The Evolving Landscape of Watchmaking in 2024: Six Trends to Keep an Eye on
As we step into the new year, the watchmaking industry is poised for significant shifts and some not-so-significant shifts as some brands try their best to be innovative, while others continue on their path from last year and maintain their status quo. As a result, and like always, the watchmaking landscape is evolving, and 2024 promises to be an interest year at the very least. In this article, we’re going to delve into six predictions that are set to shape the watchmaking industry over the coming twelve months as the world of watchmaking wakes up after its New Year celebrations.
One prominent trend that has been gaining momentum in the watchmaking industry over the last few years is the increasing number of collaborations. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, and in 2024, we can expect to witness more partnerships between brands, retailers, publications, and notable personalities. Are they perhaps being a tired attempt to piggyback on one another’s popularity, fanbases and name? Perhaps, but they work, so we’re likely to continue seeing them.
To be fair, these collaborations do often bring fresh perspectives to watch designs such as the Travis Scott Audemars Piguet, so they do have their benefits for us watch fans as the collaborations can create unique, limited-edition watches that capture the essence of each collaborator. This collaborative spirit is often driven by the desire to appeal to a broader audience and create watches that resonate with diverse tastes, so it might be a tired trope, but the watches can be cool. For 2024, we expect watchmakers to continue their ways and collaborate with renowned brands, publications, famous faces, retail partners and so on as the industry embraces its collaborative spirit like never before – at least until the limited edition releases these collabs create fail to sell out.
It probably serves as a surprise to no one, but in the world of horology, Rolex has long been a trendsetter, whether you or I like it or not. They have set the scene every year at Baselworld, and recently Watches and Wonders, and in 2024, we anticipate an increasing number of brands will emulate Rolex's releases this year as the watch market continues to see shrinking demand. This imitation trend, fuelled by consumer demand for Rolex-inspired designs, is expected to continue as brands seek to capitalize on Rolex’s iconic status and sheer popularity. While brands were able to branch out in years past while the industry swelled with money, shrinking primary market demand will probably see brands revert back to their conservative ways.
Like how every brand wanted to have their own colourful Oyster Perpetual-inspired collection in 2020, we will probably see more of that same tactic in 2024. While some may criticize this approach as lacking originality, it is undeniably a testament to the enduring appeal of Rolex's power in the industry and the result of falling demand as watchmakers seek commercial success.
Swatch x Omega Collaborations:
Building on the success of the MoonSwatch collaboration, we predict that Swatch will continue to partner with Omega, this time focusing on James Bond’s favourite watch, the iconic Seamaster collection. There’s no doubt that the MoonSwatch collaboration garnered immense attention, blending Swatch's playful aesthetics and construction materials with Omega's distinguished designs and rich history. However, Swatch is likely to be more discerning in its collaborations, avoiding partnerships with less popular brands, as seen in the cautionary tale of the Blancpain collaboration.
While the Blancpain collaboration started well in 2023, it piggybacked off the popularity of the MoonSwatch. The next release won’t have the same success to piggyback off as the Blancpain x Swatch Scuba failed to have the same impact, and thus the new release will need to be from a cooler brand in Swatch’s stable than the likes of Blancpain. Some have touted that it will be a Breguet Type XX, but we think it will be another Omega as Breguet are arguably less “cool” than Blancpain already, but maybe the Swatch collab will earn them some cool points. Time will tell.
Rising Retail Prices and Falling Secondary Market Values:
The watchmaking industry is certainty no stranger to fluctuating market dynamics, and in 2024, we foresee a continuation of certain pricing trends. Retail prices, as evidenced by Rolex's recent increases, are expected to rise across the board as brands maintain the pricing inflation that they have been implementing over the last few years. This upward trajectory is supposedly driven by factors such as rising production costs, but with inflation beginning to fall, it is hard for brands to continue arguing their point. 2024 is likely the last year the majority of watchmakers will be able to raise their prices without having too hard a hit on their sales volume.
Conversely, the secondary market values of watches are likely to continue experiencing their decline. As mentioned, demand is beginning to dry up, and secondary market values are falling. While some models are still priced very strongly, plenty of oversaturated models have already fallen and will continue their descent, such as easy-to-get Rolex models like the Datejust, Explorer II, and so on. However, given their fixed supply and steady demand, vintage watches will likely maintain their allure, with collectors continuing to value these timepieces' timeless appeal and historical significance. Thus, their values will likely remain much more steady than their modern counterparts.
Integrated Steel Blue Sports Watches:
In a move to capture the attention of enthusiasts and capitalize on prevailing trends, we anticipate more brands introducing integrated steel sports watches into their collections, especially those who don’t already have one in their offering. While certain brands have already embraced this design aesthetic, others are likely to join the party in 2024, recognizing the enduring popularity of blue dials and integrated bracelets, and feeding into our point whereby shrinking demand will force brands to conform to whatever the masses are doing.
Vintage Reissues: A Nod to the Past:
In a nod to nostalgia, watchmakers will continue to tap into their heritage by reintroducing vintage designs. This trend is fuelled by the enduring popularity of classic timepieces that evoke a sense of history and craftsmanship while also speaking to collector’s nostalgia. By reissuing vintage models, brands can appeal to both seasoned collectors and a new generation of watch enthusiasts who appreciate the timeless elegance of retro-inspired designs. Brands like Longines, Breitling, TAG Heuer, Zenith and even Rolex joined in on this trend in 2023, and it is certainly likely to continue in 2024.