I was working on the roof of my garage while listening to the Two Broke Watch Snobs podcast when I first learned about the Glycine Airman. Michael had just purchase an Airman and the brief history that he shared made me want to look the watch up. Upon searching for the Airman, I found myself not at all interested in what seemed like way too busy dials and yet two years later, I’ve been fascinated with them ever since.
The traditional Glycine Airman with all 24 hours listed on the dial seemed too crowded with numerals but a quartz model called the “World Traveler” caught my eye as a possible travel watch. The World Traveler had long since sold out but I could occasionally find one online, typically for a bit more than I wanted to pay. Realizing that I liked the model with the tan dial best, I set out to find one and thus began my ongoing search for the perfect Glycine Airman.
I’ll come back to my journey with the Airman World Traveler in another article but what I want to focus on here is exactly what on earth is going on with Glycine pricing. Since the Airman is the line that especially interests me, I’ll use several of the models selling during my almost two years of searching as a frame of reference. Questions about Glycine pricing are persistent in the forums and Facebook watch groups that I frequent. What makes the questions so persistent is that there may be few if any watch brands out there with more wildly fluctuating pricing on both the new and the preowned markets. I’m no Glycine insider, only a big fan, but I’m going to venture my own guess as to what is going on with the pricing.
Invicta purchased the Glycine brand four years ago this month, in August of 2016. This is not news to anyone interested in Glycine watches but how this purchased impact Glycine pricing does not seem to be as clear. Although Invicta and Glycine have both confirmed that the brands remain separate, but for the new parent company driving marketing, there are a number of changes that have become unmistakable. Here are a few of the ways that the Invicta purchase has impacted Glycine from my perspective.
First, Invicta doesn’t work with authorized dealers in the way that watch brands have traditionally done so. Using a wide range of marketing strategies, mostly driven by online sales, Invicta’s approach to selling watches changed the way that Glycine sold watches. The Glycine Airman and Combat lines started showing up in places like Massdrop (now Drop), Touch of Modern and other discount websites with agressive prices. Whatever was left of Glycine’s relationships with authorized dealers was over when Invicta shifted the brand’s marketing strategy.
I live in Minnesota’s Twin Cities and when I first started looking into Glycine watches, I looked up a local authorized dealer that was still listed on the website and gave them a call. The conversation with Timescape confirmed that they were completely out of the Glycine business. When I asked why, they explained that the brand was undercutting its authorized dealers through online sales and that they could not get parts needed for repairs, swaps, etc. Getting in touch with Glycine had become next to impossible and competing with Invicta’s online pricing was not sustainable.
New Old Stock
The second factor that I believe has played a major role in Glycine’s strange pricing schemes in recent years is that it seems that Invicta inherited a significant number of new old stock watches when they bought the brand. These watches were not produced or priced under Invicta’s original direction so it might have seemed in their best interest to get these watches sold off in order to make way for newer models that would sell more within Invicta’s typical marketing price points. What I’ve observed since the fall of 2018 is continually falling prices on pre-Invicta models like the Airman 18, Base 22, DC-4, SST-12 and and more.
The grey market watch dealers, like Ashford and Jomashop, who have sold off many of the Glycine watches have also sometimes shifted their pricing in order to announce a sale on the watches that would bring them closer to what was standard pricing only days before. Invicta loves to use the same strategy that they do with their own watches, by marking prices at what appears to be absurd discounts like 80% off as though the watches would typically sell at the crazy high MSRP listed.
Many of the pre-Invicta Airman models initially sold at MSRP over $2k and even though new prices dropped all the way down to the $400 range, sellers on the preowned market are often looking for a decent return on their initial investments. This means that any time I’ve looked at Airman pricing, it’s not been uncommon to see the same watch selling new for $450 and offered preowned for over $1k. It seems that Invicta dumped off its new old stock more in the United States than elsewhere, so it’s also typical to find much higher prices overseas while we have been spoiled by access to the same models for a fraction of the cost in the USA.
What Happens Next?
The Glycine Airman models that I’m focusing on in this article were all initiated before the Invicta purchase, even if some production continued afterward. For those who have been paying attention, you’ll notice that the afore-mentioned new old stock Airman 18, Base 22, DC-4 and SST-12 are almost entirely sold out. This is already starting to reflect changes in pricing. When somebody lists a watch for sale, they usually check on what the new price is and then adjust their own pricing accordingly. What’s happening now is that there are fewer new options to check so sellers are starting to list these Airman models at higher prices and people are still buying them.
For example, the DC-4 GMT was listed new on Ashford for $379 as recently as June of 2020. After selling out at Ashford it still sold on eBay for $357 as late as July 12th. As of this writing in late August, the last ten DC-4 watches to sell on eBay have all gone for over $550 and one of them was bid up in an auction to $730. This is a 50%+ price increase since mid-July, only a little over a month ago!
The SST-12 sold out earlier than the other models being discussed in this article. It was listed as low as $625 new and preowned pricing was sometimes as low as $400. A pre-owned SST-12 is now commanding prices of over $700 in most cases and sometimes closer to the $1k range.
The Glycine Airman Base 22 still has a few models out there for sale on the new market. These are usually limited to the black, white and full lumed dials. Since the Base 22 has not entirely sold out, I haven’t noticed the same price jump yet but would not be surprised to see it coming. I held out to find a preowned Base 22 on a bracelet for months and while I did so I inadvertently let the last new blue dialed Base 22 models sell out. I’m still hoping to find one soon.
My advice to anyone out there who loves the Glycine Airman like I do is to buy the one you are looking for soon, if it’s a pre-Invicta initiated model. The newer Airman releases seem plentiful but the ones listed in this article are becoming harder and harder to find and there’s enough interest out there to drive the prices back up now that Invicta is not trying to dump off their stockpile of older watches.
My dilemma is that I want them all and am having a difficult time narrowing down which ones to keep. I’m currently leaning toward keeping a collection of 2-3 Glycine Airman models, since they are still fairly affordable. I know that I need to make up my mind soon though before these watches are selling closer to where the market values them for their quality and heritage. I would love to hear which Airman watches you plan to keep and if you have other thoughts on what might be impacting Glycine pricing.