Due to the global pandemic and subsequent restrictions, 2020 was equal parts turbulent and subdued. Events were canceled, and many brands were reluctant to release any new products. The effects of lockdown and quarantine rules continue to leave people more inwardly focused at home within their own four walls. So, what are the consequences of it all? Only time will tell, but by May, we were already able to identify several trends occurring in the online luxury watch market.
What offers better stability in uncertain times than raw facts and figures? With that in mind, we’ve decided to look at the numbers from Chrono24’s database. With 9 million unique visitors and some 500,000 watch listings from more than 3,000 dealers around the world (as of February 2020), we have plenty of data to draw from.
Chrono24 Sales Figures: The Calm After the Storm
The start of the COVID-19 pandemic left its mark on the Chrono24 marketplace. In March 2020, sales fell by 20%. It was understandable considering consumers around the world were shifting their focus to everyday necessities as opposed to luxury goods. Similar trends could be seen in the stock prices of well-known luxury brands. Perhaps it was – or still is – the case with you that the extra time at home has allowed you to make purchases with more careful consideration than you previously had. In any event, after just three weeks, traffic and sales began to rebound on Chrono24. Since then, numbers have stayed around 13% above their pre-pandemic levels.
Winners in Times of Crisis
Some winners often emerge at times of crisis, and it was no different in the world of watches. Certain models saw massive increases in demand. One such timepiece was the limited-edition “Tokyo 2020” from Omega. This Olympic watch became particularly sought-after despite the fact (or perhaps because) the games were postponed. Search requests on Chrono24 for the limited edition Seamaster increased by 200%.
It was a similar story with another Omega Seamaster: the James Bond Limited Edition Omega Seamaster Diver 300M. Again, interest in this watch jumped by 40% in March despite (or as a result of) the postponement of the new 007 movie premiere.
Price Changes for Popular Watches
You won’t be surprised to hear that prices for most Rolex and Patek Philippe models only moved in one direction: up. Not even a global pandemic could stop this trend, which is one reason why many consider luxury watches crisis-proof investments. This has certainly inspired some buyers to purchase luxury watches now and in the past. However, a survey of 5,000 Chrono24 users from 41 different countries revealed that financial reasons weren’t the only motivation behind their purchases. In fact, 64% of respondents reported that their passion for timepieces was their main motivator for buying, proving that luxury watches remain highly emotive products. Nevertheless, 20% of Chrono24 users did report that a watch’s investment potential plays a decisive role in their purchasing decisions.
The poster child for this trend is the current Rolex Submariner. Much to the chagrin of many watch fans, this model is currently trading some 80% above MSRP due to its very limited availability. It’s a similar story with the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Prices for the stainless steel sports watch designed by Gérald Genta have doubled over the past three years. Some references currently sell for upwards of $70,000. Prices for Audemars Piguet’s own Genta watch, the Royal Oak, have jumped more than 120% over the same time period. These watches now change hands for around $48,000 on Chrono24.
Top Brands and Models on Chrono24
There aren’t many surprises when it comes to the most popular brands and models in 2020 (based on requests on Chrono24). The usual suspects occupied the top ranks even during the pandemic. Globally, 1st to 5th place goes to:
TAG Heuer came in 6th, just ahead of Patek Philippe, both barely missing the top-5 list. It should also be said that we’ve grouped the figures for the independent brand Grand Seiko – which is at a significantly higher price point – with those of Seiko.
The most popular models are as follows:
Of course, the brand with the coronet came out on top. The most popular “non-Rolex” was the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch ref. 322.214.171.124.01, which took 15th place.
The Perfect Watch
It’s always interesting to examine the most sought-after watch properties alongside specific models, i.e., the most popular case material (steel, gold, platinum), band (metal bracelet, leather/NATO strap), functions/complications (date, chronograph), dial color, and case size. If we were to combine all the favorite properties and build the “perfect watch,” what would it look like? Well, the data point to:
The perfect watch would have a steel case and a black dial with a date display. It would measure 40 mm, making it an ideal everyday watch that suits most attire. Likewise, it would come on a versatile steel bracelet. What watch does that sound like to you?