The luxury watch giants ready to break the codes

Posted on Dec 22, 2022 at 10:00 am

Iconic models or innovative dials, watches will once again be an obligatory presence on the Christmas menu. But this year, the giveaways come at the conclusion of a very special year for this Swiss-dominated sector. Several phenomena have shaken the well-established traditions of watchmaking. Overview of the main revolutions.

Rolex and used watches

An absolute and discreet reference in the sector, the Swiss Rolex group has launched a new service called “Rolex Certified Pre-Owned”: the watchmaker repairs it if necessary and, above all, certifies the used models, which its historic partner Bucherer distributes in Europe – with two-year warranty. At the moment, watches ranging from 5,000 to more than 60,000 euros are on sale online.

Rolex’s participation is a big symbolic step taken in the resale market. This “initiative should be emulated”, predicts an expert in the sector. Online sellers are already multiplying: from the small traditional watch shop to the vintage Omega specialist who works on Instagram; for electronics retailers such as Watchfinder, owned by Swiss luxury giant Richemont, which has just opened its market to third-party watchmakers. E-commerce should weigh 30% of watch sales in 2030, against 15% today, according to Deloitte. “Second-hand watchmaking leaves no one indifferent,” commented Chrono24.

In second-hand luxury, watches weigh much more than fashion. “Watchmaking accounts for at least two-thirds of this, more than 25 billion of the 43 billion euros in total. This market is well structured, it has no by-products; it’s a godsend for brands,” recalls Joëlle de Montgolfier, vice president of Bain & Company’s luxury division in Paris. Secondary market sales of watches could, by 2030, reach almost 35 billion Swiss francs, specifies Deloitte.

Faced with the phenomenon, even Patek Philippe remodeled its strategy around the Nautilus. The 5711 steel version – whose production had been discontinued by the watchmaker – has risen in recent months to more than 90,000 euros in resale. And the Geneva watchmaker has just presented an approximate variation, version 5811 in white gold.

Automotive and cutting-edge technology on display

Another growing trend is collaboration-born tech models and displays. In recent months, many watchmakers have followed this path, such as TAG Heuer. “This year, the Maison has introduced around thirty new models, including our Connected Caliber E4, which strengthens its position in the high-end connected watch market; the Carrera Plasma, which incorporated laboratory diamonds for the first time, or the special edition Monaco, in black titanium, presented at the last Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco”, explains Frédéric Arnault, CEO of this brand belonging to LVMH [propriétaire des « Echos », NDLR]🇧🇷 “Our performance is very satisfactory, both from the point of view of sales and growth, but the results for 2022 will really be drawn after the year-end celebrations”, he adds.

“His Carrera, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Porsche car model, is about to become iconic, the renowned association of car manufacturers and watchmakers is a great asset”, says an expert. Richard Mille teamed up with Ferrari to create an ultra-thin watch measuring 1.75 mm thick, recognized as a technical feat.

The phenomenal marriage between Swatch and Omega

Will there be a before and after of MoonSwatch? The affordable range resulting from the collaboration between Swatch and Omega, launched last spring, is the surprise of the year. We still see lines at busy Swatch stores – in limited numbers – even though it’s not a limited series. An unprecedented situation for watches, notes Deloitte.

The commercial card – which increased visits to the stores in question by 50%, and sales of Omega’s MoonSwatch [une griffe appartenant au même groupe que Swatch, NDLR] -, allowed the team led by Georges Nicolas Hayek to compensate for the confinements in China. There is no doubt that this incredible commercial and marketing success, which will have to be validated in the watch giant’s annual accounts, has been noted by all of Omega’s rivals. He could imitate.

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