It’s not an uncommon phenomenon to only appreciate something once it’s gone. After all, we always seem to want what we can’t have (anymore). Watch industry professionals are hardly oblivious to this tendency – and they certainly use it to their advantage. Aside from the fact that a brand’s product portfolio evolves over time due to new technology or poor sales figures, manufacturers are also aware of the attention that discontinuing a model or entire series garners. This move is often followed by a rise in popularity and value. So, today we’ll be looking at some watches that have recently joined the ranks of the discontinued.
Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711
This watch could arguably be the president of the discontinued club – it’s certainly the most coveted on this list. When Patek Philippe CEO Thierry Stern announced the discontinuation of the Nautilus refs. 5711/1A-010 and 5711/1A-011 in 2021, few fans were truly surprised. Nevertheless, the move got a lot of attention and two questions arose: Why are Patek discontinuing such a popular (yet hard to come by) model? And what will replace the 40-mm stainless steel sports icon?
According to the brand, the reasons behind the decision were twofold: they didn’t want the watch to lose its desirability, and they didn’t want to become too dependent on a single model or reference. Patek hoped buyers would look further afield at their other model series like the Aquanaut, or at least other Nautilus variants such as those in platinum or gold, both of which enjoy a higher rate of return.
One thing is for sure: the move definitely did not weaken the appeal of the Patek Philippe brand. While prices for the Nautilus were already above the $60,000 mark when the model was discontinued, they quickly soared north of $100,000 following the official announcement. Things kept ticking over to highs above $180,000 but since early 2022, the trend has reversed (you can read more about that here). Nonetheless, prices are still well over $100,000.
This is a clear example of the various motives behind “suddenly” discontinuing a model, and the impact it can have on the market.
Zenith Defy Classic
Another member of the “discontinued since 2021” club is the Zenith Defy Classic. In April 2022, Zenith announced production would cease for this model range. The reason being the manufacturer’s movement and finishing capacities were limited and they refused to resort to ébauche calibers. The loss of the Defy Classic was compensated for by the Zenith Defy Skyline.
The Classic, a 41-mm ceramic watch on a rubber strap, is primarily known for its in-house Zenith Elite caliber, which runs at 28,800 vph (4 Hz) and has a smoother second hand than almost any other watch on the market. The timepiece also has a futuristic look, thanks to its skeletonized dial and exposed ultra-thin movement. But according to Zenith CEO Julien Tornare, this model will be officially discontinued at the end of 2022. So, what’s happening with prices?
Even though the watch hasn’t even ceased production yet, and the hype isn’t anywhere near that of the Nautilus, there has still been a rise in prices. I’m looking at pre-owned watches here, which are actually still selling for just under the official list price. But even so, compared to other pre-owned Zenith models, this watch has pretty good value retention. It remains to be seen how demand and prices will develop after the end of 2022.
Tudor North Flag
Another watch whose career is unfortunately coming to a close is the Tudor North Flag.
North what? Yes, you read that correctly, the North Flag. This watch’s design is controversial even among the most die-hard Tudor fans. The model was quietly pulled from the portfolio in 2021. That same year, Tudor introduced the new Black Bay Chrono, Black Bay 58 in 18-karat gold, and the Black Bay 58 in 925 silver. This begs the question: Is there room in the Tudor portfolio for anything other than Black Bay models? Apparently not for the North Flag. Originally launched in 2015, this timepiece was home to the first in-house Tudor caliber, the MT5621. The North Flag was and still is the Tudor model with an integrated stainless steel bracelet. It also stands out with its unusual dial layout, yellow accents, and very vintage styling, which may have been a bit too funky for the general public.
The good news is that the North Flag is still quite easy to get your hands on. Though prices for pre-owned models rose somewhat in line with market prices last year, they have remained relatively stable since. I am also happy to see that the brand is giving another vintage model a chance with the 2022 release of the Tudor Ranger. While the Ranger isn’t the official successor to the North Flag, its character and marketing strategy (think adventure, snow, and ice) are strikingly similar. Of course, this isn’t all that surprising, considering the North Flag was inspired by the Tudor Ranger II from the 1970s.