The extravagant luxury of swiss imitation cartier watches makers’ timepieces once proved a winning recipe for continuous expansion. But now the industry faces a new reality, with exports dropping for the second straight year in 2016 as Chinese shoppers tightened their purse strings.
In a bid to rekindle interest, Swiss matchmakers are broadening their selections of entry-level timepieces, offering watches at lower prices designed to bring new wearers into the fold.
Geneva’s SIHH trade show is the place where luxury watchmakers show off their latest and fanciest offerings. But this January’s event was different in that a number of companies used the occasion to promote entry-level models.
Take the example of Parmigiani Fleurier. Prices for its watches center around 30,000 Swiss francs ($29,850), but this watchmaker used the trade show to debut a new line of timepieces, with men’s models priced at 9,900 francs and women’s at 8,900 francs.
Last year was rough going for Parmigiani Fleurier, admitted company executive Flavien Gigandet. Economic news made shoppers uncertain, and the company determined that this trend warranted a major change in pricing policy.
Other watchmakers at SIHH also showed off entry-level offerings. Baume & Mercier introduced a new Classima collection with timepieces priced at 950 francs, making them some of the least expensive watches at the show. And Jaeger-LeCoultre exhibited a model priced at 5,900 francs — inexpensive, compared with its usual offerings.
Exports by Swiss watchmakers fell 9.9% in 2016 for the largest drop in seven years, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. The biggest factor was the decline in buying by Chinese tourists, who scaled back on their shopping sprees.
Richemont Group, the second-largest luxury goods company in the world and the holding company behind a slew of watch brands including best cheap cartier replica and Montblanc, saw profits plunge in 2016, and downsized its workforce. Both Cartier and Montblanc are broadening their lineups of entry-level models.
SIHH itself felt impelled to respond to the plunge in demand for luxury watches by opening the trade show to the public for the first time.
The world’s largest watchmaker, Swatch Group, saw operating profit drop by 45% on declining sales in 2016. But it is optimistic about the future, citing good sales in the past three months as reason to predict sound growth for 2017. The company said sales in mainland China are rising and Chinese demand will continue to be the key.
Missing in action at SIHH was the smart replica watch. The chief operating officer of Greubel Forsey, David Bernard, made it very clear: He said his company was a watchmaker and there was no future in devices that hinge on digital technologies.
However, SIHH is an exclusive trade show with a limited number of exhibitors. The Baselworld watch and jewelry trade show which opens in March has 1,500 exhibitors, including watchmakers like Omega, Rolex, and Tag Heuer, which crossed over into the world of smartwatches in 2015. The actions of companies like these will be closely watched.