While the explosive growth of the vintage replica watch market over the past few years has revealed many hidden gems that in past years would have gone unnoticed, some incredible timepieces have indeed been hidden or forgotten by the world. A recent episode of PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” was a perfect example, with an unnamed U.S. air force veteran being evaluated with a brand-new “Paul Newman” Rolex Daytona. According to the man, he bought it at a military base exchange during his time in Vietnam in 1974 for $345.97, but when the watch arrived through mail he decided it was easy to wear and stashed it in a safe deposit box along with all boxes and papers for the next 45 years. The expert appraisal of $500,000 to $700,000 stunned the owner completely and showed that the “Paul Newman” Daytona market remains red-hot. Those of us who collect vintage timepieces are a reminder that these nearly mythical finds do still exist in 2020.
2019 was a mixed year for the luxury watch industry as a whole. While the Americas and Europe continued to show strong growth throughout the year, political turmoil and the removal of favorable import taxes in Hong Kong took a heavy toll on overall industry performance. The swatch group is a perfect example. In its 2019 sales report, released this week, net sales outside Hong Kong rose 5 percent year on year. However, once Hong Kong is included, swatch’s global net sales fell 1.8 percent. Hong Kong has been a similar drag on LVMH’s sales, but that hasn’t stopped the luxury group from Posting record growth figures in its 2019 earnings report. The group’s overall revenue rose 15 percent in 2018, with the lion’s share attributed to LVMH’s fashion and cosmetics group (particularly Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior), while profits at its fake watch brands rose 5 percent from 2018. Bulgari and Hublot are the two fastest-growing brands mentioned in the report. Overall, this suggests that the luxury watch market will be strong going into 2020, although it is unclear how brands will respond to declining revenues in traditional watch centers such as Hong Kong.
Geneva-based De Grisogono may be best known as a high-end diamond jeweler, but it is also a boutique watchmaker, has filed for bankruptcy this week. The announcement came as part of the national diamond mining company Angola, which claims to own part of the company, spent hundreds of millions of dollars by the Angolan government over suspicious dealings with Isabella DOS Santos, the wife of some of the company’s owners, Sindika Dokolo, and the daughter of the former Angolan President Jose Eduardo DOS Santos. DOS Santos, recently dubbed Africa’s richest woman, was accused in the Luanda leak of embezzling millions of dollars from the Angolan government through a complex network of state-sponsored bank loans. If the Swiss government accepts the bankruptcy filing, 65 De Grisogno employees stand to their jobs.
While some major brands have decided to skip the Baselworld trade show in 2020, not all of the news preceding the watch industry centerpiece is negative. Dolce&Gabbana Group, the luxury design giant, announced this week that it would display its Alta Orologia and Alta Gioielleria replica watches and jewelry in Baselworld for the first time in 2020. As part of the presentation, Dolce&Gabbana is expected to debut a proprietary in-house movement.
In 2020, the trend for vintage-inspired diving watches shows no signs of slowing down, as Swatch Group brand Certina has searched all the way back to 1968 in its archives for the latest iteration of the DS dive watch. The watch draws its striking orange dial design comes from the original DS-2 Super PH500M, which was used in the Tektite I underwater experiment in 1969 when a team of four scientists spent two months in an underwater research pod. While the bold style is straight from the 60s, the specification is completely modern with a 43 mm diameter case, sapphire crystals, and a huge 500 meters water resistance. The DS super PH500M Special Edition is powered by the Powermatic 80 automatic movement, providing up to 80 hours of power storage and an anti-magnetic Nivachron balance spring. DS Super PH500M is now available at authorized dealers for $922. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.