No new watches from Rolex? Nope. “In order to protect people by avoiding gatherings and one-to-one meetings, we have decided to postpone [new product] announcements to a later date,” Rolex’s PR department writes. “We have presently not defined a new timing for our release; we will get back to you in due time with further information.” Well thank God for that . . .
As the New Watch Alert editor I’m here to say there are WAY too many new watches clamoring for consumer attention. I have a hard time picking 12 new models from the dozens of available candidates every week. Despite or because of Coronageddon, I’m navigating an endless stream of horological happenstance spanning a dozen genres and a near infinite number of price points.
This temporal tsunami has a lot to do with the Instagram and Kickstarter-enabled explosion of micro-brands. But not everything. A large part of the deluge is down to the major watchmakers responding to social media’s insatiable thirst for the new, the now, the NEW RIGHT NOW!
Of course, watchmakers have been on this new product merry-go-round since dirt was young – back when watches lived in pockets and you had to hand-crank your phone. It’s the pace of the new product sales cycle that’s changed – both selling and making.
Consumers getting endorphin hits from online new product launches fail to recognize just how easy it now is to make a new watch. Thanks to cheap Chinese parts and labor, instant communication and CAD-CAM computing, a watch company can knock out a prototype wristwatch in weeks. A new model line in months.
If a manufacturer wants to change a color scheme, bezel, caseback, hands or dial in an existing model to launch a new SKU, it’s a doddle. Look how many variants there are of ANY brand – from SWATCH to Corum to Patek Philippe. Even the most conservative watchmakers feel obliged to do SOMETHING to keep-up with the Joneses.
Alvin Toffler warned us about overchoice. The human mind shuts down, figuring that no choice is safer than the wrong choice. There is no doubt in my mind that we’re living in a world where there are too many watch brands selling too many watches for fewer and fewer traditional watch buyers. Mark my words: there’ll be tears before bedtime.
Far be it for me to suggest that hundreds of watchmakers and their distributors and retailers have got it wrong – that they need to focus on fewer models, not more. No less than André Bernheim, co-owner and chairman of Mondaine Watch Group, tells retailers “online you can offer a wider range. If traders do not offer this, they will continue to lose.”
So I’ll just say this: now that Rolex, Tudor and others are pulling back from their new product launch schedule, they have the time to lean into their branding. To add value rather than inventory.
What makes your watches special beyond the thrill of the new? Print advertising used to answer that question, to define and/or cement a watch brand’s unique selling point. And then print died.
Maybe it’s time to bring back some of that marketing nous. Yes, even on Instagram! With no new babes to parade, watchmakers can get off the new watch treadmill and show customers why there’s life in the old girl yet.
UPDATE: Patek Philippe has reversed their decision. Click here to read Patek Philippe Dealers WILL Get New Product