Gold Watches Replacing Steel?

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OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Sedna Gold watches

“People are tired of being grim and gray,” Ruediger Albers tells The Robb Report. “They want a little bit of glam.” Wempe Jewelers’ Prez reckons gold is The Next Big Thing in Luxury Watches. There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Albers ain’t just whistling Dixie . . .

For one thing, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet have stopped making the gold standard for steel watches. The Genta-designed Nautilus (5711) and the “Jumbo” Royal Oak (15202ST) are no more. Two of the three members of the Swiss watch industry’s Holy Trinity have sent a clear signal to the market: it’s time to move on.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas gold watch

More and more watchmakers are offering models made from Au ore, crafting cases and bracelets in red, rose, pink, yellow and white gold (green, blue and purple, not so much). At the same time, the major players have ordered their R&D departments to devise new metallurgic formulations to tempt watch buyers smitten by gold fever.

Panerai now offers a Luminor in wear-resistant Goldtech™, a material “with a rich and intense red hue that is both strikingly modern and uniquely timeless.” OMEGA has just unveiled their new Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold, whose metal “sits exactly between OMEGA’s 18K Moonshine™ gold and 18K Sedna™ gold.” Rolex being Rolex, they’ve stuck with their pinkish Everose gold formula since 2005. Just sayin’.

IWC Porsche Design Titanium Chronograph (courtesy thetruthaboutwatches.com)

Hang about. Why not titanium? As an alloy for new golds, yes. Otherwise, it’s too pedestrian. When Porsche Design first wrestled with the material – to add lightness and durability to its chronograph – titanium was the exotic watch material. These days, Citizen sells a Super Titanium watch for $440.

Equally, Wempe’s main man is right: post-pandemic people want a timepiece with a lot more spizzarkle than a watch that looks like it’s made of gray steel – no matter how scratch-resistant, light and hypoallergenic it may be.

Patek Philippe dealers during COVID-19

COVID-19 knocked the stuffing out of consumers’ belief in life’s linearity. Why save money for the future when you, your family and/or your friends are only an unsanitary bathroom door handle away from ending-up strapped to ventilator drowning in your own fluids?

Why not wear a watch that projects your status? Your position in life could be gone in an instant (changing to six feet under). Where’s the fun in wearing a wristwatch that doesn’t make you look and feel – for a moment at least – like a rich man (ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum)?

A gold watch fits this rapidly emerging “live large, live for today” gestalt better than, say, any other type of watch. OK, a diamond-encrusted timepiece makes the same point, and then some. Either way, we’re approaching the point where the guiding philosophy is, as Uma Thurman sang [in the world’s worst Swedish accent], when you’ve got it, flaunt it!

Oh wait. Aspiring gold watch aficionados first have to get past the haters! People who look down their collective noses at the conspicuous consumption, personified and projected by a watch made of gold.

According to Victoria Gomelsky, gold watches are “the Gordon Gekkos of the Swiss watch industry, maligned as symbols of 1980s-style excess.” If anyone should know about wretched excess, it’s The Robb Report. (I would have used Alec Baldwin’s gold Rolex rant in Glengarry Glenn Ross. I guess there’s a reason Robb fired me.)

There’s only one sensible response to any such anti-gold watch snobbery: OK Boomer. Check out the number of views received by the “Greed is good” scene from Wall Street – a movie made when Mark Zuckerberg was three years old.

Versace Palazzo Empire IP Yellow Gold Bracelet Watch

There’s a small possibility that today’s progressives’ love of “equity” will throw cold water on the gold watch gold rush.

Nah. Moral qualms didn’t stop champagne socialists fawning over expensive watches before Biden (need I mention any names?). Unless and until America’s political re-education camps are up-and-running, luxury watches will be good as gold.

Rolex Day Date President

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little more love to The One Gold Watch to Rule Them All. While the Rolex Day-Date 40 “President” never went out of style with condo-owning Florida retirees, country-owning drug lords and at least one pussy-grabbing President, the watch is once again gaining mainstream acceptance. Luke called it . . .

Why are gold watches replacing steel at the top end of the watch market? Because the steel grail watches are gone, people want to party like it’s 1999 (or 1921), and you can’t take it with you. Just make sure no one takes it from you, and hope the lingering coronavirus doesn’t, either.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Gold would probably look better on my skin tone, but I’ve always had the taste for silver tones. Mother’s wedding ring is white gold. The President is an outlier where the massive signaling would eclipse my aesthetic preference. Anyway, why not green gold? It was not that unpopular in pocket watches, right?

    • I was thinking about how Indian brides tend to acquire lots of gold jewelry as much for investment as for adornment when it also dawned on me that even if we totally ignore the inherent value of precious metals, that other cultures, ahem Asian mostly, may still have a stronger traditional affinity for gold. The skin tone complementing may work better for them too. I’m pretty sure that the US is the main market for luxury watches.

      • Watches are huge across many different cultures (especially among Latin America and Asia) so I wouldn’t say that the US is the main market. Gold will always be something to acquire, we as humans have to value something tangible.

  2. The US deciding that debt does not matter any more (it does, and it will be a painful hangover) has steel watches going for gold money, so one might as well get gold. The federal government sending out $1,400 checks for lazy slobs to sit around watching streaming, and bailing out state and local governments to keep redundant government “workers” on the dole, has lowered the standards for everyone. However, once reality and the austerity that comes with it catch up with the country bosses are going to be back to action oriented Subs and GMTs instead of posh Presidents. And those Subs and GMTs will be available at retail.

  3. Unless the price of gold drops, I doubt it will change. Considering the fact that the most popular models are steal, why would there be increase in gold? As Robert always states, it just makes you a target.

  4. Part of this is justification of increasingly higher prices. There’s only so much you can do to justify a steel watch at 30, 40, 50+k and one of the problems with the sport watch trend is that you can’t add too many complications (and people won’t pay for them anyway). Yes, yes, supply and demand – I believe Rolex should be raising prices on steel watches – but that’s not how the majors think.

    Precious metals solve this without much work or repositioning; everyone understands what gold means. And if you want to fly under the radar? White gold and platinum beckon.

  5. Also, this allows manufacturers to bring together the men’s and women’s markets again, since steel sportwatches are usually not big sellers for women. More used to wearing precious metal jewelry, the female market is huge and has been relatively ignored for the last several years of this sportswatch craze. Here’s a chance to bring some balance back.

  6. A rose gold Day Date … would love to wear one.

    For staying under the radar only got a white gold Smurf. Sometimes a bit heavy, especially outdoors in hot humid climates. Nothing like steel though, the feel of gold.

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