I first made a casual survey with my collector friends just this week about their impressions of this year's new releases at BASEL/SIHH - making sure first what my own personal views are of the offerings.
While the impressions varied quite a fair bit as to what caught their eye and fancy, what truly surprised me was how many had said the single and strongest impression was how prices have escalated beyond reason. I believe as many other better heeled collectors do, that brands have miscalculated the buyer's elasticity to price increases. I think the rubber of the ballon has reached it maximum capacity and any time now, it will pop.
Just look at this thread I started to guage the sentiments from collectors online (CLICK HERE
One glaring sample of the excesses of brand's expectation is the Harry Winston Opus 8 that is listed at US$350,000 (see image on the right). A watch that is mechanical in form but digital in function.
To me there is an unreal level of brazen disregard as to the intelligence of collectors/buyers. While I do not fault the brand for wanting to push the boundaries of its R&D, I most definitely find that price somewhat disconnect from the realities of the real world.
I suspect that brands today cannot resist selling new watches at ridiculous prices because buyers from the new wealthy in Russia and China are just buying them like loaves of bread soaking up all the high priced pieces.
I have a premonition that if this continues for much longer, many if not most of the top 25 top watch companies and conglomerates will become target of corporate takeovers by the Russians and Chinese. At the very least, targetting the supply chain of the brands that includes part, case, dial manufacturers etc. If brands continue to use 'this is just a business' excuse, they certainly cannot cry foul when business comes kicking on their door to buy away all the Swiss brands.
Clearly more immediate changes can be seen in the way collectors are behaving online, complaints of price escalation and declaration of cutting back their purchasing behaviour. I think a period of austerity will flow over the Swiss watch industry - at least from cities and countries of established collectors. Will such behaviour influence the buying fever of new collectors from Russia and China?
Image by Valentin Blank
Valentin Blank, watch collector, connoisseur and moderator of the Purist.com photography forum filed a fantastic report on his visit to Haldimann's watch workshop. Highly recommended reading for those interested in Haldimann's work on tourbillons and for the sheer joy of the photographs captured by Valentin.
for the full story.
Thanks JX for the news. With the growing strength and success of Hublot its not a surprise that it would become a target for a takeover by one of the big watch conglomerates. However its a surprise for me knowing what JC Biver - the CEO of Hublot said about how he created and wanted for the Hublot brand.
I wait in anticipation how this merger/takeover bears out for both Hublot and Mr Biver himself. I wonder in the stable of LVMH brands where it would stand.- HT
Many brands have turned to vintage watches for inspiration, but one overlooked watch launched this year is the Longines Istituto Idrografico R. Marina Watch, a handsome chronograph based on a Longines made for the Italian navy in the late 1930s. Click here
to find out more about this watch.
Update: TimeWerke has kindly provided me with a live photo of this watch, click here
to see it.
- SJX SJX @ PuristSPro.com (remove spaces)
ChannelNewsAsia reported that Vacheron Constantin will be using banknote printing technology to thwart counterfeiting of their watches. VC believes that these techniques are so complex and expensive that they will guarantee against all attempts at counterfeiting. This includes laser engraving, micro text metallisation and security film.
VC is probably the most successful brand in China right now and they should spare no effort in securing their brand's exclusivity against counterfeiters. It remains to be seen if these measures affects the quality of their designs.
Rolex just announced its new Sea Dweller replacement - the Sea Dweller Deepsea which is rated to a depth of 3900 meters! This is for me, over engineering to the extreme. Not that its deep sea capability is a poor achievement - on the contrary - but whether there is in fact any need for a watch to achieve such a depth rating.
The new watch retains most of the design cues of the previous Sea Dweller but has all the incremental improvements first seen in the GMT II Ceramic Bezel. This watch will be taller and slightly larger than its predecessor. What is completely new is its new Guidelock clasp which will allow the user to adjust the size of the bracelet in 1.8mm increments.
I am impressed by the engineering achievements of this watch but aesthetically, while its handsome and manly, I am perturbed by the large text "ORIGINAL GAS ESCAPE VALVE" and "RING LOCK SYSTEM" just under the rotating bezel. Both of which would have been better placed on the back of watch. In my opinion, less is more.
For more information on this watch, visit Rolex.com.
Image courtesy of Rolex (Press Kit)
Image courtesy of Zenith
Hot on the tails of IWC releasing its new Vintage Collection which was reported earlier, Zenith is also releasing a "New Vintage 1955" shown here.
Oddly enough, it makes me wonder about how relevant the reporter from International Herald Tribune who asked the question as to whether there will be more brands releasing remakes of old watches and whether its reflection of lack of imagination or is it really an effort to honour the great watches of yesteryear.
But notwithstanding that its a remake, this model is indeed handsome and classical in spirit.
This year IWC will be releasing their new Vintage Collection watches which will have six watches each representing the icon of the current ranges. From the Aquatimer to the Portofino. For more information of these watches, visit any of the forums such as IWC.com, Purists.com and Timezone and you will find a large following of collectors discussing about these new yet to arrive watches.
The International Herald Tribune is one newspaper that reported about this new range but hints at the important issue - are brands running out of ideas hence going back to their old designs? Interestingly Su Jia Xian was asked this question and he gave his interpid viewpoints. To find out what he said, visit this IHT Webpage
Above: Speake-Marin Vintage Tourbillon Mk 2 in rose gold, limited edition of 25 pieces
Peter shares with us his thoughts on his new collection, English watchmaking, and more. Click here to read the interview.