Rolex may not need to panic, yet, but its dominance may be dented in the coming years as millennials take a different approach to watch buying than their parents.
This is the view of Mr Porter managing director Toby Bateman, who overseas one of the world’s biggest ecommerce sites for men’s fashion and accessories.
Mr Porter is part of Yoox Net-A-Porter Group, which is now owned by Richemont.
Rolex and Patek Philippe are the biggest watch brands in the world that do not yet allow their authorised dealers to sell online. This approach has clearly done the brands no harm in the UK (Rolex sales were up by 28% in the first quarter of 2018 and Patek Philippe sales rose by more than 9% in 2017 to £155 million — wholesale — in the UK last year), but younger customers may not be as loyal in the future.
“Just because the watch industry has switched on to ecommerce in the past few years, it does not mean the effect will be immediate. It will still take time on the commercial side for the new generation of clients that the brands want to reach, and which is why they are embracing ecommerce,” Mr Bateman says in a wide-ranging interview with WatchPro this month.
It is not just the way millennials shop that could challenge today’s biggest watchmakers, the brands themselves might be less attractive to younger consumers.
“It is no longer about how expensive a watch is, but more about how interesting the watch is. The younger customer is moving away from that. Every watch brand will tell you they are after the millennial customer, but that will take time. The millennial consumer, more than any other type of customer, is very careful about how they spend their money. They are going to want to invest in something that they know will last and is an expression of their personality rather than just a status symbol,” Mr Bateman suggests.