While the world recession hasn’t bitten everyone on the posterior, it’s certainly taken a chunk out of the luxury watch market. The export of Swiss watches has shown a marked downturn in the first half of the calendar year. The month of June saw the biggest drop with a dive of almost 32%, while the six monthly cumulative decline was over 26%. The U.S., Hong Kong, China, Japan and UAR, important markets for Swiss watches, registered falls in imports from 42% in the U.S. to around 30% for Japan.
The question on many Swiss manufacturer’s lips is, has the Wall Street fiasco and the resulting collapse of markets around the world been big enough to trigger a fundamental shift in the behaviour of those wealthy enough to consume higher–end Swiss product? It has certainly wiped out many innocent bystanders as well as an army of high-end brand flaunting parasites aligned with high risk banking, insurance, finance and investment. These latter brand name junkies have been having quite a fire sale of cars, watches, jewellery and anything else that helped them parade their self-inflated status.……but a fundamental shift in attitudes towards luxury items?
While early commentary may have predicted the end of conspicuous consumption as we know it, it appears reports of its death may have been premature. Because, while down, exports of Swiss watches are still just under 2006 levels and there are signs, particularly in some of the tiger economies in Asia, that the trend has bottomed. So, while there is a certain sobriety in the U.S. and to a lesser extent Europe, demand for Swiss luxury watches may begin to show some growth in some Asian markets in the second half of the year.
Those who thought the vintage watch market would follow suit and take a parallel dive are beginning to have to re-evaluate their theories, because it appears that vintage watch markets for quality and collectible marques have held up incredibly well.
In the example of Omega Constellations, prices for 18k Gold models in good condition with original, low patina dials have increased by between five and ten percent on on-line auction sites over the past twelve months. Quality stainless steel and gold top pie pans with good, original dials and powered by calibres 551 and 561/564 have shown no retreat. Earlier Constellations, particularly those powered by calibre 352 RG have, again, commanded around a ten percent increase over last year in on-line auctions.
In contrast, Omega Constellations in the medium to low quality range have attracted less buyer interest and prices have dropped accordingly in all metals. Higher quality Constellation C-Shapes and the integrated bracelet lines represent good buying.
So while new is losing its allure, those collectors who, rather than having gone for quantity, have opted for quality and collectibility have certainly been vindicated in this current climate. Their collecting ethos is well worth adopting as the value of their investment has not only been maintained but in many instances increased