The Rise of Hype Watches – and What It Means for You
This week we tried to organise a visit to the Audemars Piguet Townhouse in London to have a look at the new range of Royal Oak watches and were told that there wasn’t a free appointment at any time in February. It may seem odd to new collectors, but you often can’t walk into a boutique and buy the watch you want. This is because some watches have become so hyped-up that they are unobtainable.
You may have heard of some of those watches: Rolex Daytona, Patek Philippe Nautilus, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Vacheron Constantin Overseas... The list goes on, growing as more and more watches become nearly impossible to buy new.
The rumour is that to buy a Nautilus, you have to buy at least 5 complicated watches from Patek Philippe before they even consider selling you a Nautilus. The cheapest complicated watch Patek sell is £30,000. Even then, you’ll likely have to wait for many years to be allocated a Nautilus by the brand, or one of the retailers. Because it’s so difficult to buy The Nautilus, and any of the “hype” watches, they are sold on the second-hand market for a huge mark-up to their new price.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Vacheron Constantin Overseas
Patek Philippe Nautilus
Why The Hype?
There are a variety of reasons, but it is usually down to a combination of some of the reasons below.
The first is fashion. Many of these watches are popular because they are fashionable. They are fashionable for all sorts of reasons, such as: design, price, covet-ability. The rise of social media has driven this. It is now incredibly easy to see watches on your phone that 5 years ago were almost totally unknown, and with a bigger audience to see these watches, there is a bigger audience to buy these watches.
The second is scarcity. There is much more demand for these watches than can be met by supply. Luxury watches are built in factories by very skilled watch makers. The only way a watch brand can make more watches is to build more factories, which are very expensive, or train new watch makers, which takes many years. Because demand is greater than supply prices go up.
The third is price itself. Some watches have become Veblen goods. This is a term used in economics to highlight when demand for something increases because it is an expensive item. Because prices are going up, watches are increasingly being seen as an investment by some people, which increases demand, which increases prices, which increases demand. You can see how mania can quickly grip the watch industry.
Richard Mille RM027-01 - worn by Rafa Nadal. Picture courtesy of Italian Watch Spotter
The Ultimate Hype Watch – Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 – Tiffany 170th Anniversary Edition
The hype surrounding the Patek Philippe Nautilus in particular has recently come to a head. The brand discontinued its most popular Nautilus model, the Ref: 5711. Prices for second-hand Ref: 5711s went through the roof, and they now cost ten-times the price they did new.
However, shortly after discontinuing the model, Patek announced that there would in fact be one final run of the watch, sold exclusively through its biggest US distributor, Tiffany & Co. 170 watches would be made to celebrate the 170 year partnership between the two brands, they would have Tiffany Blue dials and all of them would be allocated by Tiffany to their best clients, most of whom will have spent millions of dollars at Tiffany. However, one watch would be held back and auctioned for charity. This watch sold at auction for $6.5m, and there is a great article here to walk through the drama surrounding the auction. What is so ridiculous about this price, is that the watch was sold to the 169 people allocated one by Tiffany for $50k. This story is the ultimate reflection of the hype that surrounds certain models, and reading the backlash against Patek Philippe for getting swept up in the hype by releasing this model has been fascinating.
Patek Philippe 5711 - 170th Anniversary Tiffany & Co Edition
What Does This Mean For You?
There is a good chance that if you are looking at buying a luxury watch in the next few years, that you might be interested in buying a watch that because of hype, is not going to be possible for you to buy new from a dealer, at retail price. For example, you might want to buy a standard Rolex Submariner. You almost certainly won’t be able to get one from a Rolex dealer, because every Rolex sports model is now a hype watch.
Bremont Martin Baker Savannah. Martin Baker are the world's largest supplier of ejector seats
Zenith El Primero Chronometer Sport. The El Primero movement is very famous, and used to power the Rolex Daytona
However, whilst most buyers are focusing on the hype watches, they are ignoring the rest of the watch world. Which is huge, varied, and full of interesting brands and models to explore. At The Watch Collectors’ Club, we are here to help you explore all that the watch world has to offer. We can teach you about high-quality vintage watches from Universal Geneve and Omega, the great stories and collaborations between Bremont and the British armed forces, Tag Heuer’s racing pedigree, and the incredible value offered by Seiko and G-Shock. Whilst everyone else is coveting what they can’t have, we can help you find more interesting watches whatever your budget.
The best way to do this is to come to one of our in-person or virtual events. The next in-person event is 10th February, you can sign-up here. If you can’t attend in-person, we are holding a virtual event on 13th February, you can sign-up here. We are building a community of watch lovers, and communities are always more fun if they are big. To help us, please invite your friends, and share this article with anyone you know who loves watches.