Watch Experts Tell Us What To Expect In 2024

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Watch Experts Tell Us What To Expect In 2024

Words by Mr Johnny Davis

4 January 2024

Are there really such things as “trends” in watches? On the one hand, it’s difficult to imagine the competing watch companies putting aside their differences to meet up in a secret lodge every few years and decide, “Yes! 2020 will be all about… green dials!” before hurrying back to Switzerland to work on selling us just that idea. On the other hand, trends do emerge from somewhere. The truth is that some years there just are a lot of green dials. Or watches made from titanium. Or men’s watches so small your mum would have coveted them while your dad wouldn’t have been seen dead leaving the house wearing one.

Who, for example, could have predicted two of 2023’s most successful watches would have been a Kermit the Frog-coloured model with Kermit the Frog himself gooning out of the date window? Or that a spoof of a well-respected dive watch with its dial covered in 50 tiny ghosts would have sold out before it even came out? Or that Rolex would release a candy-coloured watch full of emojis and hippy messages, evidence of its hitherto well-hidden penchant as a company that likes to have a bit of a laugh?

Without further ado, then, we jumped on the phone to ask six global watch experts for their top tips for 2024. No one mentioned The Muppets. Although Mr Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did get a shout-out.

“I think we’re going to continue to see people trying to achieve beautiful simplicity with time-only watches [ie, three-hand models, typically thin dress watches, free of complications or clicky bezels],” says Mr Eric Wind, owner of Florida’s Wind Vintage. “A lot of people are trying to simplify things. Kind of like the Rolex 1908 [elegant gold watch unexpectedly introduced into the line-up of classic Submariners and Daytonas in 2023].

“We’re going to continue to see smaller and smaller watch offerings, with brands developing thinner and smaller calibres, because there’s greater demand, from both men and women, for 36mm and smaller watches. Collectors want that elegant retro look of a 1950s Hollywood person, wearing some small little Cartier Tank. The standard ‘all black’ watch – black dial, black bezel… just isn’t selling.”

“Following the data in both the primary and secondary [ie, new and ‘pre-owned’] market, all the signs point to a slowdown – most acutely felt in Europe, but also America and also in Asia, which has never really recovered since the lockdown,” says Mr Rob Corder, MD of WatchPro, the watch industry media platform. “What that means is that the big ‘waiting-list watches’, the [Audemars Piguet] Royal Oak, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas, almost anything in the Rolex catalogue… that was having such a distortion on the market, with flippers buying watches to resell for multiples. That’s all gone now. So, it means brands will become more conservative, in terms of [being less likely to come up with weird and wonderful] complications and materials and they’ll stick to the ‘bestsellers’, the ones they know are going to work. I think consumers can expect better value for money because of it.”

“Citizen, Seiko and Orient in particular are making fantastic automatics,” Corder says. “They’re fighting for the people who don’t have four figures to spend on a Swiss-made watch. And they’ve got some really nice product.

“Is there still a stigma around owning a watch that’s not Swiss? Well, a Rolex customer will always be a Rolex customer. But the younger you are, the less you’re going to be impacted by that kind of thing [ie, legacy watch brands]. And, right now, everyone is after the younger customer.”

04. Independent watchmakers and microbrands will continue to be a big deal…

“I said last year was going to be the year of the independent,” says Mr George Bamford, founder of Bamford Watch Department. “But I think 2024 really will be. I think brands will be jumping onto more collabs. It takes them to a different demographic.

“I can see Seconde/Seconde/ [watch world ‘prankster’, whose ingenious designs have recently found him being accepted by some ‘proper’ watch companies for collaborations] doing a lot more with bigger brands. Those brands are like, ‘Wow, what a selling power. What a creative genius’. He’s an amazing talent. He’s like the Banksy of the watch world.

“Plus, I think customers are wanting something ‘more’ from their watches. Something where they can look down at their wrist and go, ‘Yeah, that makes me smile’.”

“There’s still a lot of excitement around microbands,” agrees Mr Davide Cerrato, the new CEO of Bremont and a veteran of Tudor and Panerai. “And new players coming is always very good for the market.”

“There are too many independents, too many collaborations,” says Mr Oliver R Müller, a watch industry consultant. “People are getting bored. Too many times the same recipe is being applied. Every month you have the ‘new Mozart’ who has just finished watchmaking school, and they appear on the scene being dubbed the new François-Paul Journe. To be honest with you, when I look at what is being done by ‘the new Mozarts of watchmaking’, it’s always the same watch. Where is the creative?

“The innovation actually comes from the big guys: from Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille – they are moving forward. And collaborations – collaborations are interesting if it’s an opposite – an institutional brand collaborating with a crazy brand. Rimowa collaborating with skateboarding brand Palace, for example. Karl Lagerfeld collaborating with H&M. That was cool.

“The original collaboration with Swatch and Omega [the MoonSwatch] is interesting – totally opposite DNAs. [Avant-garde watch designer] Alain Silberstein… don’t get me wrong, I like the guy – but he now has done 10 collaborations. After some time, you go, ‘What is the point?’”

06. Colours will calm down (although they might glow in the dark)

The last few years have seen an anything-goes approach to dial colours – pistachio green at Breitling; acid green at Zenith; psychedelic rainbows at Bell & Ross. Cerrato suggests we are about to enter a more sober period. “One colour that is coming through quite strongly is chocolate brown,” he says. “And another one is the salmon dial trend, which is a very nice, very classical colour. Classical blue, green, bronze or gold. Those never go out of fashion. There are also more and more luminous materials – fully luminous cases, fully luminous dials – playing with light in original ways. That’s something we’ll be doing a lot at Bremont.”

“Neo-vintage” will continue to be a thing. That is to say watches that came out in the 1980s and 1990s, which are now deemed – readers over 40 may wish to look away – vintage. That counts for current brands raiding the achieves and releasing “overlooked classics”, such as Breitling’s Chronomat and Gordon Gekko’s favourite watch, the Cartier Santos – as well as a pre-owned market more used to dealing with 1950s and 1960s Omega and Rolexes.

“It’s defining a huge amount of what we’re doing and what we’re exploring,” says Mr Christy Davis, founder of Subdial Watches, the pre-owned watch platform. “The 1980s and 1990s were such an exciting time-period. Post-quartz crisis, as the luxury market was finding its feet. The amount and depth of stories is amazing. It’s bringing in a younger customer, which is just great for the industry.”

08. It’s Mr Pharrell Williams’ world, we just live in it

If 2023 saw a boom in celebrities wearing itsy-bitsy dress watches – Mr Pharrell Williams with his Cartier Crash, Tyler, the Creator with his Cartier Pebble, Mr Lenny Kravitz’s Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso – there is now a move towards even more “jewellery-adjacent” models.

“There’s been an ongoing push for a while towards ‘modest luxury’,” Davis says. “Smaller, neo-vintage pieces that are very special, but aren’t known by a huge amount of people. That might be Piaget with its stone dials. Or Cartier with its [Tank] Asymétrique or its [Tank] Chinoise.”

“Everyone thinks Piaget will come out with a version of their classic Polo watch, the 1980s all-gold watch, next year,” Wind says. “I would expect that. And Cartier continues to be on fire. Pretty much every kind of watch they introduce in a limited edition sells out.”

Time for a change