This Week (in Watches) Today, 26 July 2022: 7 things you should know

This week has been dominated by the falling prices of hyped models, the effects like Chronext’s lay-offs, and the potential causes like China’s lockdowns and the resulting drop in demand from the region. Then there are the small shake-up in the world of auctions, Miyota’s unprecedented new movement that opens a world of possibilities, and finally, extremely cool releases from De Bethune and Sarpeneva. These are the top 7 things in the world of watches; let’s get into it.

Chronext cuts workforce by 1/3

Photo Credit: WatchPro

In a dramatic turn of fortunes, secondary market business Chronext has laid off 40 of its once 150-person workforce. The company announced the move was a “hard but necessary step” to safeguard the company’s foundation amid more “volatile” times. This comes after the company suffered as a result of falling prices of many of the hottest watch models in the market, some by 50% from their peak shortly before Watches & Wonders in March. Still, this is a surprising turn of events given that the company was almost public listed in the 2nd half of last year, and at one point was looking for a valuation of CHF700 million. At this point, that all seems like a distant pipe dream. Despite all that, the company has solid management and board, and assuming that talent stays, there might still be hope yet.

Prices of hype models are falling

Photo Credit: Chrono24

It has been a trend for a couple of months now, but the falling prices of hyped models like the Nautilus, Royal Oaks, and Daytonas come to the fore again with events like Chronext’s layoffs. Another grey market company, Chrono24 reports that this softening is likely due to traders taking profits off the table and putting up more pieces for sale. Still, the company believes that this dip in prices is but a slight correction since prices were already trading at multiples of retail prices.

The USA catches in demand with China & Hong Kong

Photo Credit: WatchPro

If you talk to the grey dealers I have, you will hear that one of the main reasons for the softening prices of hot models is because of the severe lockdowns that China has imposed in its continual bid to make its 0-COVID policy a success. While that is difficult to verify, there may at least be a correlation, if not causality. WatchPro reports that in 2020, growth in luxury watch exports to the USA has overtaken that of exports to China and Hong Kong. Moreover, in the first 6 months of this year, the exports to the USA amount to CHF 1.86 billion, just under that of both China and Hong Kong combined. While this is likely a direct effect of the lockdowns that China imposed, it may also have been a culmination of the crackdown on corruption that the government has executed over the past couple of years. With China slowly opening up, it will be interesting to see how market prices for hype models are affected.

Audemars Piguet pips Rolex in auctions

Photo Credit: WatchPro

Despite softening prices over the past couple of months, auction houses have continued to do well, with new records regularly being set. But perhaps tastes have shifted slightly away from Rolex, which is relatively more mass produced. The beneficiary? Unsurprisingly, the maker of another hype model, Audemars Piguet. Audemars Piguet overtook Rolex in the number of lots sold within the CHF 100,000 to CHF 1 million range, with 159 lots to the latter’s 134 lots. Audemars Piguet also was only one of two brands besides Patek Philippe in the top 10 most expensive watches sold at auction. The watch that made the list was Gerald Genta’s personal Royal Oak which sold for CHF 2,170,000. The only other watch was a piece by George Daniels. Patek Philippe still dominated proceedings though, taking 8 of the top 10 with the most expensive being a CHF 7,255,605 perpetual calendar chronograph in rose gold. Personally, I am glad that the watches taking many of these spots are fully deserving because of the haute horology that goes into them, instead of merely being hyped watches.

Miyota’s traveler’s GMT movement

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For some time now, Miyota has been the go-to movement for many a microbrand as a more affordable alternative to ETA and Sellita movements. Despite that, there has always been a certain prestige (whether misguided or not) that comes with being a Swiss movement, which was not helped by Miyota never really have any differentiated movements from the Swiss alternatives. Well, now it does. Launched as the engine to the new Citizen owned Bulova Wilton GMT, Miyota’s new movement is a GMT movement, and no not the caller’s GMT movement that Swiss brands already produce but an actual caller’s GMT movement. In Mark Wheeler’s article on the Wilton GMT (I will not go into the watch itself), he said that there was certain snobbishness that was associated with traveler’s GMTs. That may be true, but it is not entirely baseless. After all, up till now, there has been virtually no affordable traveler’s movement that has been available. Virtually everyone has been an in-house-produced movement. This makes what Miyota has done a remarkable feat, something that even fellow Japanese brand and movement maker Seiko has failed to do in its recent GMTs. Assuming Miyota eventually makes this movement available for procurement though, that is all set to change, and I for one am extremely excited by the possibilities, Nodus Sector GMT anyone?

De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius Aérolite Tourbillon

Some brands are content to use meteorite dials on their watches with the bare minimum finish required to make them fit and allow these celestial pieces of art to stand on their merit. Then there is De Bethune, which thermally heats one of the oldest meteorites to form a brilliantly whimsical milky way outlined with hand-inserted white gold pins & leaves so that you literally wear the galaxy on your wrist.

There is always something inspiring and whimsical about looking at the celestial heavens and that translates wonderfully to this watch, set in the brand’s DB25 line. And then there is the amazing movement both in technical capabilities, design, and finish which could very well be the dial. I am almost willing to ignore the larger case of 42mm on a dressy watch. Almost, because wouldn’t it have been even better if De Bethune left out the hour and minute ring that frames the celestial dial, and shrunk the watch to 38mm? But I’m nitpicking. This watch is truly a piece of art, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Check out the full article here.

Sarpaneva Nocturne

Finally, we have the latest from Sarpaneva. The brand is one of the more unique watch brands with interesting quirky dials that utilize lume to its full effect. The brand is back with its latest tribute to the moon, the Sarpaneva Nocturne. The watch comes in a 42mm x 11.4mm & uses the dimensions to great effect dial-wise.

Not only has a large moon face, set against a twinkly night sky overseeing clouds & a calm sea been included but there is even a rotating shooting star disc, and a part of an owl, a wise night bird. Naturally, various elements are lumed in different colors, such as the sea, stars & shoot stars. The moon is also lumed though there are two options, with the steel-based moon featuring a white lume while the blacked moon has an orange lume in a nod to the harvest moon.

I am not normally a fan of larger watches especially when they tend towards the dressier artistic side of things, but this watch makes a solid case for how the space is used to brilliant effect. I also love that this watch is meant to be functional given its 100m water resistance. Of course, with such interesting features, the watch would be pricey at EUR 19,000, & sadly rather limited with only 30 pieces of each option available. If you can afford it, you would be getting a rather rare watch that is also extremely fun.

So that is it for this week. As always, get in on all the action on the Scottish Watches website, and of course, the podcast on your podcaster of choice. Till next time, take care everyone.