Watch Outlook

2017 is shaping up to be a year of value for watch buyers, hails CNN. “The watch industry appears to have gotten the message loud and clear from consumers: products need to offer something unique and interesting at a prices that entice rather than intimidate,” writes Stephen Pulvirent for CNN.com Jan. 26.

Top watch journals and blogs to major media outlets report that the biggest trend in watches is an emphasis on good value and a turn toward the affordable. “The hard luxury sector is more discretionary and suffered from political uncertainties, as well as slowing demand in key markets,” says the Luxury Society’s Watches & Jewelry Analysis & Outlook 2017. Based on positive macro-economic factors and on-the-ground market outlook, it expects the industry will stabilize in 2017.

While sales in watches were down 8% in 2016, the Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study by Bain & Co. expects a modest compound annual growth rate of 3% to 4% for the luxury goods market through 2020.

The price/value ratio is in a good place, says Carol Besler, veteran watch and jewelry journalist and founder of the blog watchdetail.com. “The bar on quality of craftsmanship for watches, even for quartz watches, has been raised so high across the board over the past 10 years that there really is no such thing as a ‘cheap’ watch anymore.”

The average price point of brands has become more accessible, cites Roberta Naas, veteran watch and jewelry journalist and founder of atimelyperspective.com, says. She sees good value and looks key across price points, with the greatest demand under $5,000 and over $50,000 at retail.

Watching Trends
Showing up on many must have watch lists for 2017 are the latest models by brands including Seiko, Citizen, and Bulova. Among the top hits lauded in the press are the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Professional Diver 1000m, 1960 Grand Seiko (modern reinterpretation of its understated first model), and the Chronograph C from The Bulova Archives Series (aka Stars and Stripes).

Naas describes new models from these brands as beautiful and colorful, with an emphasis on sports, as well as a nod to the roots and traditions of watchmaking. Trending overall, she cites greater use of two-tone metals including rose gold, more color in dials and straps, and ultra thin and highly complicated styles.

Trends have moved toward cleaner, contemporary, smaller and thinner styling cites Samantha Barker, public relations and social media coordinator for Citizen in New York. “Straps and bracelets are still relevant, but with simplistic design.”

Technology trends focus on two areas new materials for watches, including titanium, reinforced steel, DLC coatings, and high-tech ceramic that make watches practically indestructible; and state-of-the-art mechanical movements with silicon based components that eliminate the need for lubrication, increase power reserve levels and enhance accuracy, cites Besler.

Innovation in technical engineering can be seen in brands like Seiko who is bringing its GPS Solar technology to an ever-wider public offering a new caliber in Astron; and Bulova’s CURV, where not only is the movement curved, but the case, dials and hands follow suit to amplify the ergonomic shape.

Women’s Movement
The women’s watch category has been growing as more brands are seeing that the future is female. Trends trackers hail everything from high technology to diamonds important, and nature a popular muse. In all price ranges, watch brands are unveiling more creativity for women’s wrists than at any time, with most of them offering beauty, brawn and brains,” says Naas.

“Women’s watches are gaining momentum as the watch industry struggles with declining numbers,” cites Barbara Palumbo, watch and jewelry blogger at adornamentality.com and whatsonherwrist.com. “More brands are marketing to women than ever before and they’re doing so not just by using the ‘shrink and pink’ mentality of the past, but realizing that women might also be interested in mechanical movements if given the opportunity to learn about them.”

Mechanical watches are leading the charge, says Naas, sometimes with complications and add-on features that prove women love what’s under the hood as much as men do. Responding to demand, she says more watch brands are unveiling automatic and hand-wound watches with chronographs, calendars, moonphase, dual time functions and more.

Although there are more mechanical watches for ladies, there’s also an emerging trend toward more accessibly priced quartz timepieces, particularly in smaller options, says Besler.

Marketing Time
While a return to growth in the fourth quarter 2016 has engendered optimism about 2017, the Digital IQ Index Watches & Jewelry 2017 by L2 Intelligence, says the performance divergence between online and offline channels is growing and cannot be ignored.

Marketers must communicate using the media channels their customers use in order to reach them. Content is king in engaging customers and distinguishing a business, hails Naas, who offers a syndicated watch blog (thewatchblog). She advises jewelers not think globally but be smarter regionally. “Your area is where you get the most customers. Find out where your customers are and what excites them.”

Storytelling is a powerful tool to engage and develop relationships with consumers, says Susan Chandler, senior vice president merchandising, design and development of Bulova, New York. She says the brand’s 2016 “A History of Firsts” campaign, which takes inspiration from Bulova’s rich history of industry firsts, is expanding in 2017 to celebrate its audience’s own special firsts.

Barker encourages using brand-produced videos and shots showing watches worn by real people and re-posting and re-gramming user-generated content submitted by brand fans.

Ultimately, Naas says jewelers need to create ways to invite the community into their store. “Don’t be afraid to offer a service like a free watch battery change to get people through the doors once a month.” Palumbo recommends hosting ‘Scotch and Watch’ or “Watches and Wine” events to get customers excited about new brands and collections.

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