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Does Watch Design Innovation Require Shortages and Waitlists?

I was on a recent Clubhouse chat which, nominally, was about today's Tag Heuer X Hodinkee release. To set the stage, these collaborators announced the Carrera 'Dato' Limited Edition For HODINKEE reference CBK221D.FC6479. The watch was available in a limited run of 250 examples and priced at $7,250. My use of past tense is not an error. The watch promptly sold out in three minutes and I'm sure, any day now, we'll see how much the flippers profit from the shortage on the secondary market.

A prominant collector and artist was in the Clubhouse room and expressed the sentiment that, while reissues are obviously well-received by the market, the lack of design innovation is disappointing. I see his point and agree with it. There is a flourishing space of design innovation among a certain class of brands. Most notably, independent brands and microbrands are arguably at the forefront of design innovation.

We also see design innovation among established brands such as Rolex, with the recent rainbow of stella-inspired OP dials, as well as Audemars Piguet, with the Code 11.59.
Archeological evidence that the 5711 waiting list began in ancient Greece. JK, Muse reading a scroll
What empowers established brands to make bold design moves?

I've previously discussed the idea that risk management motivates a lot of what we see in the watch industry. If you are a CEO, and you're looking at rolling out a bold new design, I'd imagine you lose some meaningful amount of sleep asking yourself, "what happens if this is a dog?" Actually, you probably don't lose any sleep if you have a network of ADs and a "flagship unobtainium" reference, such as the Submariner or the Royal Oak.
The watch CEO's secret formula for empowering creatives and getting a good night's rest.
The reason is this: the waitlist for that kind of reference allows you to force the hand of collectors. Authorized Dealers can simply move undesireable designs by essentially bundling the dog with unobtainium. Do you want the hottest reference? Then you need to buy a reference that we thought would sell, but really didn't.

In essence, if you have a waitlist, you're walking the design tightrope with a very big and robust safety net.

It is very important to note that, to my knowledge, eCommerce does not offer this safety net. Suppose that Tag had rolled out the Carrera 'Dato' LE through its AD network and it had been in equally short supply. The ADs could have built the waitlists. This would, no doubt, have been reassuring in the event that the other major recent release from Tag Heuer, the reference CBN2A1F.BA0643 Chronograph Special Edition with Porsche, does not sell through. There are earlier indicators this might be the case: we're 18 days from release and the "Add To Cart" button is still live. Imagine the other branch of the multiverse in which ADs could say "Do you want the Carrera 'Dato'? Well let's get the Porsche Special Edition in your watchbox first."*

In conclusion, I'm not going to claim either version of reality is more preferable, I'd just like to point it out. I'd also like to point out a few corollaries to the "waitlist-as-design hedge" idea.
A nice hedge that has nothing to do with risk.
First, if more eCommerce means fewer wait lists, then we may end up seeing stagnation in design. The safety nets will be increasingly scarce. Second, these observations mean that Thierry Stern's decision to eliminate the Nautilus reference 5711 is even ballsier than is commonly understood. The guy is throwing away his own safety net and we know he's walking the design tightrope (he's hinted as such). In fact, the elimination of the 5711 has a silver lining for buyers. They will not face pressure to buy a reference simply as a gateway to that unobtainium.

*I've learned that Tag Heuer may have reserved half of the Carrera 'Dato' Limited Edition For HODINKEE timepieces for their own boutiques, which means they may, in fact, plan to bundle the Porsche LE with Carrera 'Dato.'

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