Two trends that are not necessarily new have been seriously amplified in recent times. One is the “Lemming” collector, the other is the “Collab” watch.
The first is pretty clear. At the high-end or at more affordable price points, many watch buyers are almost afraid to miss their chance at acquiring the current hot watch. Whether a luxurious and hard-to-acquire SKU from one of the big names or a run on a particular micro-brand, the watch collector crowd seems to be in full-on bandwagon mode in recent years.
FOMO drives not only active and engaged watch enthusiasts but also acts as a magnet to the investment crowd – who may or may not even like the design of the particular monetary device.
Let’s be honest, this is how a lot of buyers view a fine timepiece.
Both types of lemmings drive prices artificially high and promote these hard to buy watches to a Grail/Unicorn status that only exacerbates the rampant pricing. The last buyers in line buy at ridiculously inflated prices and may not have much room left for the price to spike. But they do get bragging rights of owning a watch that they know others covet. Paying too much for it is almost a totem of their status.
This is when the heavy hitters with more ego and money than sense keep the unicorn express running full speed ahead. Sooner or later prices inevitably settle on the majority of these watches, whether through satiating the market (which Rolex and Patek NEVER want to do) with enough product, or when the bottom falls out as the house of cards collapses.
New Patek Philippe Nautilus, Ref. 5811-1G-001.
The other trend, collaboration watches, is just screaming ahead at full speed.
Historically a retailer might partner with a watch brand for a special dial or simply have their logo stamped on a traditional model. Occasionally other entities (COMEX comes to mind) that purchased a larger batch of watches were granted the space on the dial by Rolex or others for their logo to reside.
In today’s watch market, hardly a week goes by when I don’t see a press release for some new joint effort in watches. Whether a musician, designer, graffiti artist, skateboarder, surfer, free climber, or even (yuck) an influencer that no one has heard of but has a “huge” following, it seems that every other press release I receive includes some kind of partnership beyond the watch.
I can’t wait for the hot new green dials of the new Pickle Ball watch sponsorship by brand “X.”
While some of these make sense and are natural combinations, others scream desperation. Desperation to attract an audience via the collaborator, desperation to take an aging design and breathe new life into it, desperation not to be left behind (see lemmings) in the new era of collabs, and desperation to remain relevant in an ever more crowded field of wristwatch options.
This article first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2022 edition of International Wristwatch.