X
Stay on top of all watchmaking news ! OK
×

This search is sponsored by Piaget

Search in :
20th Anniversary
20 Years of Watchmaking - The Changing World of Watch Retail: Part 2

20 Years of Watchmaking The Changing World of Watch Retail: Part 2

In the last 20 years, the phenomenal growth in watch collecting, and of the watchmaking industry as a whole, has radically transformed the watch retail environment. New categories of boutiques have sprung up, internet sales have soared, and traditional watch stores have had to dramatically transform their business. The shopping experience for collectors has evolved and mutated**

Not your Father's Store anymore

The enormous growth of the watchmaking business has also transformed the distribution of watches. Traditionally, a watchmaker relied on an arrangement of distributors across the globe to distribute its watches to a local network of retailers. These retailers were agents for multiple brands of watches that they offered their clientele. But by the year 2000, many watch brands had been consolidated into large luxury groups such as Richemont, Swatch Group, Kering and LVMH. These large groups then pushed for the integration of the traditional distribution channels, to reduce cost and increase the quality of customer service. The next step was to open mono-brand watch boutiques in large metropolitan cities across the world. Through these flagship points-of-sale, a brand can offer their clients access to exclusive or limited-edition watches, which would once have been challenging to access. More significantly, the brand can now build a choreographed experience for their customers: to enter a flagship boutique is to immerse yourself in the world of the brand.

L'envol des montres d'occasion : partie 2

“Certified Pre-Owned” space in Bucherer Geneva boutique © Bucherer

To meet these challenges from the larger brands, the traditional watch retailer has also evolved its offering and customer experience. Retailers such as Bucherer and Watches of Switzerland have emerged, with large spaces and the ability to offer not only a greater variety of brands but also a depth of product. They are able to deliver more choices to their customers, and thus can better compete with mono-brand boutiques and the internet. A few also offer vintage watches and pre-owned models, which are usually trade-ins. These watches are usually refurbished to the specifications of the Manufacture, and are ready to find a new owner. This new category has found much popularity in the last few years, because it gives a broader base of customers access to watches that might otherwise be difficult to find, or too expensive to purchase new. Today, many retailers offer this new category of pre-owned watches, and even a few Manufactures have launched in-house programs similar to retailers. The early adopters are mainly independent watchmakers such as the manufacture F.P.Journe, which named its program “Service Patrimoine”, and unconventional brands such as MB&F, Urwerk and De Bethune, which simply call this category “Pre-owned watches”. Through these brands’ websites, customers can purchase older, discontinued collectible watches, which have been completely refurbished in-house.

L'envol des montres d'occasion : partie 2

“Certified Pre-Owned” space in Bucherer Geneva boutique © Bucherer

Watch retailers have also experienced their own massive consolidation in the last 20 years. A few groups have now emerged to dominate the industry: in Asia The Hour Glass has traditionally been a dominating force, while in Europe and the United Kingdom, Bucherer and Watches of Switzerland have been increasing their presence in their respective markets. However, in the last few years, both these large retailers have been competing against each other in the United States through acquisitions. Watches of Switzerland has fuelled its growth by opening new boutiques in New York City and California, and has also acquired the well-established Mayors in Florida. In early 2018, Bucherer purchased Tourneau, the largest watch retailer in the United States, establishing a new status as a retail leader for brands such as Rolex. Smaller, family-owned retailers such as Wempe have also expanded by opening brand boutiques across the globe.

L'envol des montres d'occasion : partie 2

Exterior of Watches of Switzerland in SoHo, New York © Watches

Finally, a new generation of retailers has emerged in the last five years, led by Hodinkee and Chrono24, both trailblazers in their own category. Hodinkee was founded in 2008 as a blog, but has rapidly transformed the watch retail business with its stylish website and a vast quantity of quality content that helps educate shoppers and allows them to make informed purchase decisions. Chrono24 has been an online marketplace for luxury watch dealers since 2003; it offers about half a million new, used or vintage watches from retailers all over the world, with easy navigation and a streamlined purchase experience. These two innovative pioneers have led to other online watch re-seller outlets, such as Watchfinder, A Collected Man and The Watchbox.

L'envol des montres d'occasion : partie 2

“Certified pre-owned” area at Bucherer, Geneva © Bucherer

The watch retail business has seen a remarkable evolution in the last 20 years which has transformed the way watches are sold. This has benefited customers, by offering more choice and better access to watches. New technologies and more sophisticated collectors have challenged this traditional business, yet watch retail has proven itself able to adapt with an inventiveness that bodes well for the future.

L'envol des montres d'occasion : partie 2

“Certified pre-owned” area at Bucherer, Geneva © Bucherer

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.

*Written by William Massena

Brands

De Bethune embraces the wealth of the watchmaking knowhow of the past in order to design the watches of the future. This combination results in timepieces with all the attributes and technical...

Find out more >

The early years of the third millennium brought the world a new paradigm of watchmaking, which came to be known as horological kinetic art.

Find out more >

Few brands are as closely associated with the rise of avant-garde independent horology in the new millennium than URWERK, the Geneva-based brand with Swiss-German mechanical foundations.

Find out more >