In a recent email exchange with a collector on the new Vacheron Constantin novelties the subject on value vs. cost came up.
For him many people fail to separate value from cost and therefore think that the more expensive a watch the more value it has, setting aside the history, brand value and prestige of the brand. I would also add legitimacy of the brand.
This got me thinking on the general trend of the watch market today. More and more brands are coming out with complicated watches (mostly made by third parties) at ridiculous prices and trying to enter the high end haut de gamme market more through pricing than true workmanship and know how.
I won’t give any names but some brands have left me scratching my head wondering how the hell they can look the clients in the eyes and sell them such rubbish… rubbish which they certainly will not be able to service when the watch will come back for servicing (and believe me the said watch will come back for servicing much faster than the client and the brand had expected).
For me these brands are ONLY about cost and con their clients by selling them a status symbol, a perception of good taste and jet set glamour.
Then you have other brands who may be less flamboyant but who produce value (Vacheron Contantin, Patek, Lange and FP Journe immediately come to mind) value which can be based on their history, legitimacy, know how and prestige and this is nothing money can buy: value is granted by collectors and aficionados.
If someone is willing to pay over €1.5 million for the Tour de l’Ile or the Fouad pocket watch or $200,000 for a vintage Cioccolatone there must be a good reason for it. It’s the perception of value of that particular piece, that no matter how high the price the value is higher than the cost.
Tour de l'Ile (scan courtesy of Alberto Schileo)
"Ciocolatone" from late 50s (scan courtesy of Christies)
This led me to the definition of high end and haut de gamme watchmaking. Since by buying finished movements from a third party and recasing it with your name on the dial you enter the haut de gamme market then in what segment should those who actually deserve to be in the haut de gamme market be?
For me Vacheron Cosntantin is definitely worlds apart not only due to its history, know how and respect of their heritage and clients but also the care and audacity given to the designs. True Horological Excellence: that’s what makes the difference.