We would all like WatchPro to be a Brexit-free zone, particularly this week, but there is no denying its impact on the British watch market.
Since the country voted to leave in 2016, and the political turbulence since, the pound has remained historically weak, which has sucked in tourists and they have spent their dollars, euros, dirhams and yuans on expensive goods like watches.
The luxury end of the market, particularly in London, was the greatest beneficiary in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but GfK figures out this week show that the capital has struggled to keep hitting new records after such stellar growth.
The value of all watches sold (or at least those tracked by GfK) in London dipped by 1.5% in August and is down 4.3% for the 8 months since January. It should be noted that GfK does not track sales by monobrand stores owned and run by the brands, so we do not know the impact of recent store openings by the likes of Hublot, Richard Mille, Roger Dubuis and A. Lange & Sohhne on Bond Street.
It is worth noting that the London statistic is also questioned by the major groups. Bucherer and The Watches of Switzerland Group have both told WatchPro it is still an engine for growth.
Growth is strongest outside of London, an exact reverse of the situation in 2016-18. The value of sales rose in the rest of Great Britain by 7.5% in August, alone, and is up 7.8% since the start of the year. It seems likely that investment in luxury stores by the likes of Laings, Prestons, David M Robinson, Berry’s, Pragnell and others is bearing fruit.
For the whole of Great Britain, luxury watch sales are still booming, up 7.7% in value at the over £1,000 price point in August.
Hopes that sales of inexpensive watches have found a floor are dashed month after month. August sales were down double digits again. If anything, the situation is getting worse, not better as tech companies dominate sales with their smartwatches. People upgrading their mobile phones are often offered a free smartwatch from the same brand. That is tough to compete with.