Horology and Youth How Watch Brands Are Winning Back Youth
For the past ten years, Swiss brands have been trying to get their watches back on the wrists of 15-25 year-olds. First attempts were heavy-handed, with designs that were too classic for this demographic. Smartwatches smacked of desperation. Thankfully they have come back to what they do best: watches that are creative, beautiful and distinctive
In 2014 we observed, with regret, that watch brands were gradually pulling out of the market segmentation of 15-25 year olds – a generation that buys (or is given) their first mechanical watch as an 18th birthday gift, for passing exams or on graduation, on their (first) wedding or for the birth of their first child.
Frederique Constant, withdrawal symptoms
At that time, only two brands were still investing in this segment: Frederique Constant and Baume & Mercier. The former had in its portfolio a small, classic watch retailing at around CHF 500 that was discontinued when founder and, at that time, CEO Peter Stas realised adults were buying this more affordable watch rather than spend on the brand’s more expensive “grown-up” models.
Baume & Mercier, never give up
Baume & Mercier, meanwhile, positioned itself with its “graduation watches”. This novel idea was launched by Alain Zimmermann, then CEO. Zimmermann entered into partnerships with different universities, but the concept failed to gel. The brand followed up with the Clifton Club, targeting the same audience. Again, it wasn’t to be and the Clifton Club is no more.
Why? Because in 2015 the Californian brand released its Apple Watch, which sold by the container-load. And still does. AboveAvalon estimates that Apple has already shifted over 100 million. Swiss makers, including Montblanc, Louis Vuitton and TAG Heuer, retaliated... by challenging Apple on its home turf and bringing out smartwatches of their own.
The TAG Heuer Connected is one of the most accomplished, but the majority of models are priced between €1,700 and €2,500. Whereas you can buy an Apple Watch from €219. Plus it’s Apple, so it’s cool. Game over. Apple wins. Hands down.
TAG Heuer Connected © TAG Heuer
Three ideas to get young people buying watches again
First attempts failed. So what else can Swiss brands do to get the attention of 15-25 year-olds?
1) A brand specifically for young watch buyers. Enter Baume, an offshoot of Baume & Mercier. While the two are related – Baume’s collections are accessed through the Baume & Mercier website - their positioning differs. Baume presents itself as innovative, sustainable and with quartz calibres. Entry level is €590 rising to €920. Above €1,000, big sister Baume & Mercier takes over. The idea for Baume took shape over 18 months. The brand launched in 2018 at Venice Beach then at Vivatech, and only sells online. An assembly facility in the Netherlands keeps costs down. A rare example of a youth-oriented spin-off, after the Daniel Wellington craziness.
TAG Heuer Connected - Naomi Osaka © TAG Heuer
2) Forget classic, forget smart and focus on lifestyle. Or the 80s redux. It’s what Tissot is doing. Its new PRX has a great design, is fitted with the excellent Powermatic 80 movement and comes in at just €695 (€375 with a quartz calibre). In the market for something a little more vintage? Hamilton’s Khaki Field Quartz is for you. It also starts at €375.
Collection PRX Tissot
3) Collabs. Once reserved for a certain elite (Harry Winston for the Opus series, MB&F and, more recently, Louis Erard and Schwarz Etienne), we’re now seeing hook-ups at every level of the market. Omega and Swatch recently launched a series of Moonswatches priced at €250, resulting in something we never thought we’d see: young people queuing up outside stores! Third time lucky?
Roma Synergy © Schwarz Etienne
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