Change in Watch Land
Last year we heard the dropping sales results of some Swiss established premium brands. A market that was only growing and growing for the last years comes to a stop – or even ends up in a drop. Is the market replete? Or is there an alteration going on?
I think both if you look at the torments growth of auction houses and auction platforms nowadays. You can say there is more and more interest in vintage than new watches from establish brands. And with more and more working and good maintained watches in the market there is a very low demand for replacement. A problem resulting in the lowering of sales numbers.
Hyper brands creating a wave
The fast growth of new ‘hyper’ brands like MB&F, Urwerk Geneve, Richard Mille, F.P. Journe and a list of other great independent watch makers/brands is also an important change influencing the industry as we know it.. Okay lets sum up; the sales of new premium swiss brands is dropping, the sales and interest for vintage is growing. Besides that, there are more and more upcoming independent watch brands and micro brands in the field. Can we say there is an alteration?
The funny thing I spotted in the market – is the fact that more and more establish brands are picking up the consumers interest in vintage. So they all come up with the “great” idea of making so called ‘new vintage’. Funny that you see advertisements with the slogan ‘Vintage aged lume’ on new watches. Now, I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but guys with that kind of stuff you won’t get the attention of the real vintage-loving watch heads. And if you ask me this hype of re-introducing old models has totally nothing to do with the core value of what ‘vintage watches’ is about, (I save this topic for later on), but maybe it works in case of sales…. I don’t know all the figures exactly, but that doesn’t matter since this is a ‘writers opinion’ article.
A paved way for new brands and independent watch makers
As a result of the cooling down of the swiss watch industry; more and more independent watch makers and micro brands have found their way to suppliers of high quality movements and watch parts. For example the ETA issue. A few years ago when they announced to stop/limit the supply of movements to brands outside their own Swatch Group, the industry was in a sort of panic. Hey, what rumours are going on now? Yes, people are speculating about ETA willing to open their doors again for third parties. Because they need sales – logically – as every other company does. Making it easier for micro brands to supply themselves with good movements at a low cost rate. A move – if made – purely out of necessity. The arrogance of wanting to be lonely at the top is replaced by the need to survive.
I think this could be a really interesting time for the industry. An industry based on Heritage, Quality, Design and innovation – and a lot of marketing. The boundaries between the established brands and new ones are fading in terms of the basic principles. There are micro brands with highly innovative products. Recently we talked to a guy who developed a fully 3D printed watch case. Or the guy who is making his own manufacture movement in his garage. And I mean ‘really manufacture’ from front to end, including cutting his own rubies.
Okay in case of heritage they may not compete, but as said, the real heritage minded watch head wil go for vintage. And in case of marketing power: yes, small independents and micro brands could not even get close to the marketing machine of the ‘big’ brands. But don’t forget guys those new brands have ‘FANS’ instead of consumers and you need to know how powerful fans are. They are not only buying your watches – they are true ambassadors and they spread the passion.
So, to be honest, I think the industry needs to realize how important the collective is. Brands need each other, there’s no playground for micro brands or independent watch makers without the ‘big boys’. On the other hand, there’s no challenge for big brands if there are no new ideas finding their origin in a garage box or a study room. The arrogance of thinking you can carry the heavy weight of an industry on your own shoulders should be thrown away. It’s time to create a strong collective, not fragile and unaffected by technical developments. I rest my case, good food for a discussion.
Visit the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry’s website right here, for facts and figures on the industry.