From Rolex Mania to a New Crop of Collectors, 9 Watch Industry Predictions for 2022
Thoughts about what's coming from those in the know.
Courtesy of WatchTime
Forecasts are notoriously difficult to get right. But that hasn’t stopped us from trying. We asked a mix of people familiar with the luxury watch trade the same question: What is your boldest prediction for the watch industry in 2022?
Their answers, which have been lightly edited for clarity, ranged from the obvious (Rolex prices will rise) to the far-out (see collector Morgan King’s fantastical prediction), but all of our respondents agreed on one point: The high-end watch category is destined for another blockbuster year.
Paul Altieri; Rolex Submariner Ref. 16800
Founder of Bob’s Watches, an online Rolex dealer in Newport Beach, Calif.
Inflation numbers are finally reflecting reality, so I expect Rolex prices to continue their upward trend as demand far outweighs supply for the year ahead. As a subset, vintage Rolex watches should continue to beat other asset classes as more and more collectors enter the market. All vintage Rolex models have experienced a surge in value over the past five years. But there are a few models that are still what I call “hidden values”—watches that are slightly under the radar. These would be the Submariner 16800 and the Submariner 168000.
Last year left us all scratching our heads concerning the increasing demand for all luxury products in general. People that were not interested before are now interested in joining the “timepiece ownership party.” Be prepared for the indies. Imagine opening your Instagram and seeing something no one has—how novel! I am excited for all of it.
We’ll see brands separating from the four big groups: LVMH, Kering, Richemont and Swatch. There will be pressure from the shareholders to reduce costs and to maximize returns and a lot of those brands will be much better off as independents. It will take years, if not a decade, for this to happen, but in 2022, we will see the beginning of the de-consolidation.
If Covid forces Watches and Wonders Geneva to be a virtual show again in 2022 (but perhaps regardless), this will be the final year for all-encompassing industry shows. As brands increase company-owned retail at the expense of multi-brand distribution, spread product introductions across the calendar year and participate in targeted gatherings such as Dubai Watch Week, they will realize that the expense and effort of participating in annual extravaganzas aren’t justified by their impact.
Young independent stars will continue to burst onto the scene, confirming that we are truly enjoying a golden age of watchmaking. We’ve seen how Rexhep Rexhepi and Gäel Petermann and Florian Bèdat have dazzled the market with creative movement designs, attractive aesthetics and gorgeous finishing; many other young makers are now beginning to bring their boutique efforts out for sale and will certainly find patrons among the independent collecting community.
In looking ahead at 2022, I expect, unsurprisingly, more growth, but most importantly, a broadening of the market. Five years ago, it felt as if everyone in the auction room or collector space were all after the same watches. Collectors all talked about the same watches and everyone understood very clearly what was important and what was not. 2021 has demonstrated that this is no longer the case, and that’s a great thing! As the market is broadening, more spaces are opening up for collectors to live.
For example, in looking at our New York online sale, we saw the consistent understood results for watches like Patek Philippe 5102G celestial and what we would expect for vintage references such as Rolex Ref. 8171 in yellow gold. However, we had a new segment of bidders bring extraordinary results for timepieces such as MING and Kurono Bunkyo. In looking at our Geneva live and online sales, early important pocket watches brought tremendous results that haven’t been seen in years.
Watch dealer Sean Song with some of the goods in his space at the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Song wears a Daniel Roth C127 Retrograde.
My prediction is a huge return to more classical dress watches, mainly in the independent sector. It has been happening gradually already in 2021, but with the insane hype of sport watches such as the Nautilus and Royal Oak, a lot of people have been priced out of this segment and in general do not want to pay the huge premiums. The big value currently lies in neo-vintage pieces from the ’90s, with brands such as early Daniel Roth, Breguet and Parmigiani as ones to watch.
There will be a renaissance in the watch industry, both from a creative and business standpoint. This year has the opportunity to greatly increase the diversity of collectors—and watches—in circulation, growing the community and encouraging innovation across the board.
The rapidly growing interest in independents and the lack of “Old Guard” inventory will lead collectors previously nervous about taking risks on lesser-known makers or vanguard designs to open their minds just as the watch world moves to increase access through an embrace of e-commerce as a primary sales channel and authentication through blockchain. This means more opportunity for watchmakers to follow their hearts and make what they want, a higher likelihood consumers will open their minds to these new designs, and much simpler paths to purchase and resale than have existed before.
Rolex! Rolex! Rolex! The Milgauss and Air King are due for a change. Many have speculated that they will be either discontinued or upgraded. I say boldly that Rolex will combine the two lines to make — wait for it — the new 2022 Rolex Mil-King. With every Mil-King watch sold, each lucky owner will be double lucky and receive a pair of prototype kicks: the 2022 Nike Air-Gauss! These will be magnetic so you can literally stand sideways on magnetic refrigerators! “Just Two It.”
To be more boldly realistic, I predict there will be a meteorite Submariner with a sweeping red second hand… OMG! Another bold 2022 prediction is that Omega will be releasing a farewell edition Omega Speedmaster with the 3861 caliber with the theme of man leaving the moon (a tribute to astronaut Gene Cernan, who, on December 1972 on the Apollo 17 mission, became the last man to walk on the moon). Limited production of 1,972 pieces, of course!
New York-based founder and chief executive of the public relations agency Kaaviar PR, and cofounder of Watch Femme, a female-centric community of watch aficionados
My boldest prediction is that watches will become the new “must have” accessory. Appreciation of fine watchmaking will start to move further away from a niche luxury interest and transition into the mainstream. Fueled by growing demand from a more diverse population, the industry will increasingly adopt inclusive messaging across demographics such as gender, age and culture.