Wealthy Asians bought over USD 24 Bn worth premium and luxury watches in 2019 of the total sales estimated at USD 49 Bn and are expected to contribute a tad over USD 27 Bn by 2025 of the expected USD 59 Bn. Watches priced above USD 180 (Rs. 13,000 & more) are considered premium, while those between USD 3,600 and USD 30,000 are considered luxury and ones above USD 30,000 are considered ultra-luxury. Asians, here in this context mostly refer to the Chinese who are one of the largest consumers of luxury watches in the world. Rest of Asia (minus China) would be a significant contributor as well.
Incidentally, luxury watches contributed over USD 30 Bn worldwide while ultra-luxury sold for over USD 8 bn in 2019. Premium watches contributed a sale value of USD 11 Bn. These and other interesting insights were studied and published by McKinsey in collaboration with Business Of Fashion (BoF). The exhaustive report can be accessed here.
Interestingly, the certified pre-owned (CPO) watches market is expected to almost double from USD 18 bn in 2019 to USD 32 Bn by 2025 with formal entities such as Watchfinder (which was acquired by Richemont in 2018) becoming the nodal agencies to identify and validate such products in the business, thereby creating significant value to owners and build legacy around iconic models from flagship brands. Currently, this market is fully unorganised with local merchants (as well as some retailers who do it informally for their customers) acting as agents to buy and sell pre-owned watches.
DTC – Direct to Consumer, that is brand stores which have exclusive collection of one particular brand (or the business group) are expected to grow significantly from 20% in 2019 to 30% by 2025. At the moment, most of the watches retail happen at multi-brand stores who act as a bridge between Brands and consumers.
With changing trends in fashion and luxury consumption coupled with the explosive growth of wearables (smartwatches), the Watches Retail Industry is going through interesting times. Most of the ultra-luxury and legacy brands such as IWC, Breitling or Rolex have not ventured in to the smartwatch business. Nor have the popular luxury brands such as Longines, Tag Heuer or Omega either.
Back in India, most of the watches which are sold at the top end itself are sub- USD 180, so technically the market doesn’t even qualify for the luxury and ultra-luxury market, save for a few 1,000 pieces of all brands sold put together in India. Wealthy Indians do buy these timepieces when they travel internationally, for they get a better range and sometimes, a better price too coupled with the pride of shopping abroad. But with foreign travel curtailed severely due to the ongoing pandemic and is estimated to be back to pre-pandemic levels only by 2024, the market scenario for luxury watches remains subdued.
The upside however, is that the Indian domestic watch retail chains such as Helios, Ethos, Helvetica, etc. have a better chance to sell their luxury watches to Indians who have refrained from travelling abroad. This segment of customers are mostly price and demand inelastic and hence may continue to be a long funnel for domestic retail chains.
“Time” will tell.