We’re only three years into the 2020s. Hard to believe, right? In addition to skewing our perception of time, the pandemic did a number on the watch market. As a result, it’s the backdrop to virtually everything we’re highlighting for the year ahead. Buckle up!
The Rolex Daytona‘s 60th Anniversary
In 2016, when Rolex introduced the current iteration of the Cosmograph Daytona in steel—the one with the black ceramic bezel—all hell broke loose. “It lit the market on fire,” says Paul Boutros, head of watches in the Americas for the auction house Phillips.
The watch was so hot that many people say it kickstarted the brand’s meteoric rise on the pre-owned market. “Prior to that ceramic Daytona, you could walk into an authorized dealer and get a steel Daytona with relatively little effort,” says Tim Bender, owner of Fog City Vintage, a pre-owned dealer in San Mateo, Calif. “2016 rolls around and Rolex starts to see these watches are trading for much larger premiums on the secondary market.”
We all know where that lead us, which brings us to this year, the model’s 60th anniversary. Will Rolex strike watchmaking gold again with another iteration of the Daytona, or will it overlook the anniversary in favor of its other iconic models’ notable milestones (the 70th anniversaries of the Submariner and Explorer), or even go left field with a reboot of the cult favorite Milgauss? It’s no exaggeration to suggest the watch world is collectively holding its breath.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore‘s 30th Anniversary
A disruptor long before the word became a cliché, the Royal Oak Offshore debuted in 1993 as the Royal Oak’s younger, brasher sibling. Designed by Emmanuel Gueit to appeal to young buyers, the 42 mm model, nicknamed “The Beast,” weighed nearly two-thirds of a pound. Its unapologetically masculine design, featuring pushers and a crown clad in sporty rubber, set the stage for the size revolution that Panerai later solidified.
Now, the model’s 30th anniversary is upon us. Like most brands, AP doesn’t miss an opportunity to celebrate a big birthday. (Exhibit A: The raft of models it released last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak.) But does a 30th birthday qualify as “big”? It’s debatable, which isn’t to say that AP will forgo the chance to introduce something special. Watch this space.
Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition Tokyo 2023
From June 10-25, Patek Philippe will stage the sixth, and largest, of its Grand Exhibitions, this time in the Japanese capital. Featuring some 500 timepieces and objects, including several, highly collectible limited editions, the event will take place at Sumitomo Sankaku Hiroba, a spectacular glass-roofed event space in the Shinjuku district.
Like past exhibitions, including New York in 2017 and Singapore in 2019, the Tokyo affair will transport visitors to Geneva, including the watchmaker’s historic headquarters in the rue du Rhône, the manufacture at Plan-les-Ouates and the Patek Philippe Museum. The exhibition, which is typically held biennially, was originally slated for 2021, but the pandemic forced Patek to take a raincheck.
Now, after four years, the event, which is free and open to the public, is sure to sate pent-up demand for the metiers d’art pieces and limited editions it’s known for, particularly those geared to the horology-obsessed Japanese market. Kanpai!
The Expansion of Certified Pre-Owned Programs
The pre-owned watch business has been growing steadily over the past 20 years, and especially over the past three, but the news on Dec. 1 that Rolex had thrown its hat into the certified pre-owned arena is expected to draw even more interest to the category, not to mention more brands following suit.
So much so that Oliver Müller, founder of LuxeConsult, a watch advisory based near Lausanne, Switzerland, just released an 80-page report in which he predicts the secondary market will triple in value within a decade and by 2033, will be worth 79 billion euros (around $83.2 billion), outperforming the primary market by a longshot.
The consensus among pre-owned dealers seems to be that Rolex’s blessing is good for the pre-owned market in general because it will inspire more people to place their watches into circulation, bringing greater liquidity and opportunities for everyone.
The Return of the Dress Watch
While the watch industry doesn’t have anything as established as fashion’s hemline index—which posits that hemlines rise and fall along with the economy—it’s no stretch to suggest that the current uncertainties in the marketplace may inspire a return to more classic wristwear.
The signs are all there: The sport watch segment, which has dominated the industry for the better part of a decade, is showing signs of weakness, as secondary prices for the most in-demand models tumble. Ask watch world insiders, and you’ll hear whispers that the pendulum is swinging back to a more refined style of dress. The soaring success of both vintage and modern Cartier and the growing momentum behind the neo-vintage category bolster the argument even further. So dust off those Calatravas, Reversos and Saxonias—once thought extinct, the dress watch is poised for a comeback.