When is a limited edition a limited edition?

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James Elsener
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Joined: Tue Oct 02, 2018 8:27 pm

When is a limited edition a limited edition?

Post by James Elsener » Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:03 pm

Yesterday, during a luncheon speech one of the attendees asked the above question. As we see more and more limited editions appearing I thought my answer to this question might be of interest to more than just the limited number of attendees yesterday. ;-)

What constitutes a limited edition? In my understanding it could be a watch commemorating an event. For instance a get-together of car enthusiasts. A very special sports event. The opening of a building. The watch either offered or sold at such an event should have a special caption either on the dial or on the bottom of the case clearly stating the event.

It could also be a watch that is manufactured for a very short period of time but never in excess of 50 to 100 units. What is important here is that the tools to manufacture the special dial, the special case or whatever renders this particular watch a limited item in volume is never used again in the future for a series watch.

The term limited entails that there is no vast number of watches manufactured. To us with our limited potential of 5,500 to 6,000 units a year a limited series is in the area of 50 to 60 pieces. To another manufacturer manufacturing some 300,000 units a limited series might be 1,000 pieces of a given style. In my humble opinion anything above 200 pieces is not limited anymore whatever the size of the manufacturer’s yearly output. So something labelled no. 371/1000 is not a limited watch to me. But again this is my very personal opinion.

Often these limited editions are accompanied by grand packaging, a special booklet, etc. Whether one likes these trimmings or not depends on the eye of the beholder. To me a simple certificate testifying the limited series and clearly stating how many identical watches have been manufactured is enough.

Do limited series keep value better? In most instances they do not hold up to that test. By its definition a limited series watch appeals to a more limited number of people than a watch manufactured in larger numbers. So your limited series watch might fetch a good price if you happen to find someone being in the market for this particular watch when you sell it; otherwise it might have even less of value.

I have always and shall always caution about buying watches for pure monetary gain. Watches are to be enjoyed and not to be sitting in a safe. Only a very, very limited number of brands do maintain value over the board of their collections. That is why I also advise against buying so called consolation watches. If you can not afford the watch you really covet, do save up till you can or if the urge is pressing and continues to be still pressing a few weeks after you had the first itch buy a nice second hand watch.
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