In-Depth Don't Call Them Predictions: Four Things To Watch In The Watch Market For 2024









bonyadi magazine 


Ask pretty much anyone, and they'll tell you 2023 was the Year of Small Watches, and most prognostications I've seen have predicted a continued turn to smaller watches this year





Don't worry, this isn't yet another predictions article, and I'm certainly not going to tell you about how small watches are "in." Surely by mid-February, the submission date for forecasts has passed, and I don't really like making predictions anyway. Instead, with nearly two months of 2024 behind us, let's talk about what's already happening, and what else we might see throughout the year






With that, here are four things to watch in 2024

The trend to smaller watches feels a little overstated, as real as the continued interest in smaller, dressier, or gold might be. True interest in steel watches, at least the good ones, isn't going anywhere – it's the speculation that's gone











Instead, "broadening" is the word people kept using when I asked them about what to expect for 2024

Recently, GQ ran the numbers and pointed out that, while it might feel like it, watch releases aren't actually getting smaller. Brands are releasing more small watches, but those releases are extensions of their existing catalogs. Tudor may have released the 37mm Black Bay 54, but the larger Black Bays aren't going anywhere








Brands are broadening their offerings, recognizing that collectors are demanding exactly that. But this extends well beyond just sizes. Gone are the days of oppressive sports-watch hegemony. Collectors are discovering (or re-discovering) all kinds of corners of collecting. It's more than just Cartier or Piaget, or even smaller and dressier






iwc cloissone enamel dial
Another enamel dial I find myself thinking about way too much: This IWC with a beautiful cloissonné enamel dial that sold at Christie's last December for $27,000






This continued broadening of tastes will continue into 2024. There are so many more people interested in watches now than there were in 2020 or 2014, and they come at watches from every perspective

I would never be so bold as to predict niches that might pop into the popular consciousness, so I'll humbly submit a few I've been interested in – take them or leave them: All things Art Deco, from Jaeger-LeCoultre to American watch brands (Elgin, Hamilton). Enamel dials – I mentioned seeing a small portion of Sandro Fratini's enamel collection last year, and I still think about it almost every day. For the most part, I don't think of watches as "art," but enamel dials are the exception. Finally, the Patek Ellipse is something John Reardon has been talking about for years






Winners And Losers
vacheron 222 gold diamonds
While there's been a "correction" in the market, this also merely means it's reverted to the levels and growth rate we saw pre-pandemic. Auctioneer Phillips shared some figures to illustrate this






Across watch auctions, Phillips had 8,097 registered paddles in 2019. In 2023, it had 13,747 paddles (70 percent growth). Meanwhile, the average age of buyers at Phillips has decreased from 57 to 50 over the same period. Watches continue to grow and get younger. While auctions saw slight declines in 2023 compared to 2022, the longer trend still points upwards





But that doesn't mean prices are trending in the same direction

According to the latest Morgan Stanley report on the watch market that it publishes every month in collaboration with WatchCharts, prices on the secondary market decreased in Q4 2024 for the seventh quarter in a row









"We suspect pricing pressure on the secondary market could linger for another six months," the report says, citing the average inventory age, which suggests that some dealers are still holding out on realizing losses on their old inventory. This may continue to drive prices down, at least for the first half of 2024






With literally the most famous person on the planet wearing a watch 'round her neck, it just doesn't feel like interest in watches is going anywhere. And as prices continue to drop and perhaps bottom out at some point this year, it feels like that might only offer more buying opportunities for the watch curious






cartier bamboo coussin
I might think it's ugly, but the Cartier Bamboo Coussin is a clear winner – this example recently sold on LoupeThis for $67,000





longines 13zn
On the other end of the spectrum, interest in special Longines remains strong, too: this 13ZN sold for $36,000 at a small auction house this week. Image: Rich Fordon

By the way, it's not like prices are down across the board. Special watches are still getting special prices. To wit

A 1991 Cartier Paris Crash sold last week for about $164,000. Down from peaks, but still an extremely strong result
This Longines 13ZN "Doppia Lancetta" generated some buzz, selling for $36,000 at a small auction house







Another Cartier "Bamboo" sold for more than $50,000.
Artcurial's first watch sale of 2024 saw strong results nearly across the board, highlighted by neo-vintage Breguet and Blancpain (but also Patek and Rolex)






It's not all up-and-to-the-right, though. Look across these auction results, and you'll also see under-performing watches. During the run-up, buyers looked for any reason to buy a watch. With so much uncertainty, now collectors are looking for any reason not to buy a watch. It could be condition, price, or the vibes are just off.

"I can hardly give away a standard steel Datejust right now," was a sentiment shared among those I spoke to. It's not easy to sell watches right now, for anyone. Especially common, mass-produced models






Across the board, this polarization will continue. The big brands will continue to get bigger, with their most important models seeing increased demand. The same will happen for leading independents, while the rest fall behind





?Is It Okay To Talk About Omega Again

There were too many controversies to recap in the auction world last year, but the biggest one was the record-setting tropical Omega Speedmaster sold by Phillips that turned out to be a Frankenwatch. Since then, the Speedmaster market has been on life support. One of the biggest watch auction controversies ever has a way of chilling the market. If an auction house does take the risk of placing a Speedmaster in a sale, they've often underperformed or failed to sell






This is completely understandable, but also: I kind of miss talking about Omega. Vintage Speedies – and vintage Omega watches more broadly – are amazing. The catalog is so diverse. From Speedies to Seamasters to Constellations and 30T2s, there's something for just about every type of collector






In 2024, we'll start talking about Omega again. The brand's vintage catalog is just too good to go ignored forever






Through The Looking Glass

This last one is more of a hope than a prognostication. Journalist Chris Hall recently mentioned "transparency" as an area in which modern brands can do better. My hope is that dealers and auction houses take this note, too





Many of last year's auction controversies could've been solved, or at least alleviated, with more transparency. Better condition reports. Clear disclosure of financial interests





Meanwhile, is it too much to ask that, if you're a self-respecting watch dealer in 2024, you have a simple "about me" page on your website with your name and, ideally, a photo? Too often, I find myself playing P.I. to figure out the actual human behind an operation







Also, I know Instagram is great, but it'd be nice to have a historical archive of a dealer's sales and listings, so that if things go sideways (and they do), there's a real paper trail. Finally, too many dealers are masquerading as "collectors." I get it, we all love watches and sometimes it's hard to draw the line between passion and profession. It's totally fine to buy and sell watches and make money off it, but be honest about it. If you're doing it a lot and trying to turn a profit, you should be transparent with the community, because with that comes a different set of obligations and expectations













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