The Swiss luxury watchmakers are launching a completely new digital event Watches & Wonders To display the latest products, hoping to revive sales affected by the Coronavirus crisis.
High-end watchmakers still depend largely on physical stores for sales, but the success of online platforms for used watches, such as WatchBox or Watchfinder, has shown that it is possible to sell luxury watches online.
Factory and store closures affected Swiss watch sales last year and forced brands to boost their small businesses – often online and generally rethink digital activities.
Guillaume de Seynes, Executive Vice President of Hermès Group, said: “One of the reasons Hermes has excelled in watchmaking last year is because its customers are used to shopping on its website.
The Hermes group, known for its leather goods and fragrances, entered e-commerce much earlier than professional watchmakers, launching its transactional website in the United States nearly 20 years ago.
De Sense expects a strong rebound in group watch sales this year, in line with a 28 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2020.
It is estimated that only about 2 percent of Swiss watch sales by value are currently taking place online, with the share varying depending on the brand.
Some Swiss luxury watch brands, such as Patek Philippe and Rolex, preferred to stick to traditional stores to sell their products that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The CEO of Patek Philippe said: Selling online is not an option for us, and the experience with retailers during the first shutdown confirmed that strategy, as people don’t want to. Buying Patek online, watches are expensive, and you lose their beauty that way.
The luxury watchmaker expects a rebound this year after sales drop 20 percent in 2020, but it doesn’t expect a return to 2019 sales numbers yet.
The CEO of second-hand watch platform WatchBox said customers have become more engaged with brands during the pandemic as they become actively searching for information online.
In response to this trend, Patek Philippe has made some investment in its digital capabilities, hiring employees and creating a studio to deliver high-quality presentations of virtual products.
Small independent brand H. Moser & Cie also invested in digital technology ahead of Watches & Wonders.
Bulgari said: “E-commerce has increased dramatically, and we have expanded our technology and made ourselves more available to customers.
Watches & Wonders gives media and retailers access to presentations by the 38 participating brands.
Oris said: The brand has developed campaigns to communicate more closely with customers via Instagram and launched a watch for its online community via Zoom.