Value is a key factor in timepieces right now, with models previously available only in gold now out in stainless steel, and mid-range brands offering better materials or new and improved movements without significant price increases. “The watch industry is only just beginning to recover from a two-year downturn, the response to which has been a lowering of average prices and an effort to improve existing collections, often with new movements, instead of introducing new ones,” explains Carol Besler, veteran watch and jewelry journalist and founder of the blog watchdetail.com. “These improvements generally came without price increases, resulting in great value for consumers.”
CNN style correspondent Elizabeth Doerr concurs in her reporting post Baselworld watch fair that there is a trend to bring down pricing, citing that “the recent financial crises have demonstrated that expensive innovation can only go so far in keeping a brand afloat.” But she does not see brands sacrificing innovation to satisfy tastes.
Seiko, for example, is optimizing popular collections like its Presage with new technology that incorporates three inventions: Diashock, a shock-resistance system that protects the long-term precision; Magic Lever, a simple and durable fast-winding system; and Spron, the brand’s unique alloys for stronger, longer-lasting main and hairsprings.
Seiko’s Coutura chronograph collection for men also expands its Radio Sync Solar line with a black ion stainless steel case and bracelet with black dial and luminescent hands and marker. It automatically receives radio signals to precisely adjust the time and calendar signal reception and result indicator. “The vision was to create a bold stylish watch that contains impressive technology useful for everyday wear,” explains Eric Hofmann, senior vice president of business development.
Citizen too heavily invests in technology, not only in the generic definition of it but also in the technology behind new and innovative materials, tells Ellen Seckler, chief marketing officer for Citizen Watch America. “Citizen is always looking to expand beyond the obvious and that’s where our proprietary Super Titanium comes into play. We use a surface hardening coating called Duratect, allowing for basic titanium to become five times harder and 40% lighter than everyday stainless steel. This prevents rusting, is scratch resistant, hypoallergenic, and more. This year we expanded surface hardening technology to stainless steel with our Tough watch in the Promaster Land collection.”
Affordable luxury is the focus, says Susan Chandler, the chief merchandising officer for Bulova, a brand she says continues to drive interest in its market space through precision movements and design innovations. She cites its newest CURV collection featuring its proprietary curved chronograph movement, world’s first in a sleek bracelet series. “This special movement has captivated consumers with the unique design and comfortable shape,” she says, noting that timepieces come in 40mm and 44mm sizes. “We look at how to weave our story of craftsmanship, technology, and innovation into each new product we design.”
The name of the game is answering consumer demands in style, function, and craftsmanship, advocates watch journalist and book author, Roberta Naas, founder of ATimelyPerspective.com. “Hand in hand with that trend is the interest in retro-and vintage styling, and some brands bring all of these modes together. Bulova, for instance, unveiled the wonderful Devil Diver this year—water resistant to 666 feet, it is based on a vintage style and it screams retro!”
Naas mentions that the smartwatch is the one trend the industry can’t walk away from, nor do Millennials want to. In fact, Doerr’s reporting on international watch fairs earlier this year cites attracting Millennials as one of the biggest challenges facing the watch industry today, with smartwatches proving to be one of the more noticeable ways of capturing their attention.
“Some of the savvier traditional watch brands are embracing the trend and unveiling combination watches that have digital smarts and connectivity, but also a mechanical/traditional watch aspect,” reports Naas. She cites form and function important in men’s watches, as brands bring more useful functions to the forefront like calendars and multi-timers. “Sports watches are about real delivery—like dive watches that can go deeper, have more capabilities, are built of stronger, more durable and corrosion-resistant materials.”
Seckler says Citizen recognizes the importance of experiences in the lives of its customers. “We’ve invested a lot of time determining how best to connect to that experience-driven consumer with our products,” she says, citing the Citizen Promaster collection that focuses on the lifestyle of professional adventurers and weekend warriors through air, land, and sea. “We introduced even more in this category this year, targeting the needs of those adventurer watch wearers.”
The landscape in the watch buying/selling world is changing in a host of ways that are relevant for consumers. “Most importantly is the shift to digital and e-commerce with many retailers and brands vying for an online presence,” says Naas. “Still, some customers prefer to buy from a brick-and-mortar store where they know there’s a person behind the luxury product.”
Naas also cites high interest in pre-owned or “previously loved watches” among consumers, but big challenges from “gray market” goods at deep discounts. “The list goes on and on as to how the market is changing, but today’s savvy consumers are keeping brands and retailers on their toes.”