After a surge in pandemic profits, Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet face a significant downturn as sales slip—extending a two-year decline

Prices for the most sought-after luxury watches slipped on the secondary market again last month, extending a two-year decline as investors turn elsewhere after a pandemic-era rally fizzled.

The Bloomberg Subdial Watch Index, which tracks the 50 most-traded watches by transaction value, declined less than 1% in June. It’s fallen 8% in a year and 23% in the past two years, data provided by Subdial, a UK-based watch trading platform shows. That contrasts with a 27% surge in the S&P 500 Index, the US stock market benchmark, in the past year.

Top Swiss brands including Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet have undergone an about-face after soaring to unprecedented levels on the secondary market in early 2022, when stuck-at-home shoppers shoveled pandemic savings into pricey timepieces. During the 12 months to June 2022, the Bloomberg Subdial Watch Index surged 40%, while the S&P 500 fell about 1%. 

While many of the most-traded models continue to change hands above retail prices, speculators who piled into the market betting watches would keep appreciating have been shaken out as equities and other investments offered better returns. 

Even during the downturn, prices for some brands are rising. The Subdial index for Cartier watch prices has gained almost 2% in a year as timepieces made by the French jewelry brand owned by Richemont have become more popular with collectors. Cartier watches are also generally less expensive than Rolex, Patek or Audemars Piguet and tend to change hands at values below retail.

In June, Rolex models, which make up the majority of the index, were largely flat, while sister-brand Tudor declined. Prices for entry-level luxury watches, as well as Swatch Group AG’s Omega and the Cartier brand indexes, showed modest gains during the month, the data from Subdial shows.  

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