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Pandemic and the Watch Market

It is a safe bet that some version of the thought "where is this all heading?" enters everyone's mind at least once or twice a day as we muddle through this pandemic.  Perhaps it is indulgent to ask this question of the luxury watch market.  But an important part of getting through this moment is holding onto the things you care about.  Based upon my Instagram feed the #watchfam's passion has no doubt persisted.  I know I've been keen to gather some evidence about the path forward when it comes to the watch industry.

So on Saturday, March 20, I tuned in online, late, to the Antiquorum auction in Geneva of 270+ lots in order to get some sense of where we stand.  I live streamed the auction on YouTube and you can find it here.  A screenshot of the Antiquorum live stream As in so many things right now there was both good news and bad news.  I will lead with the good news since often that is easy to overlook.  The preowned market is still functioning, particularly i…
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Chapter 3: Brands in the Preowned Market

An evolving trend in luxury watches involves brands taking an active role in the preowned market.  I first wrote about this topic last year when Audemars Piguet received attention for its plan to buy back its preowned watches and resell them, perhaps as an upgrade to a new watch purchase.  I shared reasons to believe that this might not be viable in the long-run.

Chapter 2 of this story unfolded in Melbourne, Australia late last year.  Vacheron Constantin recently opened a boutique in Melbourne.  Soon after that opening, timepieces from the brand's "Les Collectionneurs" effort were available for purchase
"Les collectionneurs d'estampes" by HonorĂ© Daumier Vacheron is actively buying preowned timepieces, refurbishing them, and selling them back to the community.  Regrettably there is some opacity when it comes to the sourcing and pricing of these pieces.

This week WatchPro provides us with chapter 3 of the story.  Independent brand Meccaniche Veloci (MV) i…

Lessons from the Artcurial "Important Watches" Auction

There are many contradictions in the month of January.  There are reasons for optimism.  In the northern hemisphere we've passed the winter equinox and our hours of daylight are lengthening.  The world is literally getting brighter.  Many major holidays have passed and the warm glow of that time has a halo effect.  And yet, there is also the knowledge that tax season is ahead and a bill with uncertain properties may come due.  The additional holiday spending can possibly weigh on the budget, out of precaution perhaps spending is slightly subdued.

The month's positive zeitgeist might suggest that it is a good time to hold an auction, particularly in the more mild climate of Monaco.  Monaco Indeed, the Artcurial auction house did just that on January 14, 2020 with their "Important Watches" auction.  But the results suggest that the more negative aspects of the month perhaps dominated.  I'll explain.

Online I was able to watch approximately 105 lots go under the ham…

Watchspotting Carlos Ghosan: Then and Now

Even if you swore off the news over the holidays, trading in your smartphone for a burner flip phone and cutting off your internet service at the telephone pole, you probably heard about Carlos Ghosn going on the lam.  Ghosn had previously served as the CEO of Renault and Nissan, simultaneously, and he was a giant in the automotive industry.  But he'd recently fallen from grace.  Ghosn was out on a $4.5 million bail having been jailed by Japanese authorities for almost four months as a result of alleged financial crimes.  After his bail was set Gosn was placed under house arrest. But on December 29, 2019, he walked out of his house, took a high speed train, boarded a private airplane, and ended up in Lebanon where he hopes to evade extradition. 

The press is covering this escape in excruciating detail, including a running debate over whether Ghosn hid in an oversized case for musical equipment in order to evade customs and security checkpoints.  Media have also noted that there i…

ETA Until No ETA?

In 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations.  It is perhaps surprising that it took six decades from the founding of the UN for Switzerland to join.  But Swiss adherence to political neutrality is now more than two centuries old, a doctrine which is no doubt difficult to follow amidst the coalition-building and lobbying that takes place in the UN.  The track record of avoiding international conflict for more than a century, though, is a testament to Swiss dedication to neutrality.

Apparently, for some in the watch industry, avoidance of conflict ends at the border.  Also in 2002, Nicolas Hayek, the then-CEO of the Swatch Group, announced that his company would no longer supply mechanical movements to other manufacturers.
Nicolas Hayek For years the Swatch subsidiary ETA  - Manufacture Horlogère Suisse had supplied its movements to a wide array of other watch brands.  From a business perspective this product line made little sense, Swatch was essentially enabling oth…

The Luxury Watch Ban Hammer

Word is beginning to spread that buyers of certain luxury steel sports watches have unwittingly entered into a sacred pact with certain brands.  The pact is this: if you are eventually selected off an unimaginably long wait list you may buy a watch that isn't supplied in great enough numbers.  But you may not sell it.  If you do, you will be prohibited from buying that brand again.  The brand will drop the ban hammer.

In an article published Nov 24, 2019 in GQ an anonymous author states that after having quickly sold his Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5167 for a tidy profit, "Patek Philippe knows that it is not [his] anymore. They found out and [he is] not sure how.  [His] name could be potentially circulated among other Patek ADs, [he is] told. The AD (who [he] had a great relationship with) will no longer offer [him] 'hard to buy watches'."

And from Watchpro we have: "people that do manage to buy an investment-grade watch and flip it for a profit are being hunted …

Update: Certified Preowned Vintage

A short post about an emergent service from brands: the certified preowned vintage watch.  In a prior article I discussed the plan by Audemar Piguet to purchase preowned watches, refurbish and refresh them, and sell them through their chain of boutiques.  When I wrote my prior article the idea was basically "blue sky" in the watch industry and I shared some skepticism that it would succeed.

Well, we now have another data point to consider.  Vacheron Constantin has launched a certified preowned service.  They chose to do so in Melbourne, Australia and we can tip our hat to the folks at Time and Tide Watches for their outstanding coverage of the launch.  Vacheron is calling this service "Les Collectionneurs" or "The Collectors" (I think, I don't really speak French), you can see the official descsription here.  And it appears that this first tranche of nine timepieces, refurbished and accompanied by a new two year warranty, has been something of a succe…