Yesterday, I debunked Chrono24.com‘s email Top 3 Watch Trends of 2021 (Rolex Explorer II, bold colors, in-house movements). Today, I’m putting myself out on a proverbial limb with my three choices for watch trends 2021. As someone who started daily watch blogging a year ago last August (2019), by now I should have a highly developed sense of what the Germans call Fingerspitzengefühl (finger on the pulse). I’ll let you be the judge of that . . .
2021 Watch Trends – More “Boutique Only” Watches
Over the last decade, watchmakers have been opening their own upmarket AF mono brand boutiques in the world’s chi-chi shopping centers. Carefully located, curated and managed, these boutiques have proven themselves peerless brand builders and money spinners. And then COVID-19 flew the coop in China and shut down luxury shopping worldwide.
Even before Coronageddon-inspired retail reticence, boutiques competed with the brand’s own authorized dealers – who can offer larger discounts and more personalized service. Special edition “boutique only” models were the manufacturer-owned stores’ trump card (so to speak), generating media coverage that drove boutique footfall.
Still are, still do. With Coronageddon set to drag on into summer, watchmakers have even more reason to give shoppers even more reason to mask-up and get down to a boutique – as opposed to hitting up an authorized dealer, buying watches online, or not buying at all. Which will piss off the AD’s, but what can they do about it?
So, look for an increased number of “boutique exclusive watches” as one of the watch trends 2021. Will they be any good? That’s another question. But there’s no question the best of them are both highly desirable and limited in number, making them a better “investment” than watchmaker’s standard fare. Or so they would have you believe.
Expensive Watches Get More Expensive
One of the easiest 2021 watch trends to predict: traditional watch prices will continue to edge upwards. Prices for timepieces made by high-end mainstream watch manufacturers – Rolex, OMEGA, IWC, Breitling, Cartier, etc. – have been creeping up for at least the last five years. This year, in the midst of the pandemic, Rolex hiked its prices by six percent.
It seems counterintuitive. If smart watches are completely dominating total watch sales, why would the trad watch major leaguers increase their prices in the face of diminished demand? Because demand hasn’t diminished at the top end of the market. Not for the established players. Not yet.
For one thing, there’s the “flight to safety.” In the midst of Coronageddon uncertainty, watch buyers are taking less risks with their money, buying big name watches.
There’s also a larger absolute number of wealthy people in the world – especially in the Asian market – who prefer a traditional luxury watch over a smartwatch for status projection. And don’t forget all these lockdowns saved wealthy people a fortune on fine dining and luxury travel.
Apple Watch Conquers All
Sorry. I know. The Apple Watch is not a “real” watch. It’s an electronic device. A wrist-borne computer. It has none of the heart or soul of a mechanical timepiece. Even the cheapest, simplest quartz watch has more emotional appeal. The idea that the Apple Watch – and its smartwatch competitors – are displacing traditional watches is galling to the vast majority of our readers. And yet there it is.
“Smartwatch shipments worldwide are forecast to grow in the following years,” statista.com predicts, “increasing from 69.3 million units in 2019 to over 109 million units by 2023.” According to swissinfo.ch, “Switzerland produces just over 20 million watches per year.” Or less, recently.
Update! Apple shipped 11.8 million watches in the third quarter of 2020. Apple cranks-out more watches in one financial quarter than the entire Swiss watch industry ships in an entire year – a trend that’s set to continue in 2021. It’s the death of the pocket watch all over again, only this time you’ll have plenty of traditional watches to choose from for the foreseeable future. Or will you?
The fact that Rolex can’t make enough watches to satisfy demand tells us the traditional watch is alive and well in 2021 at the higher end of the market. As for the mass market, the traditional watch may not be on its deathbed, but it’s coming down the home stretch.