Issey Miyake; the 'New' Tiffany & Co.; Women Collectors at Auctions
The media gets watches all wrong
Entering your inbox like Chris Farley, we’ve got a cartwheeling round-up of links, musings, and recs. In today’s newsletter:
Remembering Issey Miyake through his watches
Recommended reads: Women collectors at auctions; the new Tiffany & Co.; ‘tactical’ advertising; entry-level is the new battleground
(Other) watch newsletter recommendations
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The Most Important Issey Miyake Watch
Legendary designer Issey Miyake died this week. While known mostly for his fashion pieces, a number of watches were also developed under his name.
In the early 2000s, artist/designer Ross Lovegrove designed the Hu Watch for Issey Miyake. “Hu” simply stands for human, and Lovegrove said the watch is "a fusion between the incredible works of Issey san, his constant invention, respect for materials and almost spiritual serenity in the way his clothes relate to the human form."
The watch uses a quartz Seiko movement, but its shape is the real standout, a retro-futuristic silhouette that would feel right at home in Tomorrowland.
RIP to Miyake, a legendary, thoughtful designer. Other watches were designed under the Issey Miyake name, but the Hu always felt like the standout.
Tiffany’s CryptoPunks NFT Launch and the Future of Tiffany & Co.: ‘For Tiffany to be everywhere, she must be for everyone’
“The most pressing question, perhaps, has less to do with the CryptoPunks collection and more with the brand itself. If this is ‘not your mother’s Tiffany,’ then who does she belong to? Only [new CEO Alexandre] Arnault can answer that, although the young scion seems disinterested in maintaining tradition. While at Rimowa, he adopted the streetwear playbook for the century-old luggage brand, introducing collaborations with Supreme, Off White, and Fendi. Fine jewelry, however, carries more emotional cachet than luxury luggage. Buyers want a story. They don’t care about hype. They want to fall in love.”
A look at what’s going on at Tiffany & Co. under new ownership and leadership. Of course, this CryptoPunks drop is just the latest in a long list of recent collabs, along with last year’s Patek link-up. Thirty-year-old CEO Alexandre Arnault has said that Tiffany “can be present everywhere.” But what does that really mean?
At first glance, collaborations with brands as disparate as Patek Philippe and CryptoPunks might perfectly illustrate this “be everywhere” strategy. But really, the products resulting from both collabs are emblematic of some modern, crypto-adjacent conception of luxury. Flashier and louder; certainly not Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s Tiffany & Co.
This manifestation of luxury has an expiration date (or it’s cyclical, at least) — we’ve already seen a turn against it over the past few months. The old Tiffany was supposed to be timeless. But is the new one? Sure, it’s great to be for everyone, but what if you lose yourself in the process?
Related: This Business Breakdowns podcast of LVMH gives an interesting look at its history of acquisitions (side note: Wolf in Cashmere has to be the most badass nickname ever).
“Dominated by the rich ‘boys’ club’ for the longest time, the luxury watch space is finally opening up to women with a fascination for mechanical timepieces. ‘We have seen a big increase in the number of women taking part in auctions, both as consignors and as bidders, in recent years. As we tend to attract hardcore enthusiasts, people who want to grow their collection and deepen their knowledge of watchmaking, the majority have become regular participants,’ says Arthur Touchot, International Head Of Digital Strategy at Phillips. ‘The major demographic shift probably happened about three years ago when we began seeing stronger and more consistent female participants at our auctions,’ he says.”
+ Randy Lai also wrote a piece on Wristcheck about Understanding The Hidden Appeal Of The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.
Strictly Vintage Watches
I became fascinated by the Rolex 1018 when I discovered it a couple years ago:
By all accounts, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual reference 1018 is an extremely rare watch, produced for just a few years. What at first glance might look like a simple Oyster Perpetual is in fact an under-the-radar collectible Rolex available in extremely limited quantities.
What makes the Reference 1018 different? In a word: size.
The 1018 has about the same specs as its cousin, the Explorer Reference 1016, measuring 36mm in diameter with a 20mm lug width, though the case has a slightly slimmer profile.”
So, I was excited to see Strictly Vintage Watches go in-depth on the model, getting hands-on photography with a bunch of pristine examples and exploring different variations of it.
“To be clear, men have long worn military-inspired garb: T-shirts. Aviator sunglasses. Dive watches. Even camouflage. But such items, first developed for use in wartime, have become benign over time. ‘Most camouflage today is essentially paisley — it's an all-over print,’ says Charles McFarlane, a writer. ‘It's been so taken in by fashion and by culture that it has lost its teeth as a symbol of state power or violence.’
By contrast, modern tactical gear can imply more aggressive and contrarian-based social signaling. Put differently, if wearing vintage camouflage helps people fit into mainstream culture, donning concealed-carry pants and vests with pockets for ballistic plates sets them apart.”
A look at the increasingly common use of a controversial, confusing adjective. Certainly, such positioning has been commonplace in the watch industry for years. (Yes, but can the 1000m of water resistance handle my special missions?!)
At a time of likely broader economic slowdown with high inflation, it is premium brands with entry-level products that may be best placed to thrive. ‘During a recession, consumers normally concentrate their spending on the top brands,’ comments Luca Solca, senior luxury analyst at consultancy Bernstein.
For all watchmakers aiming to remain competitive in the entry-level arena, close management of the impact of inflation and currency fluctuations is essential in stabilising production costs. Some brands, such as Rolex and Audemars Piguet, have raised prices. Others are looking for efficiencies in the manufacturing process to avoid rethinking prices.
I’m not sure I buy the narrative that “entry level is the new battleground” — take for example this chart below that shows Swiss watch exports in the “entry-level” categories declining in June 2022 — but it’s an interesting look at what brands are doing to reverse this long-standing trend (of the Apple Watch slowly hollowing out the sub-$3,000 category of watches):
Meanwhile, The New York Times commissioned a bunch of watch-related pieces. Here we go (I’ll be honest with you, I used up all of my free NYT articles and didn’t get to read all of these):
😻 He Wants to Make the World’s Most Beautiful Watch Straps, about Japanese artisan Kunitaka Kojima and his Galuchattail straps:
“The straps, which start at 150,000 yen ($1,085) for the simplest version in crocodile, are designed to be taken apart for repairs. ‘If the material is damaged, you can replace it, or if the loop breaks, you can make a new loop and repair it over and over,’ Mr. Kojima said.”
“‘There is really nothing bad in waiting lists, apart from people who want to flip watches quickly,’ Lange & Sohne CEO Wilhelm Schmid said. ‘Imagine if there were no waitlists. If the watch goes to the first person who knocks on the door, would that make people a lot happier. For sure, not. Resale would dictate the market.’”
🤢 Elsewhere, Bonham’s is holding an auction of 11 Hulk Submariners. Apparently, a “collector” bought one example every year the watch was made. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to offload 11 Hulks right now, but I suppose things probably aren’t about to get better. Don’t worry, WSJ and Bloomberg are here to tell you why:
It’s funny how even basic journalistic standards are often discarded when general news publications like WSJ and Bloomberg write watch-related articles like these two.
Take the example above: The narrative that the crypto collapse is what’s causing the watch prices to crash is total nonsense — a classic correlation, not causation mistake that anyone with a passing knowledge of statistics should understand. The prices of every asset class have been pounded over the last 6-8 months, and to blame one on another is misguided.
But honestly, the watch community is partly to blame for this. Since the pandemic, so much of our focus has been on prices, investing, the market, returns. The media loved covering the upswing, and no doubt they’ll have as much fun (a certain schadenfreude, perhaps) covering the “crash” (remember when the NY Times declared that Watches Are Yet Another Easy Way Rich People Make Their Money Into More Money?).
And that’s fine — I find the social and economic dynamics of the watch market fascinating, but that’s not a particularly sticky narrative to get people interested in watches. There are so many interesting stories to tell, I wish we would highlight those more.
Speaking of interesting stories: The Waiting List Podcast had a good interview with Roger Smith.
I’ve Got Issues
Rescapement was probably the first watch-focused publication to launch on Substack a few years ago. I’ll espouse the virtues of the newsletter another day (direct connection with readers, the inbox as the last algorithm-free bastion, blah blah blah), but today I wanted to feature a few other watch newsletters. Especially since Rescapement will continue to be less frequent, think about letting one of these into your inbox. First up:
Long-time friend Charlie Dunne regularly delivers at Strictly Vintage Watches.
Popular Instagrammer Watches of Espionage says he’s launching a newsletter soon.
Probably the closest Substack in spirit to the very newsletter you’re reading now is Chris Hall’s. Mr. Hall is the watches editor at Mr. Porter and I’ve devoured every issue of his young newsletter:
Of course, Jason Heaton’s watch-adjacent newsletter:
A few others, most of which publish < 1x week:
SFWatchLover: A collector of moderns & independents shares in-depth and honest reviews of his watches:
OxWatch: Owen, a young collector and great photographer from Oxford has started sending out a weekly blast.
New England Watches: Casual musings on affordable watches from a college student.
Pinaplwtchs: A look at affordable vintage watches.
Finally, if I’m being honest, often I’ll forget to visit SJX’s (wonderful) site, so I appreciate getting their weekly newsletter. And Hairspring is a great follow on Instagram, but I also enjoy getting Erik’s write-ups on interesting watches for sale in email format every Monday morning (the closest thing you’ll get to Hodinkee’s old Bring A Loupe).
OUT OF OFFICE
And now that your inbox is stuffed full, here’s an ad reminding us why we love analog watches. (I loved this AdSum x Timex collab.) Now take a breath and close this email!