Five Things I Want To See From The Watch Industry In 2011

Five Things I Want To See From The Watch Industry In 2011

Five Things I Want To See From The Watch Industry In 2011 ABTW Editors' Lists

While people struggled to make lists of what their favorite pieces of 2010 were, I started thinking about the future. Sure, 2010 saw its share of really great pieces, but I think there is a lot we can look forward to. For me, I think 2010 did a great job at offering pretty good sub $10,000 watches. Few new movements, less tourbillons, and less glam. Instead, we saw more innovation in materials, as well as "keeping it simple." I was also surprised at the number of new brands. Good watches in the $2,000 - $4,000 range were certainly present, but I wanted to see much, much more of them. The economy seems to be improving a bit, and China is quickly becoming the new mecca for luxury watch dollars.  Here are my top five things I want to see from the watch industry in 2011:

1. Sober Pricing

With more and more brands selling direct, the cost of business goes down as middlemen go away. This should allow watch prices to go down (a lot in theory). I would like to see watch brands offer better value propositions so that more people can afford "good watches." The high-end market will of course always be there. I feel that brands should focus on offering more decent watches to the 20-35 year old range who is going from either no watch or something very low-end to a nice watch, but can't jump straight to a $10,000 watch.

2. Getting Real With Real Media

I was dismayed back earlier this year when I got the highly acclaimed "Watch Your Time" supplement to the New York Times. The full-color supplement was on watches, and presented articles from some of our industry's most renowned print writers. On the cover of the supplement was the term "Special Advertising Section" (or maybe it was "advertorial"). That little statement on the cover told the whole story, or more or less told anyone that what is on the inside is paid-for-copy. Where is the beef people?

While I understand that high-end watches don't always make for a newsworthy stories, the industry can get more coverage when it is a bit more open. Dedicated watch media can have more "valuable" inside, while mainstream media can have more meat. Watch media needs to get more real before it can get more respect. The internet has made that possible for anyone to do. I highly recommend that the existing watch media publishing and journalism industry get together with the watch industry to discuss how watch media can be less marketing related, and more culture related.

3. Reality Check Online

2010 saw the watch industry as a whole finally step into the Internet's living room. Watch brands are finally realizing how important the Internet is from marketing and sales standpoint - and then they totally lost track of reality. Expectations from social media was utterly unrealistic, with brands thinking Facebook and Twitter is some magic way of getting new customers. Time to sober up and get real. Social media is for sharing information and offering a communication access point. Not some news ticker feed that people are going to sit there and watch. The worst offenders are those who "cry wolf" with their fans and followers offering weeks and weeks of pointless crap before anything interesting is actually communicated (if ever). Stop using social media as some self-generated yearbook and figure it out.

4. Universal Names

This doesn't have anything to do with 2011 per se, but it is about time someone started to talk about this. Let's get universal with names. My main focus here is with movements, but it runs so much deeper. Much of the time I don't care whether your new watch has an in-house movement or not. If you use an ETA, just say so. Don't call an ETA 2824 movement that has your name on the rotor a "XG-24/LJH.309." Just say it is an ETA 2824 with your rotor, or perhaps decor. There are so many smokes and mirrors around movements. It is totally unnecessary - and I am sick of having dig deep and deal with 500 names for one movement. I have no problem with an ETA, or Soprod, or Sellita, or Dupois Depraz, or whatever. Just tell us what it is so that we can understand your watches better. Imagine if car companies were totally unclear about the engines they used.

5. Return From Return To Classic

We are in 2011. Not 1811, not 1911, not 1971. I understand an adherence to tradition, and the appeal of a marvelously classic watch, but I am getting sick of everything being borne of either "tradition, heritage, classicism, or vintage." You know, I like modern things, and I am not the only one. Modern looking watches shouldn't just be futuristic ones coming from Japan or the ultra high-end guys who sell $100,000 plus watches. I've looked over my collection and realize I like "different" watches. Not solely those, but I am always looking for contemporary looks as well as stuff that looks timeless. Nostalgia is a beautiful thing, but sometimes watch design feels like a broken record.

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  • Rebecca

    I totally agree with your wish list for 2011. Less marketing fluff, more content and above all, more transparency. I read your blog on a daily basis and love your podcasts. Keep up the great work and all the best for 2011.

  • Will

    Couldn’t agree more about the movements, there is nothing wrong with the movements you listed, so just be honest. Any true WIS will find out its just a simple modification so why not just tell the consumer anyway?

  • Kris C

    A very good and concise list of realistic expectations. Do I predict a high success rate for any of these? Yes and No, depending. I don’t like to sound the pessimist horn, so I’ll just let time tell it for me.

    I appreciate that #1 was “sober” pricing. Not “better”, not “realistic”, etc. Perfect way to address that point. Know what you are selling, what it is worth, and what a reasonable markup is. Some of these points have a lot of cross-pollination: #1 and #4 need to have lunch and come to terms with one another. ABC watch brand thinks that having a XG-24/LJH.309 in thier piece instead of an ETA 2824 means they can elevate themselves into a higher cost bracket.

    #3 is pretty touchy as well. Using social media as a tool can be a double edged sword. It’s a good way to get yourself known, but it won’t be anything that generates a billion new watch orders. You shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the community who uses these outlets the most is the younger one. Yes, the older crowd is getting more and more in tune, but I just spent 7 days on a beach resort in Cuba, and walking past the lobby internet cafe, it always had teens/early 20s in there facebooking, etc, updating thier statuses to things like “tried a mojito today – GROSS! lol”. The 30’s, 40’s, and above have the ability to walk away from that stuff still, and the main proponents of social media want to be, or be like, such idols as Kanye, Brad Pitt, EMINEM, Deborah Morgan, Justin Beiber, and piles of others that are often seen wearing G-Shocks.

  • Tharmo

    I think embracing the internet also means offering product more readily on the internet. Do any of you enjoy going to a fancy retail shop to get pressured by some suited idiot who knows less about these watches than you and who only carries one or two of the 10 models you are looking for?

    • Kris C

      Even if you ultimately buy online, there will always be something to be said about the ability to go in and try it on first. If a picture is worth 1000 words, 2 minutes of wrist time writes a thesis.

      And suited idiot pressure concerns me not. 9 times out of 10, I’m wearing a nicer suit than they are, and until one of them actually pulls a shotgun out and asks for my Visa, I’ll never feel pressured to buy.

      • when it comes down to it, I don’t see why brick and mortar sales and online sales can’t live together.

  • dshon

    There are pieces that are available at sober prices if you’re willing to hunt. This means looking at harder to find brands (at least in the US) like Grand Seiko or small independents like MIH or Harbring. Unfortunately, most brands do not have the incentive to invest in the lower end of their offerings since: 1. most of their customers are satisfied with an off-the-shelf ETA movements and 2. they do not earn the same media attention as a complicated watch. Brands also do not want to lower prices or offer more accessible watches since it may dilute the brand’s prestige- something that would upset many of their customers as well (if you don’t think prestige matters to even knowledgeable watch enthusiasts, you should see all the Rolex vs. Omega vs. Breitling vs. IWC vs. XYZ brand threads on internet boards). Let’s also not forget that the US dollar has declined significantly against the Swiss franc.

    I think what is more realistic is hoping that brands offer more interesting pieces in the $5,000-$10,000 range. These certainly cannot be considered entry level pieces, but they still remain obtainable for most people. I personally think this is where you can get the most value in modern pieces since anything below this level is likely going to be powered by ETA movements and you’ll likely need to pay a precious metal premium for anything above $10,000. At this level, manufactures can offer inhouse movements with a complication or two. I personally think pieces like the GO Sport Evolution GMT, the Montblanc Nicholas Rieussec, PAM 312, Rolex Explorer II and JLC Reserve de Marche offer better value than most $3,000 watches even if they are more expensive.

    • pat I.

      Good concept for an online store. I’d think you’d get people from both ends of the spectrum – those who will a spend a bit more for quality and the more affluent buyers seeking something different.

      Any investors in under4k. com?

  • Larry D.

    I agree with your whole list…and yeah…#1 & #3 need to get together and come up with a game plan. Stop blowin’ smoke up our “you know where’s” when it comes to pricing!!! How many times have we all seen over inflated MSRP’s only to see it on a website for 75%-80% less than that price? Give us a break from all the bull!!! We’re tired of it!!!
    As for your 5th point….I love watches that are unique looking. I’m not looking to wear timepieces that look like the ones I had in my late 20’s to early 40’s…I’m over that. I am 53 now…retired medically….and I want something that makes a statement to me. I really don’t care if it doesn’t look like my 1984 Rolex, my 1990’s Tag or Movado….but I don’t want it to look like a bunch of random LEDS flickering on my wrist either. I am the size of an NFL Offensive lineman…6’6″ and over 300lbs….I like something bold, that is an attention getter….that has style and some color to it!!! I wore bland, boring overpriced watches while I was in a suit and tie for 30 years. Wow me….make me want your design on my wrist!!! That’s what I want to see!!!!

  • PAT I.

    How about a resolution to stop Patek Phillip from making creepy ads? The way they use kids and adults should have the child welfare folks breaking their door down. A bit too Jacko for me.

  • witch watch

    All good points made but rather than dissect each and everyone i’ll just point out the one which is least likely to happen, and that for me is #1. We all know that most manufactures raise their prices on an annual basis each one towing the line as the other announces their increase(standard seems to be 5%) this of course is done because as said by dishon “may dilute the brand’s prestige” not to do so. Of course such thinking really is a lot of tosh, would i honestly think less of say IWC because they held the RRP for two years but Rolex raised theirs twice? Of course not, hell it WOULD see me look towards IWC MORE because it would offer “more bang per buck” but it seems only Zenith(who have actually dropped their asking prices by around 5%) and Panerai who iirc have not raised theirs for over two years now seem to get this.

    Consider this: I purchased a well known brand of Swiss watch back in the middle of last year, a few months later they announced(always at the last minute it seems for where i stand) a price increase of five percent, now with the Value Added Tax rate here in the UK being risen by 2.5 percent, the company AGAIN announces a further five percent increase which now means the very same watch i purchased six months ago is now £540 more expensive. ‘Sober’ pricing? I think not!

    PS Patek have announced they too will raise their prices in Febuary by…..wait for it… 12%!!

  • Andrew

    Amen brother!

  • Bromo

    It seems to me that the Swiss watch industry is pushing prices – to equalize high – and then focus a lot of their efforts towards the Asian market. I am not sure that over-reliance on any one price segment and geographical market is a great long term strategy. It appears to be working for them right now.

  • Ivan Y

    I wholeheartedly agree with your list, Ariel (especially on pricing; more affordable good “starter” watches; and online availability). But in a big picture, watch industry needs to do a much, MUCH better job of explaining to younger generations WHY they should wear a watch and WHAT makes a good watch (so they don’t go out and get an Invicta). I don’t have any figures to prove it, but I’m reasonably sure that percentage of population that cares about watches (esp. high-end mechanical pieces) is decreasing.

    Brands also need to get off their high horse and freely allow online sales AND give ADs flexibility to offer discounts so they could compete with gray-market (as opposed to unloading unsold watches to gray market). I buy pretty much _everything_ online (and usually out of state to save on sales tax), so why would watches be different? I think, one of the reasons brands are resisting that is they want people making ANY online purchases (i.e. online = bad) since people usually compare prices and gray-market watches are considerably cheaper than “official” prices that ADs have to obey.

  • Neil

    Number one and number four are right on the money. Direct sales with no middlemen should result in significant savings and even though a company may have performed delicate surgery on a base movement please tell us the name of the donor movement.
    Numbers two and three are really of no concern to me since one must look at all advertising with a jaundiced eye.
    I do have to respectfully disagree with you on number five. “Tradition, heritage, classicism, and vintage” are extremely important to me albeit with modern material and size. The term modern, in reference to watch design, to me evokes images of “design gone wild.” Give me the traditional designs in a modern size using modern materials.

    • Tradition is fine, but brands harp in it like there is no tomorrow. I don’t mind relying on traditional values, I just want that to be interpreted in modern ways. Contemporary design doesn’t need to mean it looks like a sci-fi movie prop piece.

  • Dan B

    Nice write up Mr. Adams. I whole heartedly agree with all points, especially numbers one, four, and five.

    In regards to number one, I understand the desire for a feeling of exclusivity on the part of some watchmakers but targeting young professionals with a more modest income at the early stages of their careers will not only translate into large sales but also loyal customers, provided those more modest offerings are still quality pieces.

    #4, I agree with the need for transparency. Much like there are standards to be followed when labeling a watch “Swiss Made”, there should be standards when it comes to movements. Simply slapping on a modified rotor should not qualify as an “in-house movement”. For one thing, the knowledgeable watch consumer who knows what an ETA is will not care. On the contrary, advertising that a watch has an ETA movement will assure the consumer of a tried and true movement. And any consumer who knows enough to comprehend the difference between an ETA with a customized rotor and a legitimate in-house movement will be able to see through the lame attempt by a company to pass off an ETA movement with a customized rotor as an in-house movement. Either way, it’s superfluous and entirely unnecessary.

    I agree on number 5 too. While I like some vintage pieces and respect is deserved of the horological classics that have come before, we live in a much different world. The root of the word advancement is advance. To push forward. To improve. Omega’s co-axial is an advancement. But I believe much more can be accomplished if designers were more willing to stray from the well beaten path and venture out into the unknown. It’s 2011. Where’s my lubricant-less mechanical movement? Such advances are seen running rife in the world of professional grade power tools with lubricant-less paint sprayers and air-powered nailguns. I believe the Japanese or perhaps an avant-garde freelance designer will be the ones who contribute the most to advancements in the watch industry over the next 25 years.

    I also blame shows like Antique Roadshow and such. For some reason, over the past few years, there has been a rush to obtain vintage pieces without scrutiny. As such all vintage pieces have spiked in value. Whatever, I guess. If someone out there wants to wear a 32mm watch, more power to them.

    Anywho, good stuff. Keep it coming and have a great 2011!