Horologically speaking, looking back over the past 12 months on WatchingHorology, clearly the watch world continues to grow in leaps and bounds even with the dampening effect of the last half of the year with the global financial crisis. I even read a report online that there has been an exponential growth in the number of watch blogs in 2008.
My personal highlights of 2008 was my two page article in Business Times featuring my images; the launch of the Hour Glass U1 All Black (aka U-Stealth) which I had a small hand in designing; and the consolidation of my collection as well as acquiring one of my long time grail watch - the IWC Portuguese Jubilee.
As predicted, brands resisted releasing multi-tourbillons and super complications and returned to the roots of solid and basic watchmaking. While the top brands continued its strength in complications - going so far as to include tourbillons in sports watches, some brands like IWC re-released their Vintage Collection of simple three handed watches.
The watch industry was not spared of controversies and bad news - the collapse of Peacemark; the financial demise of a few small brands in Switzerland; and the heist of nearly S$8million worth of watches in Singapore. With the financial squeeze globally most markets are seeing a drastic reduction in demand for luxury timepieces. Brands and retailers are hurting and now bracing themselves for an even leaner year ahead. My sources inform me that retailers will be much more circumspect in ordering watches this year at Geneve SIHH and Basel 2009. Even the number of delegates being sent by retailers to these annual events will be dramatically reduced.
Maybe its about time after all, the luxury watch industry had seen unprecedented growth in the past 15 years. I believe that it will take a long time before we see the upturn cycle of the luxury watch market. For serious collectors, this would mean prices will probably come down for most brands. Especially for the overpriced fashion brands.
My horological predictions for 2009 - is that more brands will either re-release some of their more successful historical pieces with today's materials and workmanship or push out more modest models to cater for the tight market. In addition, brands will realise that they need to remain competitive in a downturn market and to keep the interest of customers, probably have an overall restructure of their pricing strategy to bring the customer back. In times of austerity, extravagance is often its first victim. I believe the fancy designs and use of fancy materials will become less popular in 2009 as these often are the basis for the increase in cost of production.
I also believe smart collectors will be watching the pre-owned market like hawks to grab watches at fire sale prices - and I am sure there will be many to be had.
I hope to see the watch bubble burst in 2009. Economically speaking, its long in coming and needs to happen to bring some sense of reality back to the industry in the manner and speed of price inflation. With the continued escalation of prices, yet growing use of China made parts to reduce cost of production and luxury houses continuing its double digit revenue growth, I hope to see the return to honest prices reflecting honest brands - making honest Swiss or German watches. The global financial crisis I expect, would be the catalyst for change.
Whatever happens, I hope that 2009 has in store a wealth of opportunities for WH readers.