Premium watches are bigger and more extravagant than ever… but is there trouble brewing for the category?
They’re a mark of status. Wealth. And individuality.
They’re today’s premium wristwatches, and the category has never been bigger or more crowded.
When I say “bigger,” I mean that – literally. Recently, I was flipping around the channels on cable, and came across the Home Shopping Network offering Invicta Watches. Have you seen these things? They’re gargantuan! Invicta Watches makes it look like you’re wearing a manhole cover or sun dial on your wrist.
And they’re not only physically big. They’re also festooned with an assortment of dials, knobs and cables that would look at home in a WWII submarine. If you want to win the bragging rights for massive timepieces, Invicta will earn you a 1st Place trophy.
How did these wrist-dwelling Invicta monsters come to be? Well, they’re hardly alone. Physically large premium watches have been marking time for some time now. According to author John Biggs, writing in his article ‘How the Watch Industry Will Save Itself’ published in techcrunch.com, it was 1972 that marked the official start of the trend. That was the year watchmaker Audemars Piguet introduced their “Royal Oak,” a porthole-shaped behemoth wrought from quartz and steel.
Biggs writes that Breitling and Rolex soon followed suit, and suddenly “big, expensive steel watches were the norm.”
Now, along with Invicta, there are a variety of big premium watchmakers vying for space on your wrist. Brands like Omega and Patek Philippe and Tissot and Bell and Ross and Tag Heur, and many more. They advertise in different ways, but with the same general approach: affluence, precision, performance and prestige. A big, massive watch is more than just a status symbol. Now it signals your rugged individualism, your dedication to high performance and personal achievement. Plus, they simply look incredible — dare I say intimidating? — dominating your arm in a brazen display of chiseled metal and sheer heft.
But now there could be trouble in Wristwatch Land. It comes in the form of the trim and tidy Apple Watch, a device you wear on your wrist that does much more than tell time. It’s basically a wearable Smart Phone, the antithesis of the giant premium mechanical models.
Like most everything from Apple, we expect it to perform flawlessly and once tried, to become a soon-to-be indispensable item for every tech-savvy individual. Most industry experts, including Mr. Biggs, predict it will be a great success — although I believe it will take some time to catch on — especially with millennials and younger audiences who’ve replaced their watches with Smart Phones for telling time.
For the the rest of us, those who admire the craftsmanship and aesthetic awesomeness of the jumbo mechanical premium watches, I believe many will merge the new Apple Watch into rotation within our watch collections. We’ll pull it out and strap it on when we’re feeling trendy or techy and only the latest and greatest will do.
I don’t expect it to signal the total demise of traditional watches however. Instead I believe it might inspire the Swiss and others to build even better and more prestigious works of premium timekeeping art. Heirlooms, if you will, that can deliver performance and status for more than one generation.
Even if they’re wearing the Apple Watch on their other wrist.