The best thing about the watch-collecting trend is that it’s far more inclusive, attracting a much younger, more fun, and extremely well-informed crowd.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but people are more into clocks and watches than ever. Oversized clocks as decor, old-school watch bracelets and luxury men’s watches will define 2022 style, particularly for Gen X and Boomers, hails the eighth annual Pinterest Predicts report.
Among the trending search terms for pinners from October 2019 to September 2021 are watch collection display (up 65%), clockwork aesthetic (up 55%), and men’s luxury watches and trendy watches (up six times).
Pinterest suggests that if you’re a tech brand, use trends-based video ads to call out upgraded technology features and cool new watch styles. If your product offers an analog watch face feature, market this too, as some people just want to tell time the old‑fashioned way. And, if you’re a fashion brand, the platform advises highlighting classic luxury watches with contemporary, sustainable styles to help people invest in a new favorite statement accessory.
Watches will be the new “must have accessory” this year, luxury marketer Laetitia Hirschy, founder of Kaaviar PR and co-founder of Watch Femme, a female-centric community of watch aficionadas, told the Robb Report in January. “Appreciation of fine watchmaking will start to move further away from a niche luxury interest and transition into the mainstream. Fueled by growing demand from a more diverse population, the industry will increasingly adopt inclusive messaging across demographics [like] gender, age and culture.”
Concurs Asher Rapkin, co-founder of Collective Horology, a community of watch enthusiasts that collaborate with brands, who told Robb Report to “expect a renaissance in the watch industry, both from a creative and business standpoint.” He sees enormous opportunity to increase the diversity of collectors and watches in circulation, growing the community and encouraging innovation.
Sustainable Key Watch Trend
With men and women, old and young clamoring for wristwatches these days, the mega trends that fashion, jewelry and lifestyle influencers and platforms are reporting about include minimalistic design, responsibly made watches, smart watches, and vintage/retro style. Color also plays a key role in dials, bezels and straps; and whimsical character watches are keeping collectors young at heart.
Alexander Thiel, a partner at the research firm McKinsey & Co., cites that consumers today look first for a brand that they identify with and like, that they want to wear, as part of their public persona and then look for the designs and features they like — a recent shift in shopping behavior. He advocates brands put forward what they are doing for sustainability.
A great example is in the latest Citizen Watch campaign, “Purposeful Power.” The idea of Purposeful Power has roots dating back to 1976, when Citizen invented its proprietary Eco-Drive technology, which eliminates the need for watch-battery replacement.
“It’s a new way to talk to consumers,” states Jeffrey Cohen, president of Citizen Watch America. “The phrase ‘Purposeful Power’ is shining a light on the values that our brand wants consumers to connect with and has our Eco-Drive technology and consumers at the forefront.” The campaign included a hashtag-focused fundraiser for Everybody Solar to help fund a solar-installation project planned in 2022. Citizen donates $5 for every shared moment #mylight on its Instagram page.
Part of the sustainable trend is more interest in the resale market. Elizabeth Layne, CMO at luxury resale platform Rebag, told Refinery29 that “watch trading has just started to expand,” confirming that shoppers are increasingly looking at pre-owned watches.
Cora Lee Colaizzi, director of marketing and catalogs and senior merchandiser for Quality Gold — which offers a narrow assortment of Rolex Pre-owned Independently Certified, and Cartier Certified Pre-owned watches — reports that in the past two years, demand has been super high, and supply is low, with some models being temporarily unavailable. “Stock replenishment time frames are longer and longer for popular models, and prices reflect the increased demand.”
Thiel advocates luxury watch brands make the pre-owned market work for them, because in the near future, McKinsey forecasts the majority of transactions in the luxury watch space will be resale. “For brands not to participate in this market would mean not participating in a significant part of the value creation.”
The existence of smart watches has not sent traditional watches the way of the dodo bird, but traditional watch companies have found their voice in this space.
A great example is Citizen’s CZ Smart, next generation, hybrid smart watch with analog display. It blends the style of a traditional timepiece with feature-rich technology — customizable dial, track outdoor activity, with untethered GPS, health and wellness monitoring, call/text/email/social media alerts, and calendar reminders. Compatible with both iPhone and Android, the watch has a robust 15-day battery life that eliminates the need for daily charging.
“We are continuously creating new solutions for our customers’ needs,” Cohen states. “Many smart watches on the market are only about functionality. This timepiece also makes a statement with superior design and style.”
Whimsy, Color & Nostalgia
Chalk it up to a pandemic’s worth of casual Fridays, or the simple need to have something to smile about, even during the dreariest zoom session, but character watches remain a favorite, says Colaizzi. “Quality Gold has always carried a fun assortment of cartoon and character watches, and we know from years of experience, they’re not just for kids! We’re excited they’re even more in vogue.”
Citizen — the official timepiece of the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts — has had a decade-plus partnership with the brand (and the brands it represents like Marvel and Star Wars), including the creation of watch models inspired by fan-favorite characters. “We’re not just selling watches; we’re selling stories,” says Cohen. “We want people to enjoy our products and be proud of what they’re wearing.”
Moreover, color is awash on dials, bezels and straps — from black and gray to blue, red, green, and more. And, Retro styles (genuinely old or look-alike) continue to trend, shares Colaizzi, speaking to the timelessness of these watch designs. “Think 1950s minimalism, ‘60s “Mad Men” type luxury styles, ‘70s groovy gold bracelet bands, or ‘80s dynamic disco dazzlers.”
Especially nostalgic is Bulova’s coveted Frank Sinatra inspired collection, with timepieces named for some of his most famous songs, like “Fly Me to the Moon,” “My Way” and the latest edition to the series, “Summer Wind.” Classically elegant, styles in the series incorporate vintage Bulova designs, with unmistakable elements iconic to the singer.
Under the Citizen Group umbrella, Bulova delivers plenty of vintage appeal in its popular Archive Series that re-imagines the brand’s most nostalgic models, infused with modern elements like its American Girl from 1957 and Computron from the late 1970s. In fact, Computron newest LED models bridge nostalgia with the dynamic digital world in its latest collaboration with D-CAVE, a lifestyle metaverse marketplace.
Data Builds Community
In recent years, the watch collectors’ community has managed to shake off its stodgy, exclusive image, transforming into a buzzing community of likeminded, passionate enthusiasts eager to share their mutual love of horology, blogs luxury watch dealer Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches.
Altieri says the best thing about the watch-collecting trend is that it’s far more inclusive, attracting a much younger, more fun, and extremely well-informed crowd. He hails the explosion of social media sites for watch collectors and the horology community in general as “a Godsend.”
Instagram remains the most widely used platform for information, says Altieri. But Twitter is also efficient in its use of hashtags that makes it easy to find or start a discussion on a topic and follow and connect with others to hear what they have to say. He cites YouTube as a booming platform in watch communities, with horology-focused videos.
Brands like Citizen understand the value of building community with its collectors. Even before the pandemic hit, Cohen says the brand was building its digital first mindset, embracing the digital tools available to be accessible in the many ways consumers want to engage today.
Adapting a data first approach, positions the brand to engage in deeper, more relevant and tailored communications, and better target marketing that will enhance acquisition, retention and loyalty. In fact, the watchmaker announced a partnership with Amperity, leading customer data platform, to propel the brand’s ongoing commitment to deliver a personalized digital customer experience.
To that point, the Citizen Watch Group joined The BIG Network, which enables retailers and vendors to work more collaboratively. The service, which is free for retailers, provides valuable insights into what is selling to proactively manage non-performing inventory.
An exciting byproduct of consumers doing research online is that consumers are clicking on a lot of different designs and links, so brands have a lot more opportunities to gather information on clickstream, shares Tyler Harris, an associate partner at the research firm, McKinsey & Co. “You have more ‘fingerprints’ and more history from a consumer’s digital shopping, than you do if someone walks in a store and walks right back out.”