Luxury Watch Market Trends

By Patrick C Bedford

Despite international economic woes, the higher end luxury side of the watch business looks like it is in rather decent shape.
As for market trends, automatic timepieces are slowly recapturing market share. And while rose gold is still strong, cheaper stainless steel is gaining popularity especially when it is occasionally made a bit more elegant with the adding on of diamonds. And size-wise, wristwatches continue getting larger with 48 and 49-millimeter timepieces becoming increasingly common, despite the claims of some who say that the large watch trend has reached its peak.
On the negative side, some Industry watchers have noted that economic concerns have sent a few “aspirational” brands with price-points between $1,000 and $3,000 into a troubled position.
Also on the down side, Andrew Talbert, the C.O.O. of LGI Network, said that watch sales dropped dramatically: roughly 20 percent in September and October of 2008.
Mr. Talbert notes that he thinks almost every price point has been hit hard except for two: the highest of the high end of twenty-five thousand dollars and up (because people in that bracket still have cash to spend), and the five hundred to eight hundred dollar range which has only fallen off slightly (possibly because some manufacturers have brought diamonds into that lower price range, which has not happened before).
Talbert went on to note that even though the total quantity of watches sold has fallen, the average retail price rose from $758 in September 07 to nearly $890 this past September, almost 18% in one year.
There are a few watch industry insiders who are predicting major changes at brand levels. Specifically, Middle-priced women’s timepieces are not doing well and neither are the very lowest price points-meaning a few brands will probably have to develop new strategies and perhaps try to reinvent themselves.
The president of Roger Dubuis North America, Mr. Ronald Wolfgang, a longtime insider in the luxury watch business has suggested that perhaps repositioning is a good idea for some brands. He also said that higher priced wristwatches should be a bit easier to move than the lower priced models. He finally noted that young, wealthy, fashion aware watch buyers will remain interested in purchasing bigger watches with lots of complications.
On the watch size front, another industry insider, John Pember, from Howard From Jewelers in Chicago, says that he thinks watches will continue to get bigger. He claims that of the sixty watches he currently has in stock, forty-five of them are oversized.
On the other hand, the vice president of Topper Jewelers in California, Mr. Rob Caplan, states that he has seen a trend back to wristwatches that are large but not necessarily enormous. His reason for thinking this: Daniel Craig. Mr. Craig, the latest film actor to play James Bond wore a 42-mm Omega Seamaster in the 2008 film “Quantum of Solace” and thus Caplan asserts, because such a “strapping guy” wore a 40-42 mm watch in the movies, the buying public will follow his lead.

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