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News: Swiss Watch Industry Study Confirms The Watch Industry Is Clueless?
Well okay then

Consultancy firm Deloitte occasionally compiles its ‘Swiss Watch Industry’ study. This year’s edition is a 30-page long report which offers a look inside the minds of the industry executives and their customers. Having read through their latest report my ‘TLDR’ version of it is that the executives have seemingly lost their way… in more ways than one. Note that this is not Deloitte’s conclusion, it is none but my own.

The Deloitte study “is based on an online survey and interviews conducted between mid-August and mid-September 2020 with 55 senior executives in the watch industry. The study is also based on an online survey of 5,800 consumers in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States”.

I will not rehash the entire study here. However, I wish to point out a few key points here and that is that the executive feedback is depressingly boring and uninsightful. This statement probably costs me a few invites at Baselworld and such, but that’s okay because the fairs have been cancelled anyway.

Here are the KEY priorities identified by the watch brand executives:

  • Develop Omnichannel Strategy
  • Introduce New Products
  • Reduce Costs

So far, nothing new, and these three are part of the industry’s mantra that has been repeated ad nauseam for the past decade now. Basically put out more of the same in different ways at a lower cost. These are also your typical key priorities when you are essentially run by finance professionals but I digress…

No, what is important is what sits at the very bottom of the priority list. Dead last on the priority list is Research and Development. Because who needs R&D anyway? Well, let me tell you – the Swiss Watch Industry needs it as much as you and I need air to breathe. With all the fresh air found in the Swiss Alps you would expect a bit more clarity of mind in the upper echelons of the Swiss watch industry. Meanwhile for example, the Japanese watch brands have been innovating and increasing quality at a rapid pace. Could this have ANYTHING to do with their stellar growth in key markets? Apparently not if you’re a Swiss watch executive.

That the average industry executive is tone deaf is further highlighted by the fact that they learned zero lessons from the onslaught caused by the relentless rise of the smart watch. In the study they now seem to accept to have ‘missed the boat’ when it comes to smart watches. Somehow completely missing the point that putting research & development as your lowest priority is a sure-fire way to repeat this when the next innovator comes along.

But there is a silver lining in their acknowledgement of having missed the boat for smart watches. Until recently the modus operandi for the Swiss Watch Industry was to believe that ‘there is no boat’. And where there was no boat, no boat could be missed of course. At least we have come to the point where the proverbial ostrich has decided that burying its head in the sand will not make its problems go away. Congratulations?

However, don’t worry too much, the lack of innovation will be picked up by an increase in – wait for it – marketing spending! Key priorities here being Social Media, Email newsletters, Warranty Clubs and – just what the world needs – more Brand Ambassadors & Influencers. It would almost be funny if only it were not so tragic.

In addition, the study basically also confirms the slow death of your average Authorized Dealer. Brands seemingly betting the house on online sales and .. mono-brand boutiques. Ignoring the incredibly obvious fact that an Authorized Dealer is also a Brand Ambassador. Better yet, the type of ambassador that generates revenue, rather than soak up costs under the guise of gift packages and fun trips to the sunny side of the planet. Every year the Swiss Watch industry bumps up its prices. At least now you will know where that extra money will be spent. Brand ambassador lunches and goodie bags for the next influencer. Hey, they have to eat too.

As one of the biggest cheerleaders of this fantastic watch industry, I sit here on the sidelines wondering: Si pas maintenant, alors quand ?

Note: The results of the 2020 study will likely surprise not a single watch enthusiast out there. However, it is an interesting read and I suggest that you read the nicely compiled study in its original format right here.

7 comments

  1. First I thought the title was clickbait, then I read the article. Thank you for the succinct analysis! This reminds me of that presentation by Kern ages ago in the old IWC days..

  2. Very interesting report. I do not understand chart 12: “what kind of watch do you wear” where the answer “both a smartwatch and a traditional watch” varies from 5% to 37%, depending by country. I guess the question should have been “what watch do you own” since I have not seen that many people wearing two watches simultaneously. I too, own an Apple watch which I wear max 10 days per year (but not same time as a mechanical watch).

    In their sample of 5800 consumers 43% of Japanese consumers answered they do not wear any watch. So Deloitte performed a survey about watch industry by interviewing consumers who do not wear any watches at all?
    Sounds like they used some data straight from the shelf that some other party paid for….

    Nevertheless, interesting read!

    1. For Chart 12, yes I think it has been badly worded. I don’t think they meant double fisting, but simply owning both analogue and smart watches. The survey is compiled by non native speakers in Switzerland! 🙂

      As to your second point – I have no idea. In principle they are not too big on buying that data based on past personal experience. It is not terribly expensive to compile it, and they have a ‘free’ internal network of their own employees – Deloitte Japan has approximately 10K employees. Not even reaching out to any clients etc. they would quickly get those statistics at relatively no/low cost.

  3. Spot on Sir, spot on!!! Let’s just pour our money into more brand ambassadors and events in marketing at SIHH with fake female pilots!!! What about thinner, more efficient movement with 72hr+ PR? Who cares!!!

  4. So, all these behaviours are pretty typical for a stagnant industry that doesn’t understand how their market is changing. I guess that is also a big reason there are so many re-issues of past hits.

    There is a bit of hope out there though: micro brands can and will be the source of true innovation.

    As far as smart watches go, there’s a bit of a problem. By their very nature you’re not going to have an Apple watch that you can hand down through generations. I have my great grandfather’s pocket watch
    Not that special of an Elgin, but in a gold case with a watch chain from Tiffany’s dated from about 1900. (The chain, not the watch).

    No smart watch will ever last like that.

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