Arriving in Geneva for SIHH feels like the first day back at school for the watch industry. The first show of the year gives a steer for the watch trends that retailers will be describing to their customers for the remainder of 2017.
This year also saw much more than just the Richemont brands putting on their annual showcase. The luxury group invited a small number of independent watchmakers to share their exhibition. Plus, there were several showcases around the rest of Geneva, including a substantial presentation by LVMH brands on a cruise ship moored on the lake.
After a week in the home of the world watch industry, Rob Corder shares his thoughts on what the market has learned with a roundup of the top eight trends from luxury watch brands.
As you read through the eight trends, keep one over-arching thought in mind: pretty much every tactic that luxury brands are using this year is about limiting risk, attracting customers at the entry level, and extracting the highest possible prices from the ultra-wealthy at the top end.
- Innovative Materials – Carbon, ceramic, porcelain, patented alloys and bronze have all made reappearances this year. It is a way of refreshing banker models within popular collections without the risk of extreme redesigns that might not prove popular. Click for more.
- Scarcity Sells – All luxury watch brands create limited editions because the ultra-wealthy don’t want to be seen wearing the same watch as their mates at the yacht club. This rationing of the most desirable models is being supercharged this year as brands push for higher average transaction values at the top end without flooding the market with watches that don’t sell. Click for more.
- Steel is Golden – Somehow the watch world has made stainless steel a luxury material. They’ll tell you the composition of the steel, its purity, the special finishes they have pioneered. Ultimately, steel costs about $500 per tonne and a steel Rolex Daytona (last year’s most desirable watch by a mile) weighs about 150 grams. Ultimately, the choice of case material is about creating differential pricing – which retailers love as much as brands – so the use of steel is to be warmly welcomed. Click for more.
- Experience Counts – Profiting from luxury watch sales on the high street requires so man y more skills today than 20 years ago. Customers must be given the ultimate in store experience and, increasingly, they want more. This used to mean sending the private jet to transport the best customers to see watches being made in Switzerland or invitations to special events. The industry will go much further this year, with experiences that money cannot buy offered in a package with ultra-luxury and ultra-scarce timepieces (see trend 2). Click for more.
- In the Pink – There were signs that yellow gold is about to make a comeback, but most brands think there is another year of rose/red/pink gold left to run. Click for more.
- Still Feeling Blue – Peak Blue was probably 2016, but there are no signs of its popularity fading in 2017. Marketing and design wonks have spent thousands of hours inventing new ‘blues’ and new blue materials to keep it fresh for 2017. Click for more.
- Lower the Barrier – Every luxury watch brand fears that its pensionable customers will stop buying watches before the next generation gets hooked on expensive wristwear. 2017 will be a year of farming for new customers with many brands setting entry level price points lower than ever before. Click for more.
- Instagram Obsessively – This is a bit of a pet peeve for WatchPro, which invests heavily in journalism that will engage our audience for more than a nanosecond, and even requires people to know how to read, rather than just swish past pictures on their smartphones. Luxury brands, keen to show they are down with the kids (see trend 7) have embraced bloggers, tweeters and instagrammers as the new marketing messiahs. Click for more.