Swiss watchmaking is often seen as a domain reserved for the elite, wealthy clients and VIPs who travel by private jet. However, this industry evolves with the times and supports a more sober and sustainable practice: second-hand sales. .
According to a new study published on October 14, 2021 by the leading audit firm Deloitte on trends in Swiss watchmaking, second-hand luxury watches are increasingly in demand: nearly one in three buyers say they are susceptible buy one in the next twelve months.
The positive impact of the second hand
“It’s a fast growing market,” says Karine Szegedi, Head of Consumer and Fashion & Luxury at Deloitte Switzerland. “It’s not just because consumers can’t afford a watch on the new market,” she continues, “it is also a question of rarity and specific models.”
Indeed, the sector is delighted with this development, with two thirds of executives believing that it has a positive impact on their brands.
“There could have been a stigma a few years ago of these products as second-hand and used watches, but today it is a much more professionalized market with certified watches,” points out Jules Boudrand, expert in the watchmaking industry at Deloitte Switzerland. “People also feel more comfortable buying them because now they can trust dealers more,” he specifies.
Swiss watches caught up by the pandemic
Like many companies, Swiss watchmakers are slowly recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted in the closure of stores and factories and reduced the number of international travelers.
According to their main association, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, 2020 has been a “unprecedented year”. The value of Swiss watch exports fell to 17 billion Swiss francs from 21.7 billion the previous year, a decline of more than 21%.
In the context of the pandemic, China has emerged even more as a vital export market: during the first European containment in spring 2020, the share of Swiss watch exports to this country more than doubled to reach 22%. For professionals, China will be the most important market in the near future.
How digital helped drive sales
As with many other industries, sales through digital platforms have helped brands mitigate some of the losses.
“The watch is traditionally bought in stores, but you can have very expensive watches, of a few hundred thousand francs, sold entirely on the internet and in e-commerce. This is no longer unusual,” indique Karine Szegedi.
While the second-hand market is booming, sales of luxury watches with an export price of over 3,000 Swiss francs – around 2,800 euros – have represented a “life buoy” for most brands. “The Swiss watch industry is increasingly becoming the luxury industry,” déclare Karine Szegedi.
Go back in time
It’s unclear exactly when the industry will recover and reach pre-pandemic sales volumes, but 36% of executives expect it to be by the end of 2022 according to the Deloitte study.
A resumption of in-person sales should help. Switzerland lifted some restrictions in April while a Covid certificate is needed in the country to enter restaurants, bars, museums, libraries and other places of recreation.
The prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), considered the Oscars of the Swiss watch industry, will return in its classic format on Friday 22 October with the awards ceremony scheduled for 4 November which will be broadcast in direct on euronews.com. Last year’s edition took place in a restricted setting due to the health context.
As part of this GPHG 2021, 84 watches were shortlisted in 14 categories. Of the twenty awards awarded, the Grand Prix de l’Aiguille d’Or is the most prestigious.
Durability in a second
In addition to second-hand sales, another trend is emerging: sustainable development.
In November, world leaders will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), which has been postponed due to the pandemic and is being touted as a meeting. “vitale” to try to limit global warming.
Swiss watchmakers are also playing their part. 72% of brands surveyed by Deloitte invest more in sustainable development by focusing on ethical sourcing and the environmental impact of materials.
“Numerous initiatives are being carried out by certain brands to use recycled materials in bracelets, straps and sometimes also in cases,” declares Jules Boudrand. “Customers are more demanding of this aspect of sustainability and this will become an increasingly important factor,” he believes.