As has been published and spoken about ad nauseum elsewhere, 2016 was a difficult year for the watch industry as a whole. However, as the year draws to a close, I thought I would provide my own experience and analysis which may surprise some.
Greed, incompetence, stubbornness, nepotism, shortsightedness...shall I go on? The problem with the market is a supply problem, not a demand problem. No one along the chain is innocent, but no one is more guilty than the brands themselves. For over a decade, they have increased production to levels that cannot possibly be sustained and raised prices to the point where barely any watch makes any sense at its full retail price. All the while, they have failed to invest in infrastructure such as after sales service and a functioning distribution chain. They have destroyed markets, alienated collectors, and stopped innovating in business practices or products almost completely. Incompetent executives who are smart enough to grow quarterly profits but have no actual skin in the game have made centuries old houses of craft and savoir-faire look like high end fast food restaurants. They should be ashamed of themselves.
The good news is that actual demand for and interest in good watches has never been greater. In some cases it has been suppressed and betrayed to such an extent that it must be rehabilitated, but it is present. As evidence I suggest looking at auction prices for “the good stuff”, readership of popular magazines and blogs, thriving communities on social media, and my own following personal anecdotes.
What I do:
For those of you less familiar with me, and even some who know me well, you may not fully understand what I do. Although it seems I have been selling watches for quite a while because I have been in and around this industry for over a decade, I truly only decided to do this as a business a little more than a year ago, in August 2015. It took a few months to hone in on exactly what I can provide, but by now it is clear. I have mainly spent the year focusing on what I believe to be the best watches that have been made in the modern era. I seek them out constantly all over the world. In many cases, I then need to educate people as to why I believe they are great based on all of my knowledge and experience. Finally, I try to sell them at prices I think are very fair to the buyers while still being supportive of the brands themselves. The key is curation and education.
My 2016 Year End Report:
Following this strategy I had an extremely successful 2016. While other dealers were buried under inventory and stuck with a million examples of the same watches that every other dealer also had millions of examples of, I turned my inventory several times and continued to be one of the go-to buyers and sellers of “the really cool stuff”. I have bought watches that other dealers wouldn't touch, and sold them quickly to happy buyers at fair prices for all. There is a strong market for good watches, but the days of people being able to sell crappy products, give crappy service, and have little more knowledge than a first year retail sales person are over. People want to buy great watches from an expert who treats them with respect and earns their trust. So now I want to share with you just a few of the watches I've sold this year along with my YouTube review videos of them so you can learn a bit more about what makes them special.
I sold three Harry Winston Opus V. I joked with Max Büsser that he and I are probably the only two people to have sold 3 Opus V's in a year. This is going to be an historic piece. I also sold an URWERK 102 (their original piece) and have two variations of URWERK 103's in stock. All of these would have to be included in a museum exhibit of “Contemporary Horology” if there ever were one.
I also sold three Kari Voutilainen Observatoire. Kari is one of the greatest living watchmakers of our generation.
This is a perfect example of a forgotten watch. The Girard Perregaux Minute Repeater is incredibly proportioned, has a gorgeous fired enameled dial, and chimes with clarity, tone and volume that could give some of the most celebrated minute repeaters ever a run for their money. Since GP as a brand can't get out of its own way, the watch was never celebrated as it should have been. It is a great watch, though
The Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degrees Technique in titanium DLC is so good that I almost couldn't sell it. When I took it out of the shipping box, I lost my breath and resolved to keep it in my personal collection. Alas, a friend wanted it badly and I am happy to see him enjoying it.
The Vianny Halter Antiqua is possibly the one that started the entire Contemporary Horology movement.
And of course I have to include at least one Journe Tourbillon. These are my bread and butter and perhaps my favorite overall watch. I sold four this year including a Black Label, and have a gorgeous original PT/YG dial in stock.
This is just a very small selection, but I think it illustrates the point that great watches have been made over the last 20 years that are truly worth buying and that there are plenty of collectors out there buying them. Separating the good from the bad is the hard part. So if someone tries to tell you the watch industry or watches in general are in trouble, tell them the brands are in trouble and they deserve it. Watches have never been hotter. Just make sure you buy good watches from someone who knows what they're talking about
Note: Yesterday I published a post referencing a review that I wrote for another blog that was not published because the watch is for sale. This is the mentioned post. Again, the watch IS for sale here but it also is my watch. It's not for sale for any other reason than everything I have is for sale -- I don't get too attached to any particular watch. The following is why I think it is a great watch and why I bought it:
Art is a word that is tossed around with reckless abandon in the watch industry. Mechanical art. The art of watchmaking. What started as conscious rebranding has become an accepted fact. After the quartz crisis in the early 70's, mechanical watches became useless. Useless AND expensive? That has traditionally been the domain of art. And yet, as an art lover and collector, I hope it is safe that I submit that just because something is useless and expensive does not make it art. No, art is an expression of life: beauty, emotion, triumph, pain, love, death, time, space – art concerns itself with the big concepts that most of us ignore for the majority of our waking lives. While it is not surprising that watch brands would like to classify their products as art, the vast majority fall short. This is not such a watch.
Why I bought it:
I must admit, I am not a Jaquet Droz fan. I generally do not seek out watches from the big groups (JD is a Swatch Group company). The screwed on dials always remind me of FP Journe, a mark I am much more drawn to. The movements, mostly F Piquet derived, are very nice, but nothing to get my heart racing. However, when I first saw the Paillonnee dial about a decade ago, I was instantly captivated.
Quite simply, there is nothing like it. And that is for good reason. There is only one woman in the world capable of making this dial. Her name is Ms. Anita Porchet: Master Enameler. Here is the process as I understand it:
First, the white gold dial is hand engine turned into a beautiful “sunburst” pattern. This radiates under the eventual enameling. Enamel itself is basically painted glass. Colored, or clear, glass is ground into a very fine powder, dissolved into a solution, painted, and then fired at very high temperatures to create a smooth surface. Ms. Porchet makes her own enamel out of the finest glass she has collected through the years. In this case, the color is a striking blue, reminiscent of Yves Klein. It is applied in multiple layers to give a depth that simply has to be seen in person to fully appreciate. Next the paillons.
Paillons are made of gold foil. They were made in the 18th Century. When these are used this entire art form will be history. Ms. Porchet creates the pattern designs herself, then hand lays the paillons onto the enamel. Any misplacement or slip at this step ruins the entire dial. Once the paillons are fully placed they are then covered with more enamel to seal their fate. Not surprisingly, she makes only 8 pieces of each design.
Perhaps a better wordsmith than I could describe the final product here. The best I can do is one word: Art.
Buy it if:
- You can find one (the last I saw for sale was about a decade ago. After this sells, I expect similar)
- You appreciate true art and craft
- You are as interested in aesthetics as you are in mechanics
- You like blue
- You are not scared to wear a unique watch that has a feminine side to it
Don't buy it if:
- You are a brand snob
- You assign value to watches solely based on things like “in-house” or number of complications
- You do not like flowers
Seriously, this is a unique piece in the watch world. It is one of the few watches I've owned where I can truly justify the price. I sincerely hope you get to see one in person at some point in your WIS journey. In the meantime, check out the video review I did of it here: