The whole Swiss Watchmaking Industry is going through strange times. Known models from a few brands cause the others to look like guest actors or even extras. But, why?
I will start my article with a cliché example. A very wealthy business person goes to a stylish restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, he delivered his expensive car to the valet and could not bring it near the tables. His expensive clothing's prestige and ability to reflect his level of wealth is to a certain extent. So, what can this person do to show his difference from other people in that restaurant? It may be a method to grab the microphone and say "I am rich". Another way is to wear a watch with a price tag as high as the car at the door and say nothing else. The timepiece will speak loud enough anyway. Real-life examples of this situation, which seem absurd and incoherent to many of us, are unfortunately too many to underestimate.
Of course, the situation is different when we leave aside the people in this inappropriate example and consider people who have watch culture, knowledge, and good manners. I have been following the watch market, customer orientations, and sales graphics of brands for many years. The current situation is as follows: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, and any sports Rolex with a steel case... If you own any of these watches, you are the king. The rest? Nobody cares. This unbelievable situation describes not only my impressions but the dying state of luxury watchmaking.
Of course, additions can be made to the models mentioned in the paragraph above. But what could be the reason that makes these watches so exceptional? Let's start by looking at the common aspects of those timepieces. Well, all of them are high-quality products featuring design details exclusive to their manufacturers. When I go further regarding the design details part, I notice another specialty. All watches come on integrated bracelets with brand-specific features. Today, a Royal Oak or Nautilus bracelet can reveal itself from meters away. Likewise, with an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet, you can enjoy comfort and quality at the same time. Moreover, with these designs, anyone familiar with this world can easily understand that your watch is a Rolex.
Another detail is that the watches are simple and free from complications. Except for the Rolex Daytona, all of those watches feature primary functions that make them the preference of a large audience. As a result, every extra feature added can cause someone else to stay away from the watch while attracting attention.
If you ask a random individual on the street to name a luxury watch brand, the answer will probably be Rolex. Likewise, other veteran members of luxury watchmaking enjoy their well-deserved reputation. The reflection of this situation on watch owners is either in the form of applause or envy. However, the reality became the pride and pleasure of having that financial power and access to those exquisite timepieces instead of watch culture.
Numerous brands, models, and artworks from the hands of precious watchmakers are fighting to exist in a speculative watch market. Who knows, maybe something similar to the Quartz Crisis of the 70s will happen to mechanical watches in this era. Those who cannot survive will disappear from the world of watches, while those who survive will continue to grow stronger.