UK’s best-selling watches Which watches sell well in the UK?
Our new UK correspondent delves into the most buoyant watch market of the moment.
With London continuing to rank among the world’s most visited cities – the UK capital topped a survey by MasterCard in 2014 and 2015, but ceded second place to Bangkok last year – it's no surprise that tourism is a big driver of UK luxury sales. Nearly 48 per cent of visitor expenditure went to shopping in 2016, reports the annual Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index.
David Coleridge, chairman of The Watch Gallery, which was acquired by Swiss retailer Bucherer last month and operates four standalone stores including the watch business of department store Selfridges, says that a “big proportion” of his watch sales come from tourists.
“The weak pound is continuing to stimulate business in central London,” says Mr Coleridge, who adds that the top brands by value are Rolex, TAG Heuer, Omega and Patek Philippe, with Audemars Piguet also popular. While the likes of Rolex and TAG Heuer have a “broad spectrum of appeal - for example, not just Chinese or English,” says Mr Coleridge, “Audemars Piguet is more to do with the relative scarcity of the product and great quality. Demand exceeds supply.”
Audemars Piguet’s top sellers in the UK are the 41mm steel Royal Oak self-winding with either a black or silver dial (£15,000) , or the 42mm Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph (£21,900) in steel with a slate-grey dial or the 18ct pink gold version with a matching dial (£34,300). At the London department store Harrods, Audemars Piguet’s limited edition pieces do especially well, and indeed the famed shopping destination attracts watch buyers seeking more higher-priced, special editions. Richard Mille and Roger Dubuis are particularly sought after brands, it says; the latter just opened its first boutique in London, in Harrods, last month, with customers notably keen on its Excalibur range.
Sport watches are also popular in the UK. At TAG Heuer, for example, its bestsellers are its motorsport-inspired Carrera line (at £3,550 for the top end) and Formula 1 models, which start from £1,550.
Meanwhile Patek Philippe is also currently seeing demand for its sports designs, says Mark Hearn, the brand’s UK managing director. The Nautilus and Aquanaut ranges for both men and women are popular, and interestingly, over half of the Geneva watchmaker's sales in the UK are made outside of London, says Mr Hearn. “The typical UK buyer is someone who appreciates understated elegance and timeless style,” he adds. “Very often, they are looking for a timepiece with real value, both financial and emotional, to pass on to future generations".
Indeed such classic, heritage pieces are big sellers in the UK. At Cartier, demand for its Tank – which this year celebrates 100 years – shows no sign of abating. “This iconic watch has inspired countless variations yet managed to preserve its distinctive identity and continues to be a bestseller,” says Laurent Feniou, Cartier's UK Managing Director. He adds that the Ballon Bleu de Cartier also performs well, as has the cushion-shape Drive de Cartier, which launched last year to “huge success”, and now comes in a flatter and sleeker version for 2017.
Audemars Piguet is one of the few independent family-owned watch businesses and has been based in Le Brassus, in Switzerland's Vallée de Joux region, at the heart of the fine watchmaking industry,...Find out more
Patek Philippe enjoys outstanding renown and rare prestige, due to the constancy with which the Manufacture has applied its philosophy of excellence ever since it was founded.Find out more
Richard Mille did not simply try to find his place in the watchmaking world – he carved one out for himself, constantly striving not to take anything for granted, and to make innovation and extreme...Find out more
The Roger Dubuis Manufacture was founded on the desire for independence and watchmaking excellence. With remarkable dynamism, Roger Dubuis quickly ignited the world of Haute Horlogerie and has...Find out more
Over 150 years of watchmaking savoir-faire and technical innovation have made TAG Heuer a global reference in avant-garde sports watches. As it tracked the rise of sports demanding increasingly...Find out more