Why Do Watches Get Discontinued? [Deep Analysis]


No matter how popular they are, watches might get discontinued after some time. The question is, why do watches get discontinued? 

Watches get discontinued due to low sales. Some watches are released as limited editions, so they get discontinued once they are sold out. Watch companies may redesign and rebuild a new watch to replace the older model. Adjustments to the product lineup may also cause watches to be discontinued. 

Why Do Watches Get Discontinued

This article will discuss why watches get discontinued and what happens when watches get discontinued.

We also try to answer some questions many might ask about discontinued watches. 

Reasons Watches Get Discontinued

Watches are products similar to phones, cars, and clothing. Market forces determine what happens to watches most of the time and drive the watchmaker’s decision. 

Low Sales. Some products were released with a huge fanfare but somehow flopped for some reason. Products such as the Apple MacIntosh 1984 are perfect examples of how a product can fail. Similar things can happen to watches as well. 

Low sales result in low income and possible losses, making watch companies discontinue a model. 

Sold Out. Some watch brands have a tendency to release limited edition watches, for example, Panerai. These watches are discontinued once they are sold out. 

That means you can only purchase these watches in the secondary market. In many cases, the watches could go up in price, especially if the demand is high enough to outstrip the offerings. 

A great example is the Seiko Alpinist, the SARB017. The original edition carries a green or cream dial. 

Seiko released a limited edition with a blue dial for the US market in 2019, with 1959 units only. Once they were sold out, no more new ones were made.

Why Do Watches Get Discontinued
Seiko Alpinist SARB017 and the blue limited edition

Rebuilding. Watches are also similar to many products. They turn obsolete over time. Watch companies will revisit a watch model and rebuild it. Often it will be rebuilt from scratch with new designs, movement, or materials. 

A good example would be how Orient redesigns and rebuild their Orient Bambino watches. Each redesign and rebuild are labeled as ‘generations’ or ‘versions,’ and you can notice differences in each redesign. 

ALSO READ: Orient Watch Review

Another great example would be some popular Seiko dive watches such as Samurai, Sumo, or Monster. These watches were also redesigned and relaunched as new generations, making older designs discontinued. 

Product Lineup Reset. At times. Watch companies revisit their watch lineups at times to improve their marketing strategy. Some watch models may be discontinued or relaunched as part of another watch lineup during this process. 

A great example of this is the Seiko Alpinist SARB017. Seiko reorganized the watch lineup a few years ago. As a result, the SARB017 was discontinued, only to be re-released under the Prospex collection as the SPB121J1.

What Happens When Watches Get Discontinued?

When watches get discontinued, often you may see prices appreciated due to a complete cut-off of supply. Depending on the level of demand, more homages and counterfeit watches may also enter the market.

Price Appreciation. When watches get discontinued, the supply and demand balance gets disrupted. In this case, the supply is entirely cut-off, leaving the demand having no choice but to turn to the used market. 

This usually results in price appreciation, depending on the available demand level. The higher the demand, the higher the price may fetch. 

A great example is how the prices for Seiko SARB033 started appreciating a lot more once they were discontinued in 2018. A brand new SARB033, when still under production, retails for under $400. These days, be prepared to spend $800 to $1,000 for a used watch.

ALSO READ: Best Appreciating Seiko Watch Models

Vintage Market Develops. As watches get discontinued, it may be harder to purchase them. Later, parts may be hard to come by since the maker may no longer support them. 

This opens up opportunities for many to offer their products and services for these discontinued watches, resulting in the development of a vintage market. 

Luxurious Swiss watches such as Rolex or Jaeger-LeCoultre tend to have a large, well-operating vintage market, with dealers, watchmakers, and experts supporting them. As a result, their vintage models tend to have higher demand and sell at a very high price. 

Some watch brands also try to cultivate the vintage market for their own watches. Longines, for example, actively seeks out their own vintage watches and restores them in-house before reselling them out. 

More Homages May Enter The Market. Suppose the demand for the discontinued watches is high enough. In that case, homage makers may start to release models to fulfill the demand. 

Homage makers, in general, occupy the market of those who want iconic, luxury timepieces but are unable to afford them. When the original model is discontinued, it provides a stronger case for the homage watchmakers to enter the market. 

Why Do Watches Get Discontinued
Rolex Explorer ‘Steve McQueen’ and the homage from Steinhart

Suppose you are a fan of the Rolex Explorer ‘Steve McQueen’. This watch was discontinued in 1984. But, you can still purchase a Steinhart GMT Ocean Vintage Mark I, which is still in production and is an excellent homage to the Rolex.

There are also plenty of homages for one of Rolex’s most famous models – the Daytona ‘Paul Newman’. This model is also discontinued. 

ALSO READ: Best Homage Watchmakers

More Counterfeit/Fakes May Enter The Market. Buyers come in many types, and they react differently when a watch model is discontinued. 

Some will cough up blood and overpay for a used model. Some turn to homages, and some choose to look for counterfeit/fake models. 

This can make sense if they do not want to overpay for the original used model yet do not like homages – they are, after all, a different brand. 

Counterfeiters see this and create models for customers like this. Today, many discontinued Rolex Submariner models are offered as counterfeits and fakes. 

Our official advice is to avoid counterfeits and fakes and either purchases original or at least a homage. 

ALSO READ: Why Homage Is Way Better Than Counterfeit Watches?

Do Discontinued Rolex Watches Go Up In Value?

In general, most discontinued Rolex models go up in value. This is because Rolex has a high demand, to the point that there is a waiting list to even purchase models in production. Some of the most expensive Rolexes are, in fact, discontinued models. 

The best example would be the Rolex Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ edition. Rolex has long discontinued this model, but it is so well appreciated by watch enthusiasts that the original used models are still in very high demand today.

The most expensive model was sold for 17.8 million, the model worn by Paul Newman himself. Countless homages were also created over this particular model to satisfy the demand. 

Are Discontinued Watches More Valuable?

In general, discontinued watches do become more valuable. This is due to a lack of supply. Buyers have no choice but to turn to the used market, bidding up the price. As time goes by, attrition further reduces supply, pushing prices even higher. 

Prices for watches are determined by the market forces – supply and demand. The less supply there is, and the higher the demand, the higher the price. 

When a manufacturer discontinued a watch, the supply was totally cut off, meaning there is only a finite amount of the watch in the market. If the demand is high, these buyers have no choice but to turn to the used market. 

Prices will start to climb, as shown by models such as Seiko SARB033 or the Seiko SKX007 today. 

As time goes by, attrition sets in. Watches break down and become destroyed over time. Cannibalisation might also happen as some models were stripped to keep a single watch functioning with original parts. Fewer models now remain in the market. 

If the attrition is followed by a sudden spike in demand, the price could simply go through the roof. 

Something as simple as a celebrity is seen wearing the watch or a group of watch influencers hyping the model could further drive demand and raise prices. 

Nigel Ignatius

Nigel is the principal creator of WatchPursuits.com, a website dedicated to watches. Inspired by the dedication and effort of watchmakers now and old, Nigel has a passion for watches and looks forward to share his passion with the world.

Recent Posts