In any other year, Patek Philippe pushing its entire 2020 launch programme back by a year would be news that would rock the global watch industry.
But these are not normal times, and the decision, shared with Patek Philippe retail partners earlier this week, has been welcomed as a common sense reaction to the global lock down caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Rumours in the market suggest Rolex may also bounce all 2020 launches into next year.
Baselworld has been postponed until 2021, Patek Philippe’s factories are running in maintenance mode for the foreseeable future, its headquarters and in-country distribution offices are closed, and so are the doors of almost all its retail partners. Distribution has ground to a standstill.
In the circumstances, switching any capacity up and down the supply chain and distribution channel to the creation, launch and sale of new collections would simply add to the strain.
It also means Patek Philippe authorised dealers will not have to commit precious cash to buying in new collections.
None of the retailers who shared the news of Patek Philippe’s decision wanted to go on the record, and the public line from the brand remains that “it will not launch the new models in April this year as initially planned”.
One retailer said it was another example of how Patek Philippe cares for and appreciates the needs of its partners. He said that the brand had also relaxed payment terms on invoices to relieve pressure on cashflow.
A year without new watches is not as dramatic as people outside the trade may fear, writes Rob Corder.
In a recent interview with Hublot’s chief executive Ricardo Guadalupe, WatchPro was told that new watches typically account for 15% of annual sales.
They are important, he stressed, because they generate excitement among retailers and customers. But with everybody’s health and financial security far more important right now, the decision to delay looks prudent and of minimal risk to Patek Philippe and others that follow the same strategy.
For brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex and Audemars Piguet, which normally have long waiting lists for certain unicorn watches, postponing the creation of new models for a year may also allow them to pivot resources into manufacturing more of the best selling watches.
That could allow for a rapid catch-up in sales of these highly desirable models, which would be an enormous help to retailers and something to lift the spirits of watch consumers that have spent years on waiting lists.