There’s a saying in the gun world: H&K hates you and thinks you suck. The German gunmaker’s haughty attitude and lousy customer service earned their customers’ ire. Despite the clickbait headline, I’m not saying Patek Philippe hates you and their customer service sucks. But I am saying that Mr. Stern’s mob couldn’t give a f*ck what you think about them . . .
When Patek killed the blue dial Nautilus 5711, they excommunicated thousands of potential customers who’d been waiting decades for a chance to own the timepiece. That wasn’t very nice. In this lack of customer-centric concern, they’re not alone.
Rolex killed the perpetually perfect Perpetual 39. Not because sales had dropped. Far from it. Because they wanted to. It may seem counterintuitive, but Rolex’s refusal to allow their authorized dealers to put a markup on all their new watches – which would end the drought – shows a similar Swiss disdain for the people putting food on their table. Customers come and go. We are forever. You should be grateful we even exist.
The resulting bullsh*t surrounding in-demand Swiss luxury watches is staggering. You want a Rolex Submariner or Rolex Daytona? Buy $100k worth of watches you don’t want and we’ll talk. You want a Patek Philippe? It’s who you know. If you’re the right sort of person who knows the right sort of person, we might deign to sell you one. If we don’t kill the model first.
This in-demand watchmakers do because they can. Grönefeld recently took to Instagram to gleefully announce that they’ve sold all 188 1941 Remontoires. At around $60k per watch, they’re pulling in over $11m. And that’s just one of their models. F.P. Journe has sold everything they’ve made, make and will make for years to come. There has never been a better time to be a high end luxury watchmaker.
There are lots of reasons for this unprecedented spike in demand. The world is a wealthier place. Arab oil money continues to flow. The Chinese dragon “suddenly” woke up (now accounting for half of all luxury watch sales). The worldwide pandemic lockdown cut off spending on luxury travel and clothes, raising discretionary income amongst the rich. Thanks to the internet, luxury watches are a big thing.
In short, it’s a feeding frenzy. Why should a watchmaker worry about long term customer relations when customers are begging for product?
That said, I reckon we’re heading for what I’m going to call Peak Watch: the point at which every rich bastard who really really wants a Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Grönefeld, F.P. Journe, etc. has one. Yes, eventually they will. Demand for luxury goods is fungible and fickle. The world economy will hit a wall, however temporary, at some point. It always does.
Enzo Ferrari once declared that he wanted to make one less car than the market desired. While you might think Rolex’s 1m, Patek Philippe’s 60k or Audemars Piguet’s 40k watches-per-year output will never satisfy demand, the real question is what will they do when it does.
Patek Philippe hates you, but don’t worry about their survival. They weathered the Depression for goodness sake. But yes Virginia, there will come a day when you can walk into an authorized dealer for one of these exalted brands and buy the watch you want.
Meanwhile, the luxury watch shortage seems designed to make buyers feel like supplicants. That’s because they are supplicants. Some wealthy people are reacting to this Patek Philippe Hates You and Thinks You Suck vibe by coveting a coveted watch more, throwing money at the problem, making it worse. (Auction prices tell the tale.)
Other potential buyers are put off by the whole thing. They’re avoiding grail watches and grail watch makers, looking for manufacturers with available product worthy of their patronage (e.g., Jaeger-leCoultre).
Unfortunately, there aren’t so many of the second sort of buyer as the first. What our man Adams calls “the flight to safety” – watch buyers gravitating to famous brands in uncertain times – shows little sign of abating. But abate it will.
At that point, the Swiss luxury watch brands will, as stated, keep on keeping on. But maybe, just maybe, they’ll be more choice and less agita. Pre-owned prices will fall. And our patience will be rewarded. Calatrava please.
Have you done a write-up of which popular brands/specific models oversupply, meet demand, or undersupply?
Nope. Are you volunteering?
Patek hates everyone who isn’t a clientele of a boutique, this much is true. TBH after working in the luxury industry, you do develop a disdain for the customer that’s a bit different than a random person. However, telling rich people “No” is a great way to sell more stuff. The French are experts at this. It’s a weird psychology that happens, but the people that sit on a waitlist for a watch that isn’t even that good, how can you not have disdain for such suckers since they’re material sycophants.
Isn’t one of the rules of seduction to randomly flatter and deny? It does appear to be an almost dominatrix/submissive relationship going on, which is something the rich and powerful are alleged to crave.
I’m guilty of coveting a near-grail watch in the past. A rolex explorer. Thought I’d just need to enter a variety of waiting lists, check inventory when in new cities. Then I learned. The watch is not to be had by riffraff like me.
For a while this made me want it more. After all, if it is so coveted and hard to acquire, there must be a reason.
Then I just felt stupid. After all the effort and time, I realized that acquiring the watch would announce not “I was able to get one”, but “this object was so important to me that I subjugated myself to get it. Isn’t my subjugation pretty on my wrist?”
And then I didn’t want it anymore.
Well done you.
^^^The definition of “epiphany.”^^^ 🙂
Saps, all of them. There are endless fun ways to spend money that don’t involve being demeaned, ignored, disrespected, scoffed at.
A certain type of person won’t mind all of the above, just to get a trinket. Imagining it’ll somehow raise their status or self worth or happiness level.
The rest of us realize that there are plenty of businesses who’d love our money. Go into a NAIM dealer for some high end audio and see how happy they are to give you great service and a cool experience. Same can be said for manufacturers of all manner of toys, experiences, and even shinny bling blings.
F*CK Patek, Rolex, anyone and everyone into furthering the bad attitudes of these French f*cks (and yes yes, Swiss and all the rest also).
Thank you, and this needs to be said more. The onus is always placed on the manufacturers or dealers, but it takes two to tango. The rubes going along with all this are exactly the same as the nerds we love to mock for sleeping on the sidewalk overnight so they can get the new Air Jordans, the latest model iPhone, or Star Wars/Marvel movie opening, just at a higher level. Hypebeasts.
I won’t even get in the drive-thru line at the local Chick-fil-a. Man, they must be handing out free crack. I’ve never been able to try their food, because I won’t wait in a line of 30 cars (I’m not kidding) to sample it. Every time I drive by, there are DOZENS of cars in line. The restaurant is in front of a BJ’s Wholesale. And, regardless of the time of day, the line of cars extends WELL into the BJ’s parking lot.
So, yeah… I’m not one who will jump through hoops to give MY money to a business. THEY are the ones who should be jumping. Furthermore, there is NO product or service out there that is worth more than my time or dignity… whether it’s a chicken sandwich, a Panerai with a sandwich dial, or a Rolex, or Patek. That’s never minding that I’m a zigger when everyone else is zagging.
I agree all around and looks like I’m in the company of troublemakers, or not the usual suspects/sheeple. As Farago said “…Mr. Stern’s mob couldn’t give a f*ck what you think about them..” So, when the line’s die down and the value of these timepieces fade, will we be lining up as PP, Rolex, etc bats their eyelashes and coos to their new-found suckers. Memories fade (they know that too well), and more likely than not average Joe will then be saying that all is forgiven and he’ll be at the counter paying for the latest and greatest chicken sandwich dial. The opportunists will continue to prosper, or at least live very comfortably. A dollar is a dollar is a dollar.