Counterpoint: Are Brands Releasing New Watches Too Often?
New watches: who doesn’t love them? As fans, the latest releases keep us interested and thirsty for more. We’ve never had so much to choose from, but have we finally reached the point of “too much of a good thing?” Let’s discuss.
Ah, the good old days… It wasn’t so long ago when most watch brands released their newest wares on an annual basis. Baselworld and SIHH were the in-person forums where all was shown — and shown all at once! Attending these shows and providing coverage on all the new watches was a test in stamina and memory. As a reader, it probably felt like pure overload. After all the dust settled, though, people could sift through the news from these shows at their leisure for, literally, almost a year and decide if something was right for them or not. Those days, as we now know, are long gone.
Shows are down and releases are up
Those focused on the pandemic would be quick to tell you that the last two years have transformed how brands release and sell new watches. I’d argue that they’re wrong. The industry was moving this way well before a spiky little virus emerged. The little virus just happened to give Switzerland and Co. a swift kick to the posterior. Case in point, Baselworld was on the ropes well before the pandemic as brands began to realize that the juice was no longer worth the squeeze. They began to seek out customer-focused events to debut new watches and moved away from the one-size-fits-no-one approach of a stodgy conference hall.
New watches every week, maybe every day
The result of these moves away from shows along with seeing the industry finally embracing social media is that we literally get new watches all the time now. With the exception of a few brands (Rolex, you are the exception to almost every rule, aren’t you?), releasing new pieces has become a year-round event. Folks, I used to write a weekly article called “This Week in Watches” that focused on everything new from the prior week. It was one hell of a task to keep up with all the releases, and I often excluded many watches from my coverage; I simply couldn’t do it all!
Not just frequency, but also volume
So, we’ve registered the fact that a serious change has occurred in terms of frequency in new watches. I’d also argue that there are a lot more watches coming out these days. The rise of the microbrands has added boatloads of pieces to the marketplace and, closely related, we have a surge in revived brands as well. Excelsior Park, Nivada, Wolbrook, Tornek-Rayville(!!), and Aquastar — these are all brands that seem to be doing well that weren’t here a few years back. Limited editions, capsule collections, seasonal colors, and more! Folks, you name it, and there’s probably a watch to celebrate it. If not, it’s probably in the works.
Is the flurry of releases a good thing?
Now, it’s time to get to the part where we sit back and think about the current situation. Do we like the fact that at any given time, one can visit Fratello, another site, or Instagram and see a brand-new release? On the surface, I’d say yes, and given the option of the exact opposite scenario, I’ll take new watches every single day. But there are some cautionary tales in the world of fast-and-furious releases.
Swipe left, swipe right
The first issue I see with so many new watches all the time is that really good releases are often forgotten very quickly. In the past, we as fans and potential buyers read about a new piece, saw it, and considered it. Now, though, we look at something, give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down and move on to the next one. I’d argue that unless the watch is coming from one of the big brands and is a longstanding iconic model, this flippant behavior occurs. Even then, the big brands often join the game when they release new colors or a limited model every few months or so.
I’ll give a really good example of this. Balazs and I recently recorded a podcast about our favorite new watches from 2021. Wouldn’t you know that the watches that initially jumped to mind were all recent? We had to actually sit and think about (and research) what came out during 2021 to create more thoughtful responses because, hey, the newest isn’t always best. The latest Speedmaster Professional made our list, but almost barely! That’s not Omega’s fault, but more a product of the way most of our minds work these days. Watches in, watches out… But seriously, a brand new Speedy Pro is a BIG deal and on top of that, it was (and is) really good!
Next, and this is a big one for me, does this constant onslaught of new watches create buying hesitancy? No? You probably don’t think so because people are adding new pieces to their collections all the time. So, let me set up a scenario. Let’s say you’re not a zany goofball collector like me. You’re methodical, you do your research, and you’re probably one of those special-occasion buyers. You like watches and you aren’t a casual buyer. So, here’s the question: if you’re that kind of person and unless you’re going for one of those iconic pieces, how the hell do you decide what to buy? I ask this because, if I were this type of person, I’d be concerned that the same brand would release a more likable version a week or so later! Now that’s an issue we didn’t have to consider only a couple of short years ago.
Seiko has always released loads of new watches each and every year. The brand also has a long history of making limited-edition watches. The difference today is that these watches have more global exposure. On the other hand, I read the other day that Seiko (not including Grand Seiko) released over 400 new watches last year. Wow! Sure, Seiko offers many types of watches across loads of price ranges. I’d also guess that a good 50% of the releases were in the Seiko 5 Sports line. Still, we saw many plays on the €1,000+ Prospex diver theme. Some were even quite close to each other colorwise. Look, I love Seiko, and I still get excited to see new models from the brand. Concern enters, though, when considering one of those pieces and then having a very similar (or, gasp, better!) model come out a few months later.
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because, on the whole, I love reading and writing about new watches. It’s also clear that I like owning them! I do think, especially for the more established brands, that a more measured approach makes sense. Make a huge splash about a new release, push it, and stick with it for a while. Moving on to the next new thing so quickly feeds the beast, and I’m not sure it always adds value or increases prestige for a brand. Of course, others would contend that, in this modern world, brands have no choice but to keep the releases coming in order to maintain interest.
It’s a tough topic for sure, and as I said, I’m pleased that there’s usually something interesting and new to read about every day. So let’s hear from you now. Does the constant parade of new watches leave you more excited or more confused? How would you play it if you were a brand? We’re looking forward to your comments and parts of the team are standing by to converse!