Each year, when the time comes for watch brands to pull back the curtain on their latest releases, the people who usually have very little to contribute to the actual thinking and making of those timepieces (meaning us scribes and the rest of the watch buying world) are often the ones who make the loudest noise. And how entitled have we been. Watch companies would pit themselves against each other for our attention, trying their darndest to melt our brains with a groundbreaking this or that that defies human effort and imagination. So, like lords of our manor, we sit back and expect to be entertained. Every. Single. Time.
Truth is, such displays of never-before-seen newness, while undoubtedly exciting, are just a part of a big picture. Equally important to every brand’s annual showcase are what industry folks call ‘line extensions’ – new variations of watches that have already been introduced. These watches may feature different case sizes, materials, new dial executions, bracelets, straps or any manner of (usually) cosmetic tweaks that bring greater variety to a line-up.
Although it is always the latest novelties that hog the limelight, line extensions are the ones doing the less glamorous work of stoking the flames of what was deemed new just a few years ago. And, depending on the brand, such watches can make up to almost two-thirds of the company’s output every horological season.
Marathon, Not Sprint
“Line extensions keep a collection performing in terms of life cycle management. They also increase the consistency and the development force behind specific watches, which are usually the best-selling watches,” explains Maurice Lacroix’s managing director Stéphane Waser of the necessity of having product variants.
Christian Lattmann, CEO of Jaquet Droz, adds: “A well-thought-out collection paves the way for good line extensions. It recoups the enormous costs incurred when developing a new movement.”
Yet, despite the crucial role that line extensions play in a brand’s product development and finances, some collectors are quick to bemoan these timepieces as uninventive or repetitive. We, too, have been guilty of rolling our eyes when brands that beat their chests over ‘new’ colours and straps. But what if we were wrong all along?
Unlike how movie studios flog sequels upon discovering a blockbuster hit, eventually ending with a franchise that utterly drains the soul and excitement from the original, the making of a full-fledged watch collection isn’t quite the same reactionary process.
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