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Luxury Watches and the “Supreme Effect”

Sep 20, 2018
Reginald Brack, Executive Director, Industry Analyst ;
Watches Jewelry

People into street wear know that the 24-year-old brand Supreme releases, or “drops,” new product every Thursday at 11am.  Most of their products sell out in minutes or even seconds.

While luxury watch brands release new product only once per year, the nature of their very tight distribution has become almost like “secret drops” for a few brands. Many legacy watch models are in such demand and short supply that by the time they reach retailers, they have already been pre-allocated to existing customers on wait lists.

In the 110 years Rolex has existed, we’ve never seen demand permeate through not only their steel sport models, but also virtually every steel model.  The same goes for Patek Philippe, where their entire classic Nautilus line never sees the light of day in a display case when it is distributed, because the products are already spoken for. That overwhelming demand has spread to their entire 20-year-old Aquanaut line, which collectors on watch forums once nicknamed “The Wart,” because they viewed its design with disdain. Those days are long gone.

It doesn’t take a hard look into the major price bands to identify similar examples. In the $1,000 to $5,000 range, Cartier dominates the top-ten best sellers, with its briskly selling core Panthere and Tank models. In the $5,000 to $10,000 band, the TAG Heuer Monaco -- another classic -- joins its mainstay peers, like the Cartier Ballon Bleu, IWC Portugueser and Panerai Luminor. The fastest growth segment of $10,000 to 25,000 watches is all about legacy models in the top ten, with the aforementioned Aquanaut at leading, followed by Breitling’s Chronomat, Omega’s Speedmaster “Grey Side of the Moon” and JLC’s classic Reverso.

Some special-edition legacy models, like Omega’s “SpeedyTuesday” – which was created for the brand’s Instagram followers and is available only online – continue to sell out within minutes of being released.  Now Macy’s has gone so far as to create “The Watch Destination,” with brand exclusives “dropping” weekly, just like street wear.

So while Generation Z chases the latest Supreme product drops, other consumers are following the same pattern with high-end legacy watches. Who knew the Generation Gap could blur so easily?



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