© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The stern president of watchmaker Patek Philippe poses before an interview with Reuters in Plan-les-Oceptions magazine
By Silke Koltrowitz
ZURICH (Reuters) -The luxury Swiss watchmakers, often not big fans of online retail, are launching a new all-digital Watches & Wonders event on Wednesday to showcase showcasing their latest products, in the hope of recovering sales affected by the coronavirus crisis.
High-end watchmakers still rely heavily on physical stores for sales, but the success of used online platforms for watches, such as WatchBox or Richemont’s Watchfinder, has shows that you can sell luxury watches online.
The pandemic-related factory and store closures impacted Swiss watch sales last year and forced brands to step up their often small online businesses and in general. rethink digital work.
Guillaume de Seynes, executive vice president of luxury goods conglomerate Hermes, told Reuters that one of the reasons Hermes’ watch business outperformed the industry last year was because its customers were Get used to shopping on hermes.com.
Hermes, known for its leather goods, silk scarves, and perfumes, embraced e-commerce much earlier than pure play watch makers, launching its US trading website almost 20 last year.
De Seynes said he expected a strong rebound in the group’s watch sales this year, with current trends generally matching a 28% increase in the last quarter of 2020.
Rene Weber, an analyst at Vontobel, estimates that only about 2% of Swiss watch sales by value are made online, with proportions varying depending on the brand. Other analysts estimate the share of online sales to be between 7% and 9%.
Several high-end Swiss watch brands – such as Patek Philippe and Rolex – have prioritized sticking with traditional and mortar stores to sell products that could cost tens of thousands of dollars. surname.
For Patek, selling online is still not an option, and a test run with retailers in the first batch confirmed that strategy, President Thierry Stern told Reuters.
“People don’t want to buy Patek online, expensive watches, you lose beauty, you lose magic.”
The family-owned luxury watch maker has seen a recovery this year after sales plunged 20% in 2020, but don’t expect 2019 sales to return. again. “That could take a year or two,” Stern said.
Justin Reis, chief executive of the pre-owned platform WatchBox, said customers have become much more engaged with brands during the pandemic as they have become accustomed to actively searching for information online, via webinars or social media.
To stay ahead of this trend, Patek Philippe has invested some in its digital capabilities, hiring staff and setting up a studio to deliver high-quality virtual product presentations.
Small independent brand H. Moser & Cie also invested in digital technology ahead of the Watch & Wonders fair and said it was happy that the cost was lower than that of the physical watch fair.
LVMH’s Bulgari said e-commerce had “increased significantly” in a presentation Wednesday. “We have expanded our technology and made ourselves more available to our customers,” said Antoine Pin, the head of the Bulgari watch.
Watches & Wonders Official Platform https://www.watchesandwonders.com/en, describes itself as “the biggest watch event ever to happen online”, allowing access to media and retailers the showcases of 38 participating brands.
“It would be great if consumers could also participate through the Watches & Wonders platform,” Rolf Studer, Oris’s CEO told Reuters, also said the brand has developed campaigns to connecting more closely with customers on Instagram and launching watches online. community through Zoom.