Swiss Exports Fall Big in June; Stable for First Half of 2019

Business News

Swiss watch exports dropped 10.7% in June 2019 compared to the year previous, totaling 1.7 billion Swiss francs (CHF) for the month. Units sold was down 17%. The first half of 2019 ends with an increase of 1.4% over the previous year, with total exports at over CHF 10 billion. It’s a slow down from the first quarter, when exports were up 2.9%.

In short, the story of June was a few less purchases of high-value precious metal (or two-tone) watches that allow the industry to report top line growth while in reality much of the market outside of the high end is struggling.

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The Best Watches from Fortuna's No-Reserve Auction

Auctions

On Tuesday, July 9, Fortuna Auction hosted a “No-Reserve Watches” Auction, featuring 106 lots. Usually, lots offered at auction have a “reserve price” and if the final bid doesn’t meet or exceed that price, the lot will be pulled. Since all these watches had no reserve prices, they were all going home with someone new by the end of the night, like a puppy at an adoption center event. Let’s take a look at a few of the watches that sold.

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Watches of Knightsbridge Summer 2019 Auction Preview

Auctions

Sure, Watches of Knightsbridge has its monthly online auctions, which often have some nice watches in their own right. But a few times a year, they offer a larger platform, hosting a live auction in their native London. The next live auction is July 20’s Fine, Rare, and Collectible Timepieces, featuring 217 lots. There are three Rolex Submariners on the catalog cover, which might hint at the general theme of this auction. Let’s take a look at a few of the best watches up for auction.

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Bonham's Summer 2019 Vintage Wristwatches Online Auction

Auctions

Bonhams is hosting a number of wristwatch auctions this summer, but the most lots are on offer in its two-part “Vintage Wristwatches from a Private Collection”. Part 1 ended on June 27, while Part 2 is open until July 3. There are no headliner grabbers here, just some decent, honest watches that will all likely sell for under $5,000 to $6,000. The auction is full of Movado, Omega, Universal Geneve, and Vacheron — the collector here seemed to know what he or she liked, and went in deep. There’s also a lot of gold watches, with some exceptions (which I’ll highlight below).

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The RealReal Goes Public: What Does It Mean for Watches?

Analysis

Luxury online consigner The RealReal (TRR) has gone public on the Nasdaq, raising $300 million in an initial public offering, valuing the company at $1.6 billion. The IPO comes just days after sneaker marketplace StockX raised a new round of funding at a $1 billion valuation. and brought in a grown up to be the new CEO (sorry, backwards hat guy). The pre-owned, used, retail, whatever you want to call it space is heating up, and investors have been taking notice.

The RealReal, along with Poshmark and Thred Up, are the leading players in the resale sector. TRR offers a diverse selection of luxury items, including clothing, jewelry, art, home goods, and yes, watches. The company, founded in 2011, seeks to separate itself by authenticating every item that it consigns on its site. To consign goods on the site, you schedule an appointment with one of their authenticators, who checks out your goods and makes sure they’re legit.

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John Mayer's '5 Best Vintage Rolex for under $8,000': Where Are They Now?

Just for Fun

Way back in 2012, John Mayer wrote an article for a young Hodinkee titled “The Five Best Buys in Vintage Rolex for $8,000 or Less”. It was a fine article with a lovely premise: you don’t need to be rich like John Mayer to own a desirable vintage watch from the Crown.

Well, 2012 was a much simpler time. John Mayer’s collection has grown up, as has the vintage watch industry as a whole. Let’s take a look back at John’s list: if you had invested in his portfolio of five vintage Rolexes, how would you have made out over the ensuing seven years?

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Swiss Watch Exports Rise ... Because People Bought Alarm Clocks

Business News

Exports in the Swiss watchmaking rose 11.4% in May to just over 2 billion Swiss francs (CHF). Much of the increase was driven by the “other products” category, which is so often ignored — it was up 62% year-over-year — apparently people bought a lot of alarm clocks and small clocks last month. Growth in wristwatches was up 8.6% in terms of Swiss francs, but down 9% in terms of units sold. This continues the trend to selling fewer, higher-priced precious metal and two-tone watches.

The numbers are a positive rebound for the industry after it saw exports drop 0.4% in April; this was after exports grew a steady 2.9% in the first quarter of 2019.

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Watch Auctions: Calendar for the Second Half of 2019

Just for Fun

Lately, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a real lack of watch auction coverage around the internet. When I wrote my preview of Christie’s spring 2019 auction, there wasn’t much else out there covering the offerings at Christies, or the competing spring auctions from the other large auction houses, namely Sotheby’s and Phillips (I even tried to cover Antiquorum’s auction in our weekly newsletter because it seemed like no one else was). Sure, the sale of Andy Warhol’s Rolex garnered some headlines, but that’s little more than clickbait.

Say what you want about watch auctions, but they still bring some much-needed transparency to the market, help identify and define trends, and help advance scholarship, especially on rare and unique watches. And on a selfish level, learning about watches up for auction forces me to take the time to understand these new pieces and argue why one is worth highlighting in an article over another.

So, I’ll be making a concerted effort over the rest of the year to cover all the watch auctions I have time for. The first step in this is gathering up all the auctions from the various houses to make sure they’re on my radar for the second half of 2019

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Vacheron Constantin to Pilot Blockchain Authentication

Business News

Probably the most important question about a watch is its provenance. Where did it come from, and can you prove that it came from where you say it did? For centuries, this has meant having a watch’s “box and papers” to sell alongside the timepiece itself. These box and papers are thought to provide proof that the watch is legitimate, and that the buyer can proceed with confidence.

In reality, there’s not a full-proof way to be sure that the box and papers being offered alongside the watch are legit. These papers can be forged, faked, or tampered with, and with the money to be made in vintage watches, the motivation certainly exists.

Vacheron Constantin is hoping to use blockchain technology to chain that. A blockchain, by design, is an open, distributed ledger that can record a transaction between two parties in a verifiable and permanent way.

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The Best Everyday Watches in 2019

One Watch

It’s that time of year. Far and away, our most popular article of 2018 was The Best Everyday Watches of 2018. Turns out a lot of people are searching for the best everyday watch, the best go-anywhere-do-anything (GADA) watch, or the watch to make the perfect one-watch collection (yes, you can have a one-watch collection. That’s a hill I’ll die on).

With the 2019 trade shows (meh as they were) in the rearview mirror, it’s time to update the list for 2019. In 2018, I looked at the best watches that you could still buy new. For 2019, we’re changing the rules. I’m going to look at the best vintage, pre-owned, and new everyday watches out there.

A reminder: there are no real requirements for an everyday watch besides general durability and comfort. We’re talking about watches that can be dressed up or dressed down. Watches that look as good with a suit as they do alongside a t-shirt and jeans. Lume and water resistance are nice, but not necessary. An everyday wearer can come on a bracelet or strap, as long as it sits comfortably on the wrist. And while we’re willing to pay good money for a watch we’re going to be wearing every day, we can’t spend so much that we feel we have to baby it through every door jamb.

First, up, the best everyday watches you can buy new. I’ve broken them down into three categories: (1) the Under $2,000 Club, (2) the Microbrands, and (3) the Classics.

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Kanye Flashes His Cartier Crash on 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction'

Just for Fun

Today is Kanye West’s 42nd birthday, so I had to write a little something about the producer, rapper, fashion, and cultural legend. Last year when Kanye West made a trip to JP Morgan Chase in New York, I spotted what I thought looked to be a Cartier Crash on his wrist. Ye later confirmed with a Twitter post, and I wrote about how the watch was all too fitting for Kanye. His first single was recorded weeks after he was in a near fatal car crash, and urban legend has it the Cartier Crash’s distinct shape was the result of a similarly unnerving crash.

It seems that Cartier Crash might be Kanye’s daily wearer at this point. David Letterman interviews Kanye in the first episode of season 2 of "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” Kanye shows Dave around the West-Kardashian estate and Kanye flaunts designs by Axel Vervoordt, name drops Takashi Murakami, and shows off his own Yeezy clothing line. But amidst all the design and high culture, the thing that caught my eye most was a little more subtle: Kanye’s watch.

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Watches of Switzerland IPO Gives Hope to the Watch Industry

Business News

Shares in Britain’s biggest watch retailer Watches of Switzerland Group Ltd rose by as much as 15% on their debut on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday. Shares climbed to as high as 315 pence per share, from an initial price of 270 pence. On its second day of trading, May 31, shares stabilized a bit, closing the day at 308 pence.

The listing of 34% of the company was set to raise around 220 million pounds ($278 million), valuing the retailer at 647 million pounds. The 270 pence initial price was already at the top end of the range initially targeted for the deal, suggesting strong demand for the retailer which accounted for half of all Rolex watches sold in the UK in 2018, in addition to being the UK’s largest retailed of Patek Phillipe, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer, and Breitling.

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Swiss Watch Exports Drop 0.4% in April

Business News

After a strong first quarter of 2019, Swiss watch exports slowed in April, down 0.4% compared to April 2018. It’s a dose of reality for the industry, after exports grew a total of 2.9% throughout the first quarter. April’s low sales bring growth through 2019’s first four months down to 2.1%.

The total value of exports in April was still higher than that in March, but growth was down because of a strong comparison base to April 2018. The trend toward precious metals and two-tone (gold-steel) timepieces continued, with the categories up 4% and 5.2%, respectively.

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For Your Reference: The Movado FB 95M

For Your Reference

 This is a study of Movado 95M chronographs, particularly those housed in François Borgel manufactured, water-resistant, 35.5mm cases. Much of the following derives from a library of examples, compiled thanks to many collectors and sales across the web. The independent conclusions are based on this library as well as period advertisements and literature. Naming conventions presented and used are my own.

 Movado, in a previous era, offered a catalog more on par with Longines and Universal Genéve, than Michael Kors and Hugo Boss. The brand boasted a horological pedigree dating back to 1881 with innovations such as the ingeniously curved calibre Polyplan, and over six decades of in-house movements. Mid-century Movados are remarkable watches, none more the case than Borgel 95M’s.

While FB and Movado offered a waterproof two register in 1939— the first hard evidence of a FB case 95M comes from 1946. Movado made most of its 90M watches in the 40s and 50s whereas 95M examples seem to date more to the 50s and 60s; an eight-year delay between a water-resistant 90M and 95M is not unbelievable. My conclusion is that the 95M was certainly in a FB case by 1946 and could have been offered in the years prior, I just do not know.

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Richemont Misses Profit Estimates as Watch Sales Grow

Business News

Shares of luxury goods group Richemont closed higher on Friday as it announced strong sales growth amid weaker profitability in its 2019 fiscal year, which ended March 31.

Last year, Richemont purchased online pre-owned watch retailer Watchfinder, as well as online luxury destination Yoox Net-a-Porter. It also recently announced a joint venture with ecommerce giant Alibaba, though it continued to provide few details on that arrangement on its earnings call. With the acquisition of the online retailers, 16% of Richemont’s sales are now online.

Total watches sales in 2019 reached €5 billion.

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