Sunday, 30 September 2007

The Perception of Value and The Rise of False Limiteds

False Limited (Raphmeister’s Horological Dict Unabridged):
- adjective cum noun

1. A watch that a watch house/manufacturer/maker can make more of but has chosen to limit its production purely as a marketing strategy to promote the perception of exclusivity, build hype and demand of the watch. It has nothing to do with allocation of limited resources in terms of materials, expertise, capacity and time or any combination of these.

a. A false limited comes with a bigger price tag than its regular production cousins(if any)

b. They can range from truly innovative changes to regular edition pieces to greater than 90% similarity to a model from the regular lineup ie just dial/subdial/strap/strap stitch/indices/hands color changes or just an engraving or extra words somewhere on the watch to say why its limited.

c. From just using a different material on all or parts of the watch, to pieces with in-house calibers that may no longer be produced… the list goes on.

"Is there a time for dfferent colors different names u find it hard to spell"
Miss Sarajevo, Passengers

The Great Divide

Prices of a high end luxury watch and the actual cost of producing it have close to absolutely no link whatsoever. As the watch companies control pricing(to a large extent) as well as supply, the one factor they have to work hard at is create demand, and boy have they gotten good at it. Well oiled and increasingly well fed brand and marketing machinery are making great strides forward, both positive and negative ways, to the detriment of our pockets.


I think it stems from curiosity. You chance upon a fine timekeeper. You marvel at its beauty and its impressive technical beat. You become more aware of luxury watches and the next question you ask is why is it priced as high as it is? The reason you ask of course is because its something that you would consider acquiring or believe you would have the means to. Whatever it is that brought you to that point though, two paths then lay before you.

‘You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.’ Morpheus, The Matrix

The ‘blue pill’ here is of course to forget about it, be happy with whatever is on your wrist and move along. The ‘red pill’ though is far more interesting and much easier to swallow. Its sexier and hints of something far more exciting than whatever ‘blues’ gonna offer. The thing is now with the Internet and other powerful media and means of propagating information, plus watch mags and exhibitions & events and just the fact that more and more folks are getting into high end watches, you probably very easily start down the path of finding out more. Some come in asking what the fuss is all about or worse, wanting to buy watches for investment. The hunter is actually the hunted in this case, he just doesn’t know it is all.

How do you perceive value in luxury watches and what factors play a part?

Seeing it on Brad’s or Beckham’s wrist? or someone in the F1 watch loving brigade? Bond’s wearer of choice? Or some vacuous eye candy posing with it in an ad or a magazine? There are a great many factors, and I’ll just zoom in on a couple of the interesting ones

· Information from folks you believe to be more informed or knowledgeable about watches. This could be the range of watch enthusiasts, collectors, forum folks who’ve been at it for lots of years, industry insiders, to critics / reviewers, connoisseurs(self professed or otherwise)

· Information from a brand’s advertising or literature (Now you don’t ever believe they’re gonna say anything bad about themselves and their products right?)

· Self perception and the watch as an extension of YOU :) (said tongue in cheek of course)

The thing is, your perception of value changes as you learn more. You are suddenly exposed to more knowledgeable people than you, exhorting why one watch is better than another. Someone saying that this watch is the best there is and is great value and another saying well have you seen this other watch? You read magazines hoping for independent reviews and you start to realise a lot of them are not much help as they’re all being paid by the watch companies and most only speak in positive tones of watches featured in their magazine. I guess than its trying to determine which one is being raved more above the other ;) ie trying to determine if the reviewer is classifying them as good, better or best. One could argue though that its about different propositions.

“He's tellin' me more and more, about some useless information,
supposed to fire my imagination” I can't get no satisfaction, The Stones

Drawing a parallel

Its kinda like assessing an art piece (which a number of watch houses are hoping you do yuh). Someone might see it and say its crap, another may say it is beautiful, and another may be so moved by it that he cannot get it out of his mind and knows he must possess it... and some may see it purely for its investment value, huge $$$ signs in their eyes… some others may value it because they know that other more informed people value it. Eg. A renowned art critic says that it is da BOMB so ergo it must be and should be valued as such in the future too.

Self perception & projection … “Your watch says the most about who you are”

What is your perception of yourself? Ok before you ask whats he on about? Patience young grasshopper its about knowing who you perceive yourself to be, what values you may or believe yourself to have and what you want to (sub-consciously or otherwise) project of yourself, the statement you want to make, which influences a whole lot of things and not just what you wear on your wrist.

"You know who you are..." Head like a hole, NIN

False Limiteds … What watch company’s want you to believe

I was coming back to this yuh. False limiteds are one of the best ways to create hype and demand. The refrain goes “If you don’t get it now, you may not be able to get it in future or you will have to pay a premium for it if you do, so best to get one now, regardless of whether you should be buying it or not. Have you seen what this other limited has been selling at? It is a thing of beauty is it not(which as you know is a joy forever) and will always be so. It should hold its value much better than the regular watches, its limited. Have you seen the auction results these days. Watches are hot commodities now, man.”

“Ambition makes u look pretty ugly, kicking, squealing gucci little piggy”
Paranoid Andriod, Radiohead

Another increasing popular hook is ‘Horological art at its finest…a technical marvel’. My take is that there are some truly amazing pieces out there and there are some dogs as well but the great thing is that I may not appreciate some pieces but somebody else might. Watches also have art beat in a big way as your watch follows you wherever you go. Its mobile art vs lugging a picasso or rembrandt around. Please note though that watch companies are in it for the money yuh, they’re not art foundations.

‘U know that it would be untrue u know that i would be a liar if i were to say to u girl we couldn't get much higher’ Light my fire

In Conclusion

The luxury watch machinery has gained so much steam in recent times its drawing a lot of new fans into the whole watch buying thing. Knowing that some don’t really bother digging deeper than this years pieces, sometimes what was touted as limited a few years ago, pops up a few years later in similar shape/form etc. The majority may have no memory of it you see. Hey theres new uninformed money around and everyone has a choice as to how they want to spend their dollar Of course the hope is that the watch houses recognise that the longer term enthusiasts are buyers too and could potentially be strong influencers.

There is some good to false limiteds of course. With more money the watch houses are gonna be coming out with more models down the years, more innovations, increased real value, redefining beauty in a timepiece. My take is that innovation of the watch is key. New and good ideas, expanding the possibilities, pushing it to the next level (whatever that maybe for a particular watch house and in staying true to its brand identity) is the answer. The hope for all of us watch lovers then is that instead of going down the 'milking it for all its worth' path, its a more creative and higher plane, expanding universe that we can participate and involve ourselves in.

“…so let us not talk falsely now, the hours getting late”
all along the watchtower, dylan by way of hendrix

Take the good and the bad of it, know it for what it is and enjoy whats ahead I say. It’s an interesting journey you can have. Just be aware of peoples agendas and don’t get burned unnecessarily.

On my part, as you are reading this on a watch forum or my blog site, you are someone with watches on the brain or who has had their curiousity piqued, I am just sharing a view is all. Funny enough but I see it as giving back in a little way. Hey information is power yuh, so more power to you.

Whatever the case, this journey as it is, is a cool one to embark on. From your first watch gift, to your first encounter with a fine watch, to your first 'real' watch purchase(and all the subsequent watch and watch related purchases after that), the attainment of knowledge, the thrill of the hunt for elusive limited editions(false or otherwise), the joy of capturing your prey or the disappointment of seeing it just out of your grasp. To selling a watch for another, to giving your watch to your child, to meeting cool collectors and enthusiasts on the way, and sadly meeting the more obnoxious cretins or little people as well. To educating others, and sharing views and information, to dealing with flippers, ADs, grey market folks, people selling pieces from their collections. Meeting the genius behind some of the amazing pieces, from independent watch makers to design and technical geniuses in the top houses and meeting those that have chosen to perfect their craft or to innovate...and theres more of course.

There is just so much to experience, so do enjoy your journey and that good looking timepiece on your wrist(limited or otherwise) as you read this



Unknown said...

I can't seem to understand why anyone wouldn't leave a comment on one of the best topics in watchworld I've come across.

I sincerely thank you for making this not only a great compilation about what truly collecting and appreciating a watch is, but with such finesse and excellent quotes to compliment it.


raphael too said...

Hi Jose

Thanks for your compliments on the article and I am glad that u enjoyed it. I wish u a happy and meaningful watch journey ahead.

Best Regards

ckbyatt said...

it would be nice if there were examples of these fake limited releases...

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