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Where is the watch business heading in 2024?

Watch experts share their view on how this year will shape-up.

When it comes to predicting what the year ahead holds, no sector of society is more active than the watch community.

Whether by studiously following form, projecting what they would personally like to see, or simply hedging their bets, timekeeping aficionados are more than keen to share their thoughts and opinions.

Here we ask a selection of global horological pundits to take a look into their sapphire-crystal balls and give their thoughts on what’s to come in 2024.

Simon de Burton
Journalist and author, UK

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Simon de Burton.

Anniversary years are guaranteed to send watch designers rifling through back catalogues, so it’s unthinkable that Piaget will let its 150th birthday pass without reviving a few past classics.

Obvious contenders include the men’s ultra-slim dress watches with hard-stone dials that were a signature of the brand back in the 1970s – but my prediction for this year’s halo piece from Piaget is a new version of the original Polo from 1979

Although Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet were flying high with their luxury sports watches in steel, Piaget stuck to glorious gold for the Polo – case, bracelet, dial and all.

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Piaget has already unveiled a reissue of its 1979 Polo, but might it also introduce a broader range of styles within the collection?

All eyes will also be on TAG Heuer in the coming months, with the brand’s fans keen to discover in which direction new CEO Julien Tornare will take it. But the pieces we’ll be seeing in the first half of the year will be the legacies of outgoing boss Frédéric Arnault – and one of his big projects in 2023 was to re-instate the seafaring watches first produced by Heuer for Abercrombie and Fitch during the 1940s.

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TAG Heuer recalled its seafaring heritage last year in the form of a new Skipper, a theme that could be expanded upon in 2024.

We saw a new Skipper last year: I predict revivals of other maritime models, such as the Solunar and Seafarer. 

And for those who regard Hublot as a one trick pony having seen too many variations on the Big Bang theme, I reckon this is the year for something new. It will have to be unconventional and it will probably be smaller than what we have come to expect from the brand, but it will definitely make a statement and may also enhance the brand’s standing as a technical watchmaker.

While those are three watches that I think we probably will see, what I would really like to see is new Audemars Piguet boss Ilaria Resta making her mark by re-introducing some variety to the brand’s offering. There’s a Royal Oak for everyone, but this historic brand can do so much more.

It would be a delight to see Cartier London produce a tribute watch to the late Harry Fane who died in December – he was possibly the greatest expert on vintage Cartier in the world.

And, I would love for Roger Dubuis to at least consider revisiting its back catalogue from the late 1990s/early 2000s.

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Roger Dubuis replaced its CEO last year. Might that signal a change in direction, perhaps embracing some of its quirkier watches from the archive like the Too Much?

Models such as the Too Much, Sea More and Aqua Mare seem less brash today – and the H34, H37 and H40 simply deserve to return (especially now vintage values have soared).

Jack Forster and John Shmerler
Global editorial director and US CEO, The 1916 Company

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John Shmerler and Jack Forster.

Last year was a transitional one in many respects, for both pre-owned and new watches. Prices for pre-owned timepieces corrected downwards, creating an opportunity for collectors to acquire them at significant savings over the market peak.

Some collectors chose to wait out the correction for a low point, while many who were buying primarily to re-sell at a profit exited the market. In the new-at-retail world, the year was slow in terms of innovation and the perception of willingness to innovate was affected negatively by the postponement of the Only Watch auction, normally one of the industry’s biggest showcases for thinking out of the box. 

“Unless it is properly managed at a brand level, I anticipate inventory levels within stores will grow.”

John Shmerler, The 1916 Company CEO

The 1916 Company’s US CEO and owner of Radcliffe Jewelers, John Shmerler, feels that we will see a continuation of last year’s trends, in 2024.

An obvious major factor will be Rolex CPO. Along with this, he says that overall he expects the number of points of sale to continue to shrink. “I think there will be a smaller number of distribution points for top tier brands, some of which will come from planned strategy changes from the brands themselves, and some from natural attrition from family jewellers who don’t have set succession plans,” he says. “Unless it is properly managed at a brand level, I anticipate inventory levels within stores will grow.”

Finally, Mr Shmerler feels that there will be more than usual changes in watch brand leadership. “On the heels of an epic four-year run,” he remarked, “I think we will see some notable executive changes at some of the largest watch brands.”

On what he would like to see: “I would love to see the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign for the watch category,” he says, referring to the famous 1990s ad campaign, “creating a path for consumers to discover the phenomenal range of pitons, and learn what they are actually drawn to.

“Perhaps there’s an over-reliance on targeted digital marketing, but we (brands and dealers) have not yet figured out a coherent strategy for marketing watches to an aspirational audience and the greater luxury consumer base.

“I would like to see brands pursue and commit to the multi-brand environment. It is in this setting that the consumer truly gets to know and understand the category. And I would like to see a commitment by watch manufacturers to support the end consumer with properly aligned after-sales service, with respect to clear time frames and costs for fixing watches.”

Jack Forster’s hopes and predictions are similar. “I think that while brands have achieved some partial success in marketing watches as lifestyle luxury products, it’s also important to remember that cosmetic changes to existing designs, can only go so far in terms of stimulating new interest and maintaining existing interest.

“The industry increasingly relies on a small number of accepted designs and my hope is that after a relatively slow couple of years in terms of fresh ideas, we’ll start to see some new approaches as some current executives leave,” he urges.

“Novelty for novelty’s sake has a place,” Mr Forster continues, “but it’s no substitute for watchmaking that’s driven by genuine interest in watches.”

“Every industry goes through crises of innovation. The risk for fine watchmaking is that it will become increasingly out of reach in terms of pricing and availability. In 2024, and in the run-up to Watches and Wonders, I’m hoping we’ll see that the inertia in design and innovation of the past few years was just that – a temporary lull in an industry which has, over the past three decades, shown no shortage of interest in watchmaking for its own sake,” Mr Forster concludes.

Felix Scholz
Journalist and co-host of OT: The Podcast, Australia

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Felix Scholtz.

Now is the time of year to look to the future and speculate, in a wildly unqualified manner, about what 2024 might hold watch-wise. So, maybe take these three macro trend predictions with an equally large pinch of salt.

The 1990s saw the birth of a renaissance in mechanical watchmaking emerging from the grimness of the quartz crisis. A new wave of upstart brands and independent makers reframed how we thought about watches. We are now a generation on, and we are already seeing this younger cohort of collectors and consumers ready to explore the proportions and designs of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Will brands be playing it safe? Watches have been surprisingly wacky in recent years – emoji date windows, rainbows, and a surprising spate of pastel dials come to mind. But markets are coming down from the highs of previous years and, along with this, I expect caution and a return to more classical styling to move to the fore.

It’s important to remember that there is a big, wide world out there and, I’m not sure if it’s a trend per se, but this year I expect (and hope) to see a continued global approach to watches. Brands like Atelier Wen and events like Dubai Watch Week champion the best of watches outside of the Swiss bubble.

All of the above is what I imagine we will see (along with the usual crop of blue dials and integrated bracelets). But if I was to manifest my hopes and dreams truly, here’s what I’d like to see more (or less) of.

Is it too much to ask for some fresh designs? I’m not holding out too much hope for this one, but I’d love to see big brands lean less on their rich heritage and endless revamping of decades-old designs in favour of creating something new.

Are we all suffering from hype fatigue? The time of big watch hype is already behind us, but someone needs to tell that to the marketing departments, who continue to gush breathlessly about the latest collaboration or minor dial variation. To paraphrase Chuck D from Public Enemy – we don’t believe the hype!

There is nothing wrong with a touch of cartoon culture and we’re not going to see the prevalence of pop culture on watches slow down anytime soon. The success of Marvel and Mario for AP and TAG Heuer, respectively, has proved that this sort of playful approach has something going for it. The trick is not to make it too cringe.

Ming Liu
Watch and jewellery journalist, UK

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Ming Liu.

From interesting, fun automata and clocks to a dearth of quartz launches, I think the 2024 spotlight will be on mechanical calibres and functionality.

Concrete mechanics are increasingly desired in our digital world, and it’s no longer a nostalgic thing either. Gen Zers, born decades after the quartz crisis, reportedly feel that life was easier and simpler in pre-internet days (I’m inclined to agree).

I think the growing momentum around tool watches will continue, pushed along by a general lifestyle trend for more active, outdoor pursuits. That means more functionality-led launches around stylish divers, robust chronographs and new-age materials that can withstand extreme conditions. Professional athletes, explorers and anyone who pushes human limits will be tipped as brand ambassadors.

A noisy and overcrowded luxury market, coupled with looming elections and wars dampening the mood, means brand identity will be stronger than ever. Collectors will align themselves with the houses whose values most resonate, while design-wise expect new watches that unabashedly work brand codes and signature touchpoints. House livery and logomania will be just the start.

“In line with my sustainability wish, I’d love to see fewer watches being churned out in 2024”

Ming Liu

Beyond these predictions, what I would really like to see is more focus on sustainability. Companies can no longer pull the wool over our eyes, so I hope they’ll actively start stepping up their eco game. Think less eco-cred and more eco warrior, with brands reaching into deep pockets to innovate and drive solutions from the inside out. This could be actively investing in more inclusivity or reducing embarrassing carbon footprints, to committing to decades-long environmental projects.

In line with my sustainability wish, I’d love to see less watches being churned out in 2024, less references and fewer new launches.

So many collections have debuted in recent years, and I hope brands will double down on these existing models, spending and innovating deeply with signature designs. How many icons can a brand have, anyway? Please help us reduce watch launch fatigue.

Watch brands are addicted to collaborations – I get it. And as branding takes centre stage (see my earlier prediction), I’m hoping for some totally unexpected and cool partnerships that make me see brands anew.

Cue December’s tie up between Bulgari and video game producer Gran Turismo or Bovet syncing up with the hottest hotel in London, the historic, espionage central OWO. I’m also really into Norqain’s gig with Zermatt Unplugged, which feels properly organic and authentically niche.

Russell Sheldrake
Managing editor, Time+Tide

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Russell Sheldrake.

There is nothing more fun and fraught with danger in watch writing than attempting to predict the future. So here I am trying to give three predictions of what I think will happen this year and three things I’m wishing for.

If I were a betting man, one thing I would certainly put money on is Rolex returning to its roots of small, incremental changes in its releases this year. The colourful launches of 2023 caught us all by surprise, but this year it feels like a safe assumption that the biggest watch brand in the world will return to its tried and tested formula.

Continuing a trend that we have seen in the press and on social media recently, I expect many outlets to maintain the line that the secondary market has crashed and prices are tumbling across the board.

While this may be true for a few over-inflated references, the rest of the market remains buoyant, if you know where to look.

Beyond these two predictions it seems more than likely that we will see a continued push for collaborations within, and without, the watch world. Brands seem to view these limited editions as more and more valuable in terms of revenue and brand equity, so I don’t expect them to be going anywhere any time soon.

When it comes to my three wishes for 2024 I have to start with my personal hope that the relaunch of Universal Genève under Georges Kern lives up to our expectations. I love this brand and want nothing more than to see it succeed.

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The world is waiting to see what Georges Kern will do with Universal Geneve this year (picture courtesy Emmy Watch).

Next, I really want to see a continuation of the current move towards inclusivity in our industry. While there have been marginalised communities in watches forever, it feels like we have had some positive momentum in recent times, and I sincerely hope that continues with more public drives to bring in thoughts, ideas and voices from everyone.

And finally, I have high hopes for the continued rise of British watchmaking in all of its forms. From the artisanal to the industrial, it feels like the sleeping giant of the 18th century is finally starting to stir and we are due further global recognition for what we can produce as a nation.

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1 Comment

  1. As a collector I want to see the brands make available their watches to try on and buy at their Authorized Dealers. I want to stop hearing the “supply & demand” non-sense that AD’s love to spew– there is PLENTY of supply of new & unworn inventory on the grey market. Wouldn’t it be nice to see in 2024 an AD sell to buyers who want to by a Rolex to celebrate a life event. For the record, resale on the grey market was never a goal of the Swiss brands until the Pandemic in 2020.

    The brands should continue to produce their bread & butter models, but I don’t see why they can’t find the next Gerald Genta or Roger Dubuis to make appealing watches with new designs. I am excited about Breitling relaunching the Universal Geneve brand, but I am concerned that Breitling will make UG supply so limited by following in the steps of F.P. Journe or Richard Mille. On the positive side, prices are swinging back toward the buyer, so maybe the brands will decide to swing back and want to sell to us!

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