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Breitling CEO predicts consolidation and concentration will lead to fewer watch brands

Georges Kern

Online sales increased for Breitling and its retail partners during the covid quarter, but still only amount to 10-12% of total sales, according to CEO Georges Kern.

With stores closed across the world, the watchmaker ramped up support for its authorised dealers, so that they could promote and sell Breitling watches, even if they did not have the infrastructure to fulfill the orders.

“What we did throughout Covid-19 was that we engaged a lot with our retailers. With many of them, we do their fulfillment. So if they sell a watch and they don’t have the logistics centres, we have a system that we can now do the shipping for them. This allows more flexibility,” Mr Kern describes in an interview with aeworld magazine.

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Mr Kern remains committed to brick and mortar stores — continuing to roll out monobrand stores directly owned by the business or, more often, created in partnership with authorised dealers like The Watches of Switzerland Group and Beaverbrooks.

“I still believe it’s very essential to have a 360 experience; to touch the watch, talk to someone about it, try it on your wrist etc. and that has to be physical. People are spending a lot more time now at our stores because of the atmosphere we have created. Which is great. I’m not sure that e-commerce can replace physical stores,” Mr Kern suggests.

Breitling is a privately-owned company that does not have to publish financial information, but Mr Kern hints that sales have bounced back since lock downs have eased around the world while competitors may not have fared so well.

“The market is still there. There will always be clients, [but] I believe we will see consolidation and concentration on fewer brands. The winning brands will be the ones who are embracing the new values. Some others will go through a very tough time. But the market is there, people will continue to buy, we already see it. People are travelling less so there is more disposable income, they still want to catch up with their purchases and that is the difference between us and some other industries,” Mr Kern says.

2 Comments

  1. George Kern remains one of the few in the Watch Industry that “see the field”! Understanding one’s Brand is only part of the equation, it’s Market Position, Luxury, Educating an ever changing audience, developing a relationship to the Brand, are all enhanced by consistency of Story, Availability in the Arena one chooses, i.e. Luxury, Selective or Mass and the ability to consummate the Sale and deliver the Product to the Consumer and satiate the desire for the Brand, be it Retail Partners, Brand Boutiques, Brand Digital Platforms, whatever. To a “thinning of the herd”, a fete accompli, the marketplace at Retail has been thinned, those space allocated has been thinned, except for Cybers[ace, however there is the union of all these assets that make, along with a Brands Focus and Reality (Market penetration) their opportunity for continued success. There will be those on the outside of Pareto’s Law, those attractive enough for consolidation and absorption by another House who will survive, but the same shake-out that was the 1970’s is here, and unlike the 30 years that followed “Consumption” will be more targeted and less voracious as was Japan’s entry into Tourism and subsequently China and the power base that is India.

  2. During lockdown I bought an Avenger Sea Wolf yellow dial. One of the cheaper Brietling watches. I am so impressed by the quality and design that I wear it every day. My Rolex which seems determined to be scratched stays in the drawer. The watch never fails to delight and the workmanship that has gone into the dial makes it a joy to look at. I met a wealthy friend of mine the other day who I was surprised to see is now a B fan. A vastly underrated brand and hopefully for the company a sleeper that will soon awaken.

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Rob Corder

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