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Rolex sales reach CHF 8 billion, Cartier now the second-largest watch brand by sales
Plus Omega novelties and vintage rarities
This week’s newsletter is Presented By Subdial, the trading platform for true watch enthusiasts and collectors. Subdial is a real day one supporter of Rescapement, so I’m excited to be partnering closely with them this year. Not only do they curate a diverse weekly selection of vintage, independent, and pre-owned watches, they’re also heavily invested in the community and supporting quality content (if I do say so myself). Below, we’ll highlight a favorite watch from their weekly drop.
A mid-week newsletter last week threw off our typical Monday email schedule. I’ve added a few other charitable projects that readers sent in since blasting out that newsletter, so check it out if you haven’t yet.
Today: The annual Swiss watch industry report is here, and it’s got some surprises; a glance at Omega’s 2022 novelties; a couple of vintage rarities; checking in with auction houses.
Rolex sales reach CHF 8 billion, Cartier now the second-largest watch brand by sales
Audemars Piguet moves past Patek Philippe for the first time
According to Morgan Stanley’s annual report on the Swiss watch industry, Rolex turnover reached CHF 8.1 billion in 2021. This represents 29 percent of the market, up from its market share of 25 percent a year prior.
Meanwhile, Audemars Piguet overtook rival Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe by revenue for the first time. climbing to the fourth-highest turnover among Swiss watch brands. Here’s the full top ten, along with estimated turnover (in CHF):
Audemars Piguet, 1.6b
Patek Philippe, 1.5b
Richard Mille, 1.1b
TAG Heuer, 680m
Breitling, Hublot, and Vacheron Constantin sat just outside the top ten. For those keeping track, this leaves seven brands in the “billion club” with more than CHF one billion turnover annually (Tissot fell out).
Cartier sales jumped 40 percent year-over-year, vaulting it into the second position above Omega and upsetting the generally accepted one-two punch that is Rolex and Omega in the Swiss watch industry.
Fellow Richemont brand Vacheron Constantin also saw a 50 percent jump in sales. The continued rise in sales for super luxury brands like Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet (and even Cartier) illustrates the sustained move to high-priced watches in lieu of lower-priced brands.
For example, Swatch Group’s brands lost 4.5 percent of their market share over the last two years. Even as a moderately-priced brand like Longines finds continued success, others like Tissot, Hamilton, and Mido have struggled. Swatch Group’s 2021 market share dropped to 22 percent (down from 25 percent in 2020).
Rolex’s CHF 8b in turnover represented CHF 12b in retail sales. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, total watch exports from Switzerald were CHF 22.3b in 2021, up 3% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels. In other words, there’s industry growth in new watch sales, but not a ton.
Compare this to the fast-growing secondary market, which has been estimated at $20b, and depending on which consultants/bankers you listen to, is expected to grow at more like 10% a year.
Here’s Bloomberg’s summary of the annual report from Morgan Stanley and LuxeConsult.
Note: I just received the full report, so perhaps we’ll have some more fun graphs and stats from it in the next newsletter.
This week’s newsletter is Presented by Subdial, the ultimate trading platform for watch enthusiasts and collectors. Every week, we feature one of the watches from their weekly drop.
Over the past few months, collectors have been going crazy for Lange. But not just any Langes — especially early Langes. In 2004, Lange introduced the 1815 Chronograph, a thinner version of the Datograph. The example featured here is a First Series 1815 Chronograph, best identified by its pulsation scale, a detail Lange would eventually bring back in later series of the 1815 Chronograph. While the Datograph might be more famous, this chronograph is a pure distillation of in-house watchmaking, from the brand that made it cool to produce chronograph calibers in-house.
⏱️ Head to Subdial for this 1815 Chronograph or check out the full selection of Lange, Tudor, and Ming from their release.
Omega released a bunch of new watches
Check out the Omega 2022 Novelties Page. Here are the quick hits:
Colorful dials for the Aqua Terra. Omega introduced a host of new dial colors, including green, silver, purple, and pink dials in the 34mm and 38mm Aqua Terra. I love that brands are having fun with dial colors. It’s hard not to view this as a reaction to the popularity of Rolex’s colorful Oyster Perpetual line, but in photos these dials seem more subdued and traditional than those Stella-inspired dials. Here’s one difference though: I appreciate that Rolex brought the bright Stella dials to the OP in 31, 36, and 41mm (okay, the pink isn’t offered at 41mm, so this is where Oris gets credit). Meanwhile, Omega has introduced some different dial colors at the 34 and 38mm options (purple and pink only at 34, and not at 38, for example). Give me pink and purple at 38mm! Give me dark red and yellow at 34mm!
An update to the Speedmaster ‘57. Omega also introduced an update to the Speedmaster ‘57 line, their modern play on the original Speedmaster ref. CK2915. Perhaps my favorite modern Speedmaster is the ‘57 Trilogy from a few years ago, so I love that they’ve brought life back into this model. It’s a smaller case size (40mm) compared to the Speedmaster Professional, and now thinner (13mm) thanks to a METAS-certified manual movement. It’s the modestly-sized Speedmaster for those of us who never pulled the trigger on that ‘57 Trilogy or the “First Omega in Space” Speedy. $8,600 on bracelet.
A new green dial for the Omega Seamaster 300m. Because of course.
New Planet Ocean Ultra Deep. Back in 2019, Omega released a concept Ultra Deep that reached ocean depths of 10,000 meters, basically the deepest trenches in the ocean. Now, Omega has released a serially-produced Ultra Deep for the public, rated to 6,000 meters. It starts at $11,200 and is offered in both titanium and a proprietary O-MEGASTEEL alloy.
From new releases to a couple vintage picks
A crazy-rare Rolex Explorer ‘Albino’
The Rolex Explorer ref. 6610 preceded the long-running 1016, having been produced for a few years in the late 1950s. Close your eyes, and conjure up an image of the Rolex Explorer and no doubt they’ll you’ll be imagining a black dial.
Okay, now open your eyes.
Menta Watches posted a ridiculously rare “Albino” Rolex Explorer ref. 6610. According to their post, less than five of these have ever come to market. Even better, this one’s got a red depth at 12 o’clock.
According to Menta, the last Albino Explorer like this to sell publicly was at Christie’s back in 2013. We fired up our favorite search engine to track that example down and find that it sold for CHF 171,750. A lot’s happened since then, but one thing’s still true: This is one of the rarest (and coolest) examples of an Explorer you’ll ever find.
Salmon Longines ‘Calatrava’
Another piece of classic, time-only watchmaking. This time from Longines. It doesn’t get much better than vintage salmon dials. Here’s a beautiful example from a Longines “Calatrava” that dates to 1938. Squint and it almost reminds me of another vintage Longines that served as inspiration for the modern Heritage 1945, perhaps crossed with the Longines Heritage Classic. As good as the modern Longines Heritage collection is, nothing beats the stories and warmth of crispy vintage examples like this.
THROUGH THE WIRE
Auction season is fast approaching, and the auction houses certainly have a lot to keep track of right now. Houses say they’re checking hourly to see if buyers or sellers are on government sanctions lists. The New York Post ran an article detailing how some art collectors are calling for a boycott of Phillips. As the Post explains: “Phillips is owned by Mercury Group, which is Russia’s largest luxury-goods company. It was founded in 1993 by Russian entrepreneurs Leonid Fridlyand and Leonid Strunin, who are reportedly close to Putin.”
For its part, Phillips posted a statement via Instagram condemning the invasion of Ukraine, also announcing it would donate 100% of the buyer’s premium from last week’s big 20th Century & Contemporary Art Sale to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society. Despite the boycott talk, Phillips had a successful $40 million sale, raising $7.7 million for the Red Cross.
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Hope everyone else has a week as lucky as John Calipari…