As a watch lover regardless of age, status, or price, there are always those pieces that are just a little extra special. When I say special, I’m talking about Special Editions, Limited Editions, and the downright hard to find, needle in haystack type of watches. But of course, there comes a time when watch brands do overstep the mark and, well, need to limit those limited editions. On the one hand, some brands use this as a way of marketing but on the other hand, some brands really use this limited edition opportunity to create something really special for lovers and fans of the brand, but this is something I feel is few and far between. That said, who could resist a Special Edition?
Take the legendary Omega Speedmaster. Originally made as a car racing sports watch, it eventually turned into one of the most historic timepieces ever made. Till this day, the Speedmaster hasn’t seen much change and this is not a bad thing at all. But every now and then, Omega introduces a limited edition Speedmaster to commemorate the moon landing and all of the Apollo missions where the Speedmaster has been present. Some may see this as overkill and merely just a marketing exercise, but you have to look at it in the grand scheme of things – this is actually a genuine occasion to celebrate. Enthusiasts of the brand and the Speedmaster genuinely appreciate the fact that Omega makes these special limited editions and it’s not hard to see why. Then there are brands that celebrate their own timepieces, such as Audemars Piguet – who celebrate the Royal Oak. In 1992, they introduced the ref. 14802 to celebrate 20-years of the Royal Oak and even as recent as 2012 AP introduced 8 new Royal Oaks to celebrate 40-years of the RO. But this makes sense to me as it does to a lot of collectors alike. Re-editions are another part of limited edition that totally makes sense, but these are not always thoughtfully done and do sometimes detract from the original inspiration. Re-editions are a nice way of mixing new with old and giving watch manufactures a way to give a nod to both its historical predecessor and their technological advances. Though make no mistake, rarely do watch brands execute this in a way that truly harmonizes the spirit of old and new.
Then there are watch brands like Hublot, who introduce pieces to celebrate, well, celebrities and sports persons at the peak of their chosen discipline. Many believe, and to a degree myself included, this is an exercise which somewhat cheapens the brands values and that very special timepiece that has been created for said celebrity/sportsperson. This is probably the less attractive side of special/limited editions, but admittedly some of these timepieces are actually very, very nice. However, there is the other side of this too.
But then there are those limited pieces made that are in aid of technological advances in watchmaking, such as Patek Philippe’s Advance Research department – who diligently research the possibilities of introducing new materials and components to the serious business of mechanical watches.
There are also pieces made by the likes of Panerai for the true collectors and Paneristi, such as the PAM195, PAM360, and PAM532 – these I totally understand and they make complete sense. It is a watch made for the absolute connoisseurs of the brand. On the other hand, you have pieces that are made for Rock Bands that I think confuse the buyers and even more so the collectors. Take the Zenith El Primero Rolling Stones edition – where is the link? I do wonder just how timepieces like these fair in the future of watch collecting and the vintage watch collecting market?
However, there are watches that become special or are inherently special due to production, but this more or less lingers on the fact that they have now become vintage pieces. Take for instance a stainless steel Patek Philippe Chronograph made in the 1940s, 50s or 60s – doesn’t sound very special at first, but when you realise just how limited production was when it came to Patek producing steel watches, then it all starts to fall into place. Steel was considered an inferior metal in the production of watches. This wasn’t just something Patek did, brands like Vacheron Constantin also did this and they too have very special and rare timepieces from that exact era that were made in steel too. But, you’ve also got pieces like these that exist today that aren’t even considered vintage, but make use of that rare element called stainless steel. I’m talking about the super rare timepieces made by A. Lange & Soehne – yes, sometime ago they too made timepieces in steel that where produced in very small quantities.
Then there are those that are rare simply because of limited production. When I say limited, I don’t mean it in a commemorative way but more in the way of manpower. Timepieces from the likes of Philipp Dufour, Kari Voutilainen, and Laurent Ferrier, are painstakingly and meticulously produced in an archaic way, which fundamentally makes them special. This is just great to see in this day-in-age.
The watch market gets flooded with special editions, limited editions, and re-editions all the time. As mentioned, some watch manufacturers see this as a way to create enthusiasm for their brand. But others use it as a genuine way to connect with the collectors and fans of the brand, which in my opinion is how it should be. Moreover, limited editions that are created in honour of ambassadors do have a place in the world of watchmaking, though it is a trend that I believe should be more reserved.