Do you know what a 1016 is? Or a 15202ST? How about a “Snowflake”? Congrats, you are comfortably at home in the world of watches. But do you also know what “Breds” are? Or “Oreos”? How about “Tiffanys”? Seriously, the last one is not a trick question, and no, I’m not talking about a Patek Philippe Nautilus with a Tiffany dial. The nicknames I just mentioned are part of sneaker culture. So, if you knew the names, congrats, you probably are a sneakerhead, or at least interested in the immensely popular world of sneakers. There are all kinds of parallels when it comes to collecting sneakers and watches, but there are also some fundamental differences between them. We decided to put on our summer hat, strap on a nice watch, and pull on a fresh pair of sneakers as we delve into the world of sneakers and compare it to the world of watches.
Collecting Is an Ancient Hobby
In essence, both worlds of collecting sneakers and watches are intrinsically the same. Collecting is as old as mankind, meaning the urge to collect and own things is nothing new. Wikipedia describes collecting as: The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining items that are of interest to an individual collector. Collecting can start at an early age. If you grew up collecting something, chances are you will be a collector at an older age as well, especially if you have found your passion within this hobby.
Watch collecting has increased in popularity and status over the last decade or so. While collecting watches used to be a niche hobby for people that love these technical marvels, it is now a widely-loved collecting sub-category, which over the last ten years has achieved the same status as collecting art or antiques. Watches are much-loved collectibles, owing to the history of watch brands, the specific watches, the celebrities that have worn them, and the value they therefore represent. As most of you know, watch collecting has increased quite significantly in large part due to the increasing value of watches. Special watch auctions have popped up left and right, helping drive up prices. Watches have become not only popular as collectibles; some of them are even profitable investments.
If we look at sneakers, a similar trend can be seen. Over the last 10 to 15 years, the popularity of sneakers has taken off. Sneakers are no longer exclusive to the famous sports brands. High fashion brands have also fully embraced street culture, and sneaker culture in particular. Big names like Chanel and Louis Vuitton have worked with famous sneaker and streetwear brands to create full sneaker ranges that are highly collectible. It’s also not just the high fashion brands; Nike and Jordan have all kinds of dedicated collectors that have been in the collectible sneaker game for well over a decade. The iconic Jordan retro models, Dunk SBs, and Air Max 1 models have been greatly sought after for years. As a result, we have seen the same astronomical rise in prices for popular models that we have witnessed with coveted watches. There are definitely very interesting parallels between watches and sneakers.
The Familiar Hype and Exclusivity
If we take a closer look at what makes sneakers such loved collectibles, we see the same mechanisms playing a key role in their popularity that we see with watches. The first is exclusivity. Where it used to be all about limited editions – this factor is of course still very relevant – it’s now the much broader phenomenon of demand outpacing supply. Although many Nike, Jordan, and Yeezy releases are not marketed as limited-edition releases, they in some cases still sell out in no time. The same goes for new watches from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The demand is simply so high that the brands can’t (and often won’t) produce enough of their timepieces to meet it.
Another parallel is the amount of hype surrounding big and important releases. The level of attention some watch and sneaker releases receive on social media is astounding. A new release from Tudor or Rolex is met with about as much hype as the latest Travis Scott and Nike collaboration, the re-issues of Nike Lebron models, or Jordan re-issues. You can’t open Instagram without being bombarded by images from the brands and models that are popular. This hype obviously drives the “want factor” to astronomical heights, which in turn pushes up the prices of big new releases.
The Differences Between Watches and Sneakers
But there are also some differences between the two. When it comes to investing in items that hold their value, watches are definitely the better option. With the sheer amount of sneaker releases that come out every week, the sneaker market is subject to all kinds of price shifts. To be sure, iconic releases from the past will in fact hold their value. But recent releases will see both rises and dips in prices over shorter periods of time. Watches of course also see price developments that change over time, but they are not nearly as rapid as those seen with sneakers.
Along with the difference in the number of releases, watch and sneaker collecting also differ in their culture and perception. Watches have a history that goes back more than 200 years. Brands in the watch world have become established luxury institutions that possess a certain reputation and ring to them that are simply magical. Additionally, a watch is a product that can outlive entire generations, whereas sneakers are subject to wearing out over a comparably shorter period of time. Indeed, there are plenty of old Jordans from the 1980s that have completely fallen apart. The chances of that happening to your Rolex are considerably less, which means that a vastly larger quantity of watches will still be collectible 60, 70, or even more years after they were manufactured. They will still continue doing the job they were built to do, making the longevity of watches much longer than sneakers, and their prices more stable.
Lastly, there is the difference in perception. Sneakers are embedded in youth and street culture, and tied into a younger and therefore more temporary audience. For many collectors, this means that they will probably give up the sneaker game at some point. That’s not to say that this is a given for every sneaker enthusiast. But from my own experience, people at some point will be done chasing the latest sneaker “drop” alongside their predominantly younger counterparts. Collecting watches might be their next step. Furthermore, there is a difference regarding what people are willing to spend their money on when it comes to collecting. Watches are commonly seen on the same level as art and wine, and can be a great investment if you know what to look for. This perception makes watches a better investment in the long run.
Finding the Brands That Connect
Despite the differences, the thing that both sneaker and watch collecting have in common is that they are both a ton of fun. Can we draw a parallel or two when looking at the different brands? The biggest brands in sneakers are without a doubt Nike and Jordan, and there is a clear parallel to Rolex and Tudor as the most popular brands in watches at the moment. Another popular sneaker brand is Yeezy, a relatively new brand that has been pushing the boundaries of how we look at sneakers. A comparable watch brand that has done the same is Richard Mille. And when looking at Adidas, I would say that Omega is its most fitting watch counterpart. With all of these sneaker manufacturers and watchmakers, we see a rich history, plenty of iconic models, and the defining brands of their respective worlds.
We could draw even more parallels. Perhaps Asics is to Grand Seiko what Converse is to Seiko? What about Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe? Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen? It’s fun to think about whether there are brands that we can compare, or that have a similar brand perception in their respective industries. In any case, expect to see more sneaker and watch pairings in the near future on Chrono24, and keep an eye on what their markets are doing, as well as what some of the most iconic releases are in both worlds. Happy hunting!