When people who love watches come together, there’s always a discussion going on. If it’s about a new design, a certain material that has been used or a development within the industry; there’s never a shortage on subjects to discuss. Yesterday, I had a similar situation with my colleague and friend Kees Baars. Not very uncommon, not very special either – but it got me thinking ‘I want to write another story about a subject that keeps me up at night’. To be honest, I sleep like a beauty, but I have to make it a bit dramatic in order for you to be excited for what’s coming.
We were talking about the Social Media blitzkrieg on Hublot and the fact that a lot of watch heads have a mixed feeling for the brand. Things like ‘too many limited editions’ and ‘not really a good brand compared to the competition’ were said and I would want to sincerely apologize to mister Guadelupe for that. However, it kept me busy. After all, we know this limited edition craziness doesn’t only affect Hublot. There are much more brands who create limited editions that aren’t so limited at all.
At this point, you have to realize you’re reading an article found under the ‘Writer’s Opinion’ category. With that being said, I want to explicitly tell you to read for the fun and your own interest and not take my opinion as one that’s holy. I’m not afraid you would do that, but just a reminder. Anyhow, back to the purpose of why I’m writing this article. If you’re a collector and reading this, you’ll probably understand what I mean. Collectors nowadays really collect special watches. Certain watches are very rare and if you find them with box and papers, you should thank god on your knees for that. Now, a collector could collect any sort of watch, if you like your vintage divers or you’re just a Swatch lover, anything is possible. However, there’s a big difference with the collectors as we see them nowadays and the collectors we’ll see in a year or 20.
The industry has always grown on a basis of demand. The consumers wanted a certain watch, the brands made it possible. For special occasions, a limited edition could be made. Brands decided to do this, but it was still all – limited. Then there were the watches worn by celebrities and watches that made trips to outer space. All of these things made a watch popular in demand. The big difference is, there were but a handful of these timepieces at the moment of production and now – several years later – these pieces are very rare and unique. Things that are characteristic for a long sought after watch and give the watch its value.
If we take this particular situation, and place it on top of the industry nowadays, there’s a big difference. You see, watches can be seen as some kind of investment, but the value of a piece will only incline if that piece becomes rare. If a Rolex Daytona of an Omega Seamaster is produced by the thousands, no way that watch will ever become rare or sought after. That’s the biggest difference with watches nowadays and watches back in the day. To make this whole process a bit more difficult, brands decide to produce limited editions for each and every occasion other than having a cup of coffee with your mom.
It’s is like hoping for the best and pushing it towards the edges of what’s accepted by the customer. ‘Let’s bring out a new watch with a red bezel inlay instead of a white one and call it a Limited Edition’. I bet that will be worth millions years from now.. I started this article with an example of Hublot, but we can seek it near the biggest event this summer too. What about the Omega Seamaster 300 ‘Rio 2016’ Limited edition? First of all, give Omega a gold medal for the name. Second of all, take it back because of the fact they decided to produce 3016 pieces while it’s 2016 – stupid move. No, all jokes aside, this is exactly what is happening in the industry right now. It’s not that I’m bashing on a brand because of the brand, it’s because of the fact that brands decide they can decide the value of a watch when it becomes 10 years old. Giving each and almost every watch piece a special edition so ‘it will be valuable in time’.
You cannot push your luck. A timepiece has to become rare and limited over time and because of a certain purpose it served. It is no option to create a sparkling new watch and call it limited only because it is produced in limited numbers – not even being that limited at all. It’s a huge change in the way people collect and buy their watch and overtime, brands will realize that this way of marketing has a bad influence on their future.
In my opinion a watch can be as limited as the market makes it. However, brands do not own the right to create a limited edition, not because they can’t, but because they have a very wrong perception of ‘limited’. This becomes a problem as the years go by and it’s a thing that really influences the industry – in a negative way.