Please Stop

Making Limited Editions

Our regular look at a design trend that needs to end.

Our regular look at a design trend that needs to end.

As Surface‘s resident watch guy, covering limited editions is a vexing part of my beat, and it seems to be getting worse. A week doesn’t pass without at least one press release hitting my inbox announcing a partnership or anniversary that’s been commemorated with a limited-edition timepiece. These have ranged from the baffling to the macabre, and in one truly bizarre instance even included Napoleon Bonaparte’s hair glued to a watch dial. Crafting and marketing artificial demand is far from exclusive to watches; products as diverse as cars and children’s cereal are guilty here of this ruse. Nonetheless, the limited edition has taken up a stubborn residence in our little corner of commerce, where marketing ideas can be at once scarce and outlandish. I’ve seen the same professional sports team partner with no fewer than three watchmakers, and there have of course been limited editions. But perhaps most irksome is the limited edition that can’t really be said to be limited, say, when a company founded in 1850 decides to flood the market with 1,850 of the same item—a test of watch collectors’ credulity if I’ve ever seen one. When artificial limitation and availability converge, the demand is obvious—just think of the Cunard’s limited run of lifeboats for the Titanic.

(Photo: Wikimedia)

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