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How to make 2024 your best year ever

Meeting customers' shifting expectations of what constitutes value for money will be key this year.

Downturns do not affect every business equally. Robin Swithinbank gives his list of suggestions on how to make sure a return to normality in 2024 does not leave you trailing.

Isn’t it a shame the new year has to start with January, the month whose birthday we’d all otherwise forget?

But what of it, here we are, with a clean slate and 12 months of glorious possibility before us.

As per, accompanying this grab-it-while-you-can moment – you know it happens just once every 365 days, right? – the world’s journals are full of hastily assembled advice that if followed will, no doubt, make this the best year ever. The BEST! EVER!

[Spoiler: it won’t.]

Given that if you can’t beat them, it’s only right to join them, I find myself compelled to hastily assemble my own new year’s list of fool proof (free and untested) advice for the watch industry.

Follow it watch brands, and you will have the best – the BEST! – year ever*.

1. Best year ever

Alright, you’ve had your fun. This year isn’t going to be easy.

Not like, you know, 2022. Ha! No way.

Back in those heady days, you could pump out your watches, ramp up your prices and belly-laugh at gullible buyers falling over themselves to be first through the doors of your tiny new boutique.

Even the big brands know it: this year, everyone’s going to have to sell watches.

As in, work at it. Get on the phones. Incentivise. Those buyers don’t owe you a living.

2. Give them more for their money

During the financial crisis of 2008/9, I worked in an office and was too lazy to make my own lunch, which meant buying it every day.

This prompted the evolution of the QQV scale, whereby my lunch had to offer ‘quality, quantity and value’ in order for my penny-pinching stomach to be satisfied.

That ruled out posho sushi and flabby Tesco sandwiches, but not the engorged ciabatta from my local Italian deli.

Watch buyers will be doing the same this year, so it’s time for watches that offer a lot of value for money. Short-hand: it’s the year of the classic steel three-hander.

3. Remember the gold standard

The old investment adage that in a downturn/recession/crisis you buy gold translates into watches, although not literally.

The gold standards will be the big names as buyers concentrate their attentions around brands and references that enjoy design longevity and solid residuals, two facets of a watch purchase that ‘make sense’.

4. Choose your dance partners cleverly

One thing that won’t change this year is the amplifying power of collaborations.

But rather than balancing a nice big watch on Kim Kardashian’s bloated bottom, this is the year to go large on sidling up to the virtuous and the saintly.

Sceptics will always ask why, and it’s important to keep it clean, but embracing the responsible luxury paradigm now is a no-brainer.

5. Don’t flaunt it

When things get tough, there’s no worse look than grotesque displays of wealth.

Dripping diamond-encrusted gold watches off the edge of a super yacht in Monaco will make you look bad. Don’t do it.

6. Do flaunt it

There are things to show off about in a downturn. Heritage, for example, to remind buyers that when all this nastiness is over, you’ll still be there – just like last time.

Design and mechanical integrity are on-point, too, to show them you’re worth it.

And as during the pandemic, this is a season to show off your do-gooding.

Are you punching above your weight with your sustainability strategy?

Make sure your customers know just how many carbons you’re not putting into the atmosphere this year. But don’t preen.

7. Take a few quid off

Prices go up, prices come down. This is an economic inevitability. And yet in watchmaking there is a real nervousness about reducing prices.

What about those customers who just bought at the higher price? Won’t it encourage discounts?

It might not always be pretty. And yes, there are still expensive materials to buy, factories to run, people to pay, an overblown boutique network to sustain, margins to protect and so on, but brands expecting buyers to keep paying through the nose for watches that in some cases have doubled in price since covid are on a hiding to nothing. Make hay while the sun shines; sew seeds when the clouds roll in.

8. Bring in new lines for the times

If you can’t bring yourself to cut the price of the 45mm all-black-DLC GMT no one wants, introduce new lines at lower prices to show people you mean business.

Bremont has called it and will be introducing two new lines below its current entry point this year, which already looks a smart play. Expect others to follow suit. Frankly, why wouldn’t they?

9. And make people smile

There’s an unfortunate tendency in this business to over-intellectualize watches, when for the vast majority of buyers a watch is nothing more than an ice cream that never melts.

The brands that know how to make their clients grin from ear to ear will emerge from this season with their teeth intact.

Robin swithinbank 13104580
Robin Swithinbank.

I’m sure I could think of a 10th, but the instruction of my first editor all those years ago was that a listicle with a round number never attracts the same attention as one with a weird number. So nine it is.

*This claim is non-binding on the basis that it was made up on the spot without due care or attention. Or any care or attention.

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