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Britain’s watch market - A temporary Eldorado?

Britain’s watch market A temporary Eldorado?

A record-breaking Olympic Games for British athletes and export statistics that buck the trend could offer double appeal for struggling watch brands.

Allow me the indulgence of celebrating my home country’s superlative-laden performance at the Olympic Games, which concluded in Rio de Janeiro last week. UK Sport, the organization responsible for Britain’s Olympic programme, had set a target of 48 medals. Team GB came back with 67, more even than they won at the home Games in London 2012. This made Great Britain the only country ever to improve on its performance four years after hosting the Olympic Games itself. It also put Great Britain in second place in the medals table, ahead of China and Russia. If London was a country, it would rank above France in the medals table. And the list of superlatives goes on…

What has all this got to do with watches, you might ask? Although the watch export statistics published by the Swiss Watch Industry Federation last week once again made grim reading as exports fell to -14.2% year on year, there were a few countries where exports grew in defiance of the overall trend. The United Kingdom is one of them. Exports last month were up 13.4%. And this is with a weak pound that, in theory, should be hitting industries that export to the UK. These figures are only based on exports for one month, of course, but it is the month following the Brexit vote and for the year to date, the United Kingdom has the third-best “growth”, at -2.6%, of the top ten watch export markets, beaten only by the UAE (+0.1%) and Japan (+0.6%).

British-Airways-british-athetes-back

So even without a clear plan for Brexit (in which political developments in Switzerland might end up playing a key role), the country’s watch market seems to be holding up quite well. Wouldn’t now be the time, therefore, for watch brands to strike sponsorship deals with the people of the moment? Usain Bolt’s “triple double” will forever be  associated with his Hublot watch. But what about the “double double” of distance runner Mo Farah (picture at the top of the page), who is widely tipped to feature on the next honours list? Or the members of the Team GB cycling team, who proved so dominant that Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner were left to battle over silver and gold in the men’s sprint final? A more adventurous watch brand might wish to tie up with Nicola Adams, who ticks all the diversity boxes as a black women’s boxer with a strong regional accent. British Airways struck marketing gold by bringing a 320-strong Team GB delegation back on a gold-nosed Boeing 747 and Adams had the honour of being the first off the plane when it landed in London.

With 27 gold medallists returning to Great Britain from Rio, there are plenty of sports to choose from. And with Jean-Claude Biver distracted as he drives his marketing juggernaut around China, now is the time to strike!