Our Depreciation King series will chronicle watches that have tumbled in value, from the stratosphere to the bathysphere. We begin our trawl with the Romain Jerome Dia De Los Muertos Automatic Men’s Watch. Before we get to the bottom line, let’s have a look at the artist formerly known as Romain Jerome . . .
To avoid being mistaken for a California Pizza Kitchen salad named after Aspen’s legendary hotel, Romain Jerome referred to itself as “RJ.” They described their mission as producing “recognizable, ambitious, and culturally relevant luxury Swiss watches.”
In February, RJ was DOA. The watchmaker filed for bankruptcy. Before pulling the pug, the Saudi-back enterprise bet all but a few of its chips on licensing deals: timepieces combining low culture with high horology.
For some reason, RJ’s website is still up and running, without any mention of their exit from the land of the living. Anyway, it’s good background for any perspective RJ watch buyer.
RJ has made its own mark on modern watchmaking with its Collaboration watch series, which draws inspiration from icons of pop culture, from superheroes of DC Comics or Marvel like Batman and Spider-Man, to beloved video game characters like Super Mario, Space Invaders, or Pac-Man.
Not to mention 45mm watches made from “steel from the Titanic, genuine moon dust, and remnants from the Apollo 11 spacecraft which first landed man on the moon.”
Actually, they did mention it. And charged through the nose for it. RJ’s prices ranged from $15.7k for the Arraw Marine Mykonos to $97,700 for the Arraw Spider-Man Tourbillon.
You’d think millionaires and billionaires wouldn’t want their peers to know their desire to hang with Hello Kitty or sling web. Don’t underestimate rich folks’ need to appear “fun.” Or advertise their kinky fetishes. Speaking of which, check out this presentation case:
Even a brief scan of the Spiderman watch and other RJ creations indicates there was a whole lot of fine watchmaking going on – but no getting around their niche: gimmicks.
Strange, then, that our first Depreciation King didn’t entirely conform to RJ’s commercial template . . .
Dia De Los Muertos translates to Day of the Dead – a Mexican holiday based on ancestor worship. Disney’s charming film Coco used the event as a plot device.
In their commercial exploitation of a pagan ritual The House of Mouse is not alone. Hundreds of watch companies sell Day of the Dead sugar skull (a.k.a., calavera) watches.
An equal amount sell timepiece with a central skull without a Latin flavor. They’re all available at all price points, from $47.50 quartz to $1m carbon titanium .
To make their mark on the crowded death watch market, Romain Jerome slapped a diamond pave dial on a black PVD stainless steel case, inserted a fancy Swiss movement and attached it to a black bull rider’s strap. [See: kink reference above.]
RJ made 25 examples of the 46mm DDLM. Allegedly. The watch retailed at $48k. shopworn.com’s now asking $14,500 – a 72 percent hit on the original msrp. I reckon it’s still a bit pricey . . .
There are well-heeled collectors who simply MUST have everything Pac Man, Spiderman or Hello Kitty (even when she sports a moustache). With RJ’s collapse, these watches are also available at significant discounts.
In the months ahead, look for more of the same as other niche brands hit the skids. I suggest avoiding in-house movements for something serviceable. Otherwise, dead will really mean dead.