5 Dying Watch Brands
Not all luxury watch brands can remain at the top of their game. In fact, one could argue it is one of the most competitive markets out there, unless you're lucky enough to be an absolute giant like Rolex.
Read below on what we've identified to be some of the industry's less popular brands.
The popularity of this watch brand has certainly decreased in recent years. Despite still making a great watch and having a lot of history and brand prestige, Panerai have made some bad business decisions in the past which has ruined some of the watch brand’s reputation (like, for example, using unoriginal ETA movements in some of their previous watches). The brand’s in-house movements always prove to be stronger choices.
Some models like the Pam 111, the Base Logo 3 days, and the Radiomir 1940 3 days automatic remain popular choices. However, you could argue this is a bit of a one-trick pony for Panerai. To the untrained eye, the models all look very similar to each other (just look at the case design), and most fans aspire to buy only one Panerai for their collections. This is unlike Rolex, where they have managed to diversify their range and make each piece individually desirable.
Panerai models do continue to depreciate on the used market in general. Consumer confidence has therefore dwindled, which has led to less sales (when you buy a watch, you have to buy with your head as well as your heart). The brand is not quite what it was in the glory days decades ago, especially when Sylvester Stallone was a big ambassador for the brand.
Models like the Slytech will remain historic pieces for the brand.
Bell & Ross
Once a very popular brand with celebrities, Bell & Ross seems to have had their day. Models like the Aviator line-up (the iconic aviation instrument inspired watch) proved to be extremely successful. Personally, I think their watches are very cool and sophisticated. The issue is that most people only get to buy 1 or 2 watches with their hard earned cash (or on monthly finance). They have a unique design, but you could argue it is either love or hate (a lot of people do not like large, square watches).
The luxury market is also saturated with many Swiss (and Japanese) brands, all commanding high premiums for their models. It’s a very competitive market. In the majority of cases, most watch consumers will just end up buying either a Rolex or perhaps an Omega.
Pre-owned prices are trading low and you can still get substantial discounts on the grey market. I have to say, one of Bell & Ross’s most recent models, the BR05, does look very pretty indeed. You can see what they’re trying to do with it - Gérald Genta design elements of the Patek Phillipe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak are clearly evident (just check out the bracelet). One could argue it’s a sort of hybrid watch.
Could the BR05 watch be Bell & Ross’s last chance to reclaim past greatness? Or perhaps some will see this as a copycat watch aimed at the consumer who cannot afford a Patek Nautilus or AP Royal Oak. Some would see that as undesirable.
I personally think it’s a very desirable watch (it looks and feels beautifully made). However, in that price range there are so many other (perhaps wiser) choices, like the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch, the Tudor Black Bay 58, and even a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, Air King or Explorer I is not far off.
Only time can tell if Bell & Ross can restore past successes.
Iconic pieces include the Golden Bridges, Golden Coin and the Bubble. Their designs are definitely unique, in that there always seems to be an artistic theme going on e.g. like a gambling or circus theme.
Unfortunately, the brand was acquired by an investment group (Haldian Holdings Limited of China) in 2013, and since then models have flooded onto the market (a process called dumping) which has put downward pressure on the market price.
They still have the same core products like the Bubble and Admirals Cup, but the popularity has suffered nonetheless. Corum seems to be playing it safe with their current designs, and my best guess is they are just cruising at the moment, selling new models to their loyal customers.
Actually an American company founded by Roland Murphy, RGM watches have been quite successful in the past. Case construction and build quality still continues to be a strong point for the brand.
Nonetheless, the brand’s popularity has suffered. The USP for the company still continues to be the fact that at least some of the production comes from the US, but it’s becoming less and less valid in recent times as more and more watch brands are popping up in America.
Another company that was taken over by a large multinational. In Roger Dubuis’ case it was Richemont*, who owns a tremendous amount of luxury brands. The brand’s history is founded upon high-end watch construction and design. The passion and quality put into the watches from the 00s were on a different level than those made today.
Roger Dubuis is coming out with some new models to reinstate some of their prior glory e.g. the hommage line-up has been refreshed but some consumers still prefer the previous generation of watches.
If you haven’t noticed, what seems to be an issue for these luxury watch brands is being bought out buy a large MNC or investment group. Short-term profits get placed higher up the company’s objective lists, and this can suck the passion that goes into watchmaking. Horological pieces are always about the story and the passion. Roger Dubuis sadly passed away some years ago, and this is a significant thing - he was the founder and visionary behind the brand. From a collector’s perspective, the brand has much less value now as the models aren’t made by the man himself.
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*Richemont is a large MNC that owns the following brands: A. Lange & Söhne, Azzedine Alaïa, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Chloé, Dunhill, IWC Schaffhausen, Giampiero Bodino, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lancel, Montblanc, Officine Panerai, Piaget, Peter Millar, Purdey, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin, and Van Cleef & Arpels.