So Brexit finally happened, what a lark. Will it have any efect on Swiss watch imports, prices or parts availability? Nope. The Swiss are too crafty as regards throttling supply, regardless of the deals that politicians do. But what else can the world of watches expect to see in 2021?
- The Democracy of Kickstarter Will Get Bigger
All the tools you need to launch your own watch brand are already in place. Movements are cheap and reliable, specialist companies offer sapphire crystals, dials, bezels, straps etc in low volume production runs. NWC magazine can see a boom year ahead for crowdfunded watches, as people realise that Indie watch brands offer great value, high spec watches at about half the price of a typical Swiss automatic/GMT. Those who build their brand with striking designs, plus special rewards and deals on social media channels will do better than the samll companies who simply pile onto the latest trend.
2. UK watch retailing options on the High Street are set to shrink drastically.
There simply isn’t the footfall to sustain H Samuel/Signet, Goldsmiths, Beaverbrooks and Chisholm Hunter shops in many locations. With another miserable summer ahead as regards overseas tourism, plus lockdowns until spring, the UK High Street will see dozens of chain stores switch to online retailing. Brands like Seiko, Swatch Group or LVMH will be fine, but some of the smaller fry may struggle to adapt. Watches of Switzerland will gradually tighten its noose on High Street watch shop prime locations in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and other major retail outlets. Only boutique, luxury level watch shops in secure, non-scumbag areas will be viable in a few years’ time. Those who keep trying to sell £500 Citizen/Armani watches in towns where 60% of the adult population are in receipt of some sort of benefit will go bust, slowly but surely.
The luxury Swiss brands are going to have to form the wagons in a circle and that process will begin to gather pace next year.
3. The Cousins vs Swiss industry case will be resolved in the name of climate change.
This argument over spare parts supply is a classic David vs Goliath battle, and it started years ago as Rolex and others, tried to make sure that luxury watches could not be repaired, except via their authorised dealerships. Restriction of OEM parts is a tactic the car industry and others tried in the past, and it usually fails. But in 2021 the focus on climate change and constant screeching and foot-stamping from activists like Hostage Harry and the Exorcist kid from Sweden will cause a complete capitulation from the Swiss on all things recycling and less component miles being clocked up.
How can you defend the cause of blocking local independent watch repairs, or claim that buying new is better for the planet than refurbishing a ten year old TAG? The Swiss watch industry, along with jewellery and fast fashion, will face a vehement campaign against it this coming year by Marxist groups like BLM, Antifa and XR. By settling the Cousins dispute they take a step towards championing the art of hand-crafted repair, recycled parts, promoting a less disposable consumer goods manufacturing policy, fewer product miles and so on. All those mean marketing brownie points in the MSM.
4. The UK government will encourage manufacturing with grants.
Previously EU rules meant that the UK could not offer to subsidise sectors of the economy, like fishing, shipbuilding, aircraft etc. Now it is free to actually invest in making things, and then selling things around the world. Just a few million here and there in watchmaking courses at Altrincham and other locations, start-up loans, partnerships with Universities, overseas showcases/pavilions etc will make a big difference. There is so much talent in the UK, let’s hope that the UK government does more than buy a few more fishing trawlers this year.
5. Rolex waiting lists will get worse.
Next year will see the rich getting even richer, via Bitcoin, cyber scams, stock market booms, property values rising in certain areas etc. Much of the profits will be spent on Rolex watches because they are the symbol that ays to the world, `I’ve made it.’ So expect popular models to be unobtainable, expect bribes to be offered, price premiums of 5-8 grand on pre-owned or flipped Subs, Daytonas and GMTs.
In the used market, the big profits will be made on bigger case size Rolex models. Anything under 37mm will struggle to match the 20% increase in values that the bigger Oysters will achieve this year. No, I’m not joking, people will buy Oysters or Explorers because they cannot find a decent used Sub under 8K by June. Just like demand for nice 4 bedroomed houses that can be sub-let in University cities, the demand for Rolex watches far outstrips supply and that trend will continue throughout 2021.
The 42mm white dial Explorer II is my top pick of 2021. You could make a two grand profit, if you can find a mint pre-owned example for about seven grand, because the rise in values will be huge at the top end of the Rolex market and that tsunami of cash means all boats will rise.