Rob corder

CORDER’S COLUMN: How the watch industry learned the power of a mic drop

This week we saw two mic drop moments: Patek Philippe’s 5811 and Cartier’s Pebble reissue.

A mic drop is defined — and this is in the dictionary — as the act of intentionally dropping one’s microphone at the end of a speech or performance, displaying a bold confidence that it has been very impressive or cannot be topped.

It is a statement move that the watch business appears to have mastered.

This week we saw two mic drop moments.

First, Cartier dropped a limited edition reissue of the Pebble, one of the most iconic watches to come out of the company’s London workshops in the 1960s.

This was followed a day later by Patek Philippe, who strutted off stage having stunned its audience with a white gold replacement to its discontinued Nautilus 5711.

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Patek Philippe Nautilus 5811.

I am in New York this week and was fortunate enough to be spending the day with one of the state’s pre-eminent watch and jewellery retailers and an AD for both Cartier and Patek Philippe, when the mic dropped … twice.

It was illuminating to see first hand what happens at a retailer when this happens, because it tells a wider story about what is going on in the market right now.

The 5811 is not limited, but demand is guaranteed to outstrip supply, not least because its retail price of £56,190, for an 18ct white gold watch, is around half what its predecessor, the stainless steel 5711, is being sold for on the secondary market.

The new Cartier Pebble is extremely limited, with just 150 being made.

Its retail price of $40,000 may seem steep for a comparatively simple two hand watch, but it will be catnip to collectors, and an auction-grade investment piece from the get go.

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Cartier Pebble.

What was interesting, standing in one of the most spectacular watch and jewellery stores in the United States, if not the world, was how little the physical opulence of the showroom was connected to the launch of these watches.

Very few people will think they will be reading about these watches one day on Hodinkee or WATCHPRO and walk in to buy them when they appear in stores in due course.

But it struck me just how little the investment in physical stores is part of selling these watches at all.

If an authorised dealer does get an allocation of an ultra-limited watch like the Pebble or a volcanic-hot piece like the 5811, they will be sold well before they reach retail via a phone call or a WhatsApp message.

This is not to say that investment in exceptional stores, brilliant staff and ecommerce sites, is not important.

This investment is what draws exceptional customers into the orbit of the retailer.

But, once relationships are established, the mobile phone in the pocket of the owner or sales consultant is all that is required to sell watches worth tens of thousands of pounds.

For an average punter, the question to ask yourself is how to get those all-important mobile phone numbers so that when a hot watch drops, you have them on speed dial.

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