08/2023

The rising of watch prices is a challenging phenomenon in 2023 with an endless discussion going on. Most brand managers project that the demand driving prices upwards will further increase, especially in the luxury range, and the industry best days are ahead. Profoundly such statements help the customers to buy overpriced watches expecting that they will not lose their value, and the watches are treated as a commodity. The other side of the coin indicates that overpriced products and services is a sign of potential crisis in economy, simply because it is a waste of resources. This is theory, in practice there are two hot questions for the watch industry. First, what is the room left in the safe boxes of the affluent-ignorant consumers? Second, what is the time needed for the affluent-ignorant consumers to become aficionados? The luxury watch industry lives in a dream, with some interesting statistics…

I examine the price rising (in euro) for representative models of 8 brands, 4 Swiss coming from the luxury range and 4 coming from the high range, including 2 German companies. The checking period is 18 years from 2005 until today in 2023, with the average inflation rate being 0.6% for Switzerland and 2.0% for Germany. Providing that 2% average annual increase is an acceptable rate for both countries, theoretically and considering only the general inflation, the list prices in 2023 should be 43% higher than the list prices in 2005. The watch market however has its own rules…

Bring the Coca and Let the f…g party begin!

ROLEX SUBMARINER DATE 16610 was listed in 2005 for 5,000, and today the respective ref.126610(LN) has a list price 10,000 meaning 100% increase. There is a new caliber and upgrades, but still the watch is overpriced. Usually, It is not available in the brand stores, but in the “gray market” with indicative prices between circa 12,000 and 18,000 euro. The day I checked one of the biggest online platforms, there were 578 watches available worldwide! This is neither healthy nor “big business”… This is pure sickness!

OMEGA SPEEDMASTER PRO “MOONWATCH” HW was listed in 2005 for 3,000, and today’s version with co-axial escapement has a list price 8,900 meaning 230% increase! Perhaps I am too romantic, but the co-axial escapement and the silicon hairspring do not suit this timepiece and this movement (there are other automatic models instead), plus technically they do not justify the price difference. No further comment!

IWC PILOT MARK XV was listed in 2005 for 2,800, and today’s respective model MARK XX has a list price 5,600 meaning 100% increase.

BREITLING SUPEROCEAN/AVENGER DIVERS were listed in 2005 for less than 2,000, and today’s models are listed for 4,000-5,000 meaning at least 100-150% increase.

This repeated rate of 100% is a coincidence outcome in the luxury range, without any kind of manipulation. Checking prices in general, especially in the hyper luxury segment, it might be a moderate figure. Numbers certainly improve further down in the high range brands selected.

TAG HEUER AQUARACER QUARTZ was listed in 2005 for 1,300, and today’s respective solar quartz model has a list price 2,300 meaning 77% increase.

MAURICE LACROIX MASTERPIECE SKELETON was listed in 2005 for 3,300, and the respective model today has a list price 6,000 meaning 82% increase. More affordable lines like Pontos are subjected to even higher rates.

SINN 856S was listed in 2005 for 1,600, and today has a list price 2,600 meaning 63% increase.

HANHART HERITAGE PILOT CHRONOGRAPHS commit an exception to the rule since the list prices of most references remain in the same level after 18 years (around 2,000-2,500) probably because the production conditions of this brand have improved today, or just prices were too high back then.

Considering any particular and potential micro-economic conditions in the watch industry, during the last 18 years, one should allow for increases up to 50-60% at most. The numbers above prove that luxury watches today are overpriced, and per case their prices are characterized ridiculous!

Finally, a last statement about overpricing. One should easily insist that Submariner is not overpriced against Fifty Fathoms or Speedmaster is not overpriced against Daytona. If we bring in the discussion Richard Mille and Casio G-Shock, we could re-invent the wheel and re-discover the fire! The only meaningful comparison for any product is with itself and its evolution in time regarding its quality and historical status. In mechanical horology, what matters is preservation, not progress. If I can, I prefer paying 50,000 euro to a watchmaker who keeps the artistry alive, instead of paying 10,000 euro to a watchmaker that sells nonsense things. This does not imply that independent watchmakers do no sell BS products. As much as I dislike overpricing in the mainstream segment, the same I dislike an independent watchmaker introducing his work at 5,000-10,000 euro, and selling the same watch for 20,000-30,000 euro after two years. The bottom line is that overpricing in horology is very relevant and one needs to distinguish the limits between creation and manipulation before any decision making.

GS