigned to different collections.

Talking of retired collections or fashions, these are the really uncommon watches on the market. These will rarely be current in massive numbers on social media, reselling platforms or brick and mortar shops. In any case, no matter is discontinued can’t be present in shops model new, apart from no matter inventory stays unsold, and types will in all probability act to purchase these again to guard their model worth. We’ve got talked about this earlier and can illustrate the purpose additional with some official statements and quotes. Prematurely of that, we are going to take a stand right here and counsel that if shortage is the marker you belief finest to determine worth, then no matter fashions you don’t see on the market are really scarce. That is sensible from the angle of Rolex shops with out something to purchase… Or is that this only a signal that some watches are so in style that watchmakers are having a troublesome time assembly demand? Certainly, we expect that excited watch patrons are complicated recognition for shortage.

Picture: Zenith

All that is nicely and good, and represents a cursory examination with some random proof which may seem like tailor-made to suit our argument. For the avoidance of doubt, this phase contains all public data and statements from the manufacturers on present market circumstances. We start with probably the most well-known of all official phrases, from the unlikeliest sources: Rolex.

“The shortage of our merchandise will not be a method on our half. Our present manufacturing can not meet the present demand in an exhaustive manner, no less than not with out decreasing the standard of our watches — one thing we refuse to do as the standard of our merchandise must not ever be compromised. This stage of excellence requires time, and as now we have at all times finished, we are going to proceed to take the required time to make sure that all our watches not solely adjust to our requirements of excellence, but in addition meet the expectations of our prospects when it comes to high quality, reliability and robustness. Rolex doesn’t compromise on what it takes to supply distinctive watches.”

“All Rolex watches are developed and produced in-house at our 4 websites in Switzerland. They’re assembled by hand, with excessive care, to satisfy the model’s distinctive and high-quality requirements of high quality, efficiency and aesthetics. Understandably, this naturally restricts our manufacturing capacities — which we proceed to extend as a lot as potential and at all times based on our high quality standards.”

“Lastly, it must be famous that Rolex watches can be found solely from official retailers, who independently handle the allocation of watches to prospects.”

That was the official Rolex line to Yahoo Finance, and it was picked up by each watch specialist, from Hodinkee to WatchPro, with some further silliness that appeared to be only for the enjoyable of getting the Geneva agency to open up. The above assertion although does a bang-up of telling us all what we already know, albeit in phrases that we will depend on as canon. Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Swatch Group manufacturers can all say totally different variations of the identical factor (minus the bit in regards to the retailers, as a result of Rolex is the one one to rely exclusives on authorised sellers, with out brand-run boutiques).

Picture: Patek Philippe

Subsequent up was Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern, who gave a variety of vital interviews in 2020 and final yr, primarily on the topics of shortage, manufacturing on the manufacture and, in fact, the Patek Philippe Ref. 5711/1A.

On the brand new manufacture constructing and manufacturing: “Right this moment, the constructing is simply too large for us however tomorrow, we are going to want it. My youngsters, in the event that they need to develop the corporate, they’ll want it… If we speak about amount, perhaps we are going to enhance by 1-2 per cent (over the course of years) so we want the area for that too. Even with our present manufacturing, now we have to anticipate all these watches to return to us for servicing, in order that’s another excuse I made a decision on this sort of growth.”

The above is a quote from an interview we printed in problem #59. Patek Philippe makes roughly 60,000 watches yearly, and the agency won’t be working at full capability within the new constructing within the rapid future. Even with out the pandemic within the combine, the concept is to scale manufacturing up regularly. Sustainably even.

On discontinuing Ref. 5711/1A-010 (as instructed to the New York Instances in February final yr): “We’re doing this for our shoppers who already personal a Patek Philippe and to guard our model from turning into too industrial. I can proceed to make this implausible product, or promote 10 instances extra of them. However I’m not working for numbers. I’m defending the corporate for the long run, for my youngsters.”

“This is a chance to show a lesson to my youngsters, who’re the primary ones to say, ‘Dad, are you loopy?’ They need to study, simply as my father taught me: When you could have a implausible model like Patek, it’s important to defend the model and never only one product.”

And at last, the assertion Patek Philippe itself launched confirming the tip for Ref. 5711/1A-010, edited right here for relevance: “We seize this chance to reiterate that the precedence for Patek Philippe is to not generate short-term revenue, however to concentrate on creating a wide range of new fashions that present distinctive high quality whereas preserving the worth of our prospects’ present timepieces…we are going to preserve a steadiness in our collections with out specializing in one particular product.” We printed this assertion in full in problem #60.

Picture: Audemars Piquet

As that New York Instances article talked about, apart from Rolex and Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet additionally has one mannequin particularly (non-vintage) that is still a “wrist-power,” object. That is in fact the Royal Oak reference 15202ST, which was additionally just lately discontinued and changed with reference 16202ST, itself a restricted proposition for the fiftieth anniversary of the watch this yr. There’ll solely be 1,000 fashions of reference 16202ST with the fiftieth anniversary rotor on the model new calibre 7121, identical to the Sequence A run of the Royal Oak in 1972. After all, a manufacturing run of 1,000 fashions in 1972 is sort of totally different to that very same quantity at the moment, however Audemars Piguet has to guard the worth of all present watches in its secure, in addition to all classic propositions as nicely. CEO Francois Henry Benahmias mentioned as a lot when introducing the complete new vary of Audemars Piguet watches this yr.

In response to our problem to the concept of defending desirability when it feeds the rapacious flipper mentality, the jocular CEO mentioned the next: “We reside in a free world…it’s a free market. Who’re we to find out what folks do with our watches? If somebody buys a watch from us and desires to promote it, who’re we to cease him? Having mentioned that, if somebody buys a Royal Oak from us, sells it on, and comes again to attempt to purchase the identical watch from us once more the week after, perhaps now we have a unique viewpoint…”

We take Benahmias’ phrases to imply that collectors can’t be prevented from shopping for and promoting no matter they need, which is just logical and affordable. The secondary market (pre-owned and gray market) is estimated to be no less than an order of magnitude bigger than the first market (EuropaStar, circa 2020) so shutting it down is actually impractical. However, opportunists who see fast earnings in iconic wristwatches must be resisted, if for no different motive than self-preservation.

Benahmias and Friedman went on to clarify that if Audemars Piguet wished to make extra Royal Oak watches, the agency must make much less of one thing else. Different manufactures have made the identical level, as now we have referenced earlier, and mixed with long run development methods, all which means we can not simply have extra provide of 1 or two sorts of watches. Patek Philippe must allocate greater than 30 per cent of its sources to make extra metal watches, and Stern has repeatedly mentioned he doesn’t favour this. It appears logical that Rolex, to make use of a a lot bigger manufacturing enterprise as a counterpoint, would likewise not be involved in rising the quantity of its enterprise in metal watches, if it had to take action on the expense of its treasured metallic watchmaking.

Picture: Audemars Piquet

Maybe if the enterprise in treasured metals grows on the identical tempo, we could but see extra metal watches too, nonetheless unlikely it could be that two very totally different segments would expertise the identical scale of development. For the second, the need for extra of at the moment’s in style fashions should come from the secondary market. That is in fact the rationale sure older fashions acquire in worth over time, once they might need misplaced a great chunk of the retail worth to start with.


To correctly conclude right here, there are many manufacturers creating comparable watches at the moment, chasing the insatiable need for symbolic assertion watches, such because the Royal Oak and the Nautilus, and dive watches. We’ve got already seen the Parmigiani Tonda PF on one finish, and the Tissot PRX on the opposite. This yr to date, the Zenith Defy Skyline is making a play for a similar wrist-space. Little question Watches & Wonders will present us much more dive watches at a wide range of value factors, and loads of luxurious metal sports activities watches.

And now we have not even mentioned the heavily-marketed Bvlgari Octo Finissimo and its half right here. Head over to the most well-liked reselling platforms and see how lots of the present watches now we have talked about on this article (minus the obvious ones) can be found, and at what value. If numbers are actually your factor, you will note that shortage doesn’t at all times equal eye-watering value tags.

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