Limited-edition watches don’t last long on the wrist

Given we don’t need a watch to tell the time, here’s a question. What do we need it for? Why do we wear one?

limited-edition watches
MCT will make just 10 examples of the Sequential One – S110.

I’ve been randomly asking this question of watch-wearers, anticipating a variety of replies, and have been surprised to find a certain commonality in the answer. It seems most of us wear a watch for no more complicated a reason than it makes us feel good.

No one has mentioned needing the hour of day on the wrist; and not a soul has confessed to using a chronograph, the stopwatch function offered by numerous popular makes – other than to check that it works in the first place.

For some, wearing a watch is little more than a habit; they simply “feel naked” leaving home without it. For others it’s decorative, a colourful way to complete an outfit. Others still admit to it being a badge of worth, a statement of progress up some typically localised social ladder.

Increasingly, though, it’s about falling in love with a look, wanting a model because you just love it, can’t get it out of your mind, and feel great with it on the wrist – forever, or not. A portion of this group will succumb to the compulsive disorder well known to buffs, where such gratification becomes more and more fleeting, its passing putting them on the treadmill of constant acquisition.

limited-edition watches
Romain Jerome’s salute to Pikachu.

Feel-good factor

If my anecdotal research can turn up this scenario, it’s no surprise the watch brands are across it, those compulsives firmly in their sights. It’s not much different from doctors recognising their future lies with the infirm. It helps explain timepieces that make no pretence of being everyday items, their features instead designed to deliver instant desirability and a feel-good factor that’s off the scale.

Limited or special editions are the starting point, offering exclusivity or associations that have nothing to do with accurately indicating the hour of day. In this category we need look no further than Tag Heuer’s recent release of a three-hander celebrating the larger-than-life Muhammad Ali. It’s a watch that differs from any other in one major respect: it carries the signature of the great man on the dial.

Clinching an arrangement with the Muhammad Ali Centre means Tag is already a winner in the endorsement stakes, and will be hoping the watch punches above its weight when it comes to sales. Like the late boxer’s record, you wouldn’t bet against it.

Omega’s tie-up with the Olympics and the James Bond juggernaut has spawned similarly prized pickings, while Hublot’s special editions cater to so many fan bases, from soccer to formula one to film fests, it’s hard to keep count. That said, the Hublot model that caught our eye recently was a Classic Fusion Berluti. Refreshingly free of motifs, it’s vivid green all over with a leather – yes, leather – dial. The 200-piece run is available only in Dubai, adding to its allure.

limited-edition watches
The Classic Fusion Berluti from Hublot.

The child within

If a quick visit to the Emirates is beyond you, Romain Jerome has made an art form of appealing to the child within, offering editions based on subjects such as Space Invaders or most recently, Pokemon.

“As no one can resist the adorable creature, it was logical to dedicate a collection to Pikachu,” the brand explained when announcing a run of just 20 titanium-cased Pokemonsters, spanning 46mm. Housing impeccable mechanicals, they feature Pikachu on the dial, an interesting combination of complexity, cartoonish character and commercial nous.

Should one of these be too flippant for your wrist, you can always strap on a reminder of your own mortality, aka a skull-themed watch. There’s a vast selection of them out there, from Bell & Ross to Richard Mille; Romain Jerome too.

Late to the party but better than never, niche Swiss maker Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps recently joined the cranial crowd. MCT will make just 10 examples of the Sequential One – S110 Skull. Eschewing simple time telling, it combines a skeletal motif with a complex 471-part movement involving rotating hour modules.

What these limited editions and wrist wonders have in common is the pizzazz that comes with something out of the ordinary, a heightened potential to capture our attention and keep it for a bit.

And if the novelty wears off? That suits the brands just fine; they’re already planning the next one.

 Bani McSpedden is watch editor of The Australian Financial Review and of watch-next.com. This article first appeared in the December 2016 issue of The Australian Financial Review Magazine.
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