As the world’s luxury watch and jewelry buyers flock to Switzerland for the annual blingfest known as Baselworld, it looks like they can all set their watches to happier times. Not only did sales of Swiss watches gain 1.9% in 2014, they’re already up 3.7% this year.
And perhaps more tellingly, consumer interest in luxury watches is up 10%, according to the latest World Watch Report from Digital Luxury Group, with interest strongest in the $6,000 to $8,000 category. And while many brands have stood their ground, Patek Philippe is coming on strong, breaking into the top-five brands for the first time, and easing Breitling out.
The report says interest (measured by tracking some 600,000 online searches) continues to be strongest in Asia, which now accounts for 68% of the growth of interest, led with by China. But interest gained in every market, with the exceptions of Brazil, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Other shifts in the market include a growing interest in slightly higher-priced watches, between $6,000 to $8,000, particularly Rolex, at the expense of those in the $4,000 and $6,000, with Omega losing the most interest.
“Luxury consumers are increasingly expecting value for money,” writes Ines Lazaro, product and marketing manager at Digital Luxury Group. “They have become more interested in craftsmanship rather than only aesthetics and most of them are looking for a sense of exclusivity. On top of this, there is a psychological price barrier around $5,000. Brands that are playing around this price point should be aware that consumers will benchmark their models to Rolex’s entry models.”
The report also marks a growing interest in smartwatches from favorite luxury brands, fueled not just by the Apple Watch, but also such tech brands as Pebble, Moto 360 and Samsung Gear. Despite the $10,000 price points for some models, the report predicts it will generate some 80% of its sales at prices below $700, creating more of an impact on American and Japanese brands than Swiss ones.
And consumers show high interest for Montblanc’s Estrap, as well as smartwatch offerings from TAG Heuer, Rolex, Omega and Breitling, even though no official launch dates have been announced.