Swiss watch brands have woken up to an emerging new market – ladies’ watches. The reign of the dainty bejeweled quartz watch may well be numbered as increasing numbers of women assert their interest in larger watches.
Brands like Hublot have realized the importance of courting the ladies. The CEO of the Swiss luxury watch brand, Jean-Claude Biver, put it best when he said, “Women are buying more than men, women are buying more often than men and women are very influential over men, so you have three good reasons to work on this population.” This discovery has encouraged Hublot to start working on a super-expensive bejeweled wristwatch that will cost a whopping $5 million. Earlier this year, the Swiss firm tested the waters by launching the $3 million Big Bang watch, which featured 300 carats of diamonds. The diamond watch sold within a day. Fresh with this success, Hublot has plans to launch the $5 million watch sometime next year.
Even as parent company LVMH experienced one-year lows this month, optimism prevails in the power corridors at Hublot. The company is expecting year-on-year growth of 30 percent this year. Bespoke $1 million watches and the popular $39,000 Tutti Frutti watches – both of which cater to the female segment – are expected to be the big drivers this year.
The market for ladies’ watches was valued at $3.9 billion last year. Industry estimates from research firm Euromoniter indicate that the market will grow by 30 percent within the 2010 to 2015 period. And Hublot is not the only watch brand eyeing big profits from the female sector. In 2010, Omega launched the Ladymatic self-winding watches. The Omega Ladymatics are known to fetch as much as $42,700. Patek Philippe took this several notches higher. The luxury watchmaker has introduced a rose gold ladies’ chronograph that costs $478,000.
The impact of women on the luxury watch market has increased considerably. During an interview, Hublot’s Biver related an anecdote about a client who purchased four watches from the brand’s Tutti Frutti collection, each a different color to match her four Lamborghinis. A somewhat lesser-known but equally prestigious Swiss brand, The Nyon, has been making 10,000 oversized bejeweled watches each year, but is unable to cope with growing demand.
“Oversized” is the key word. Women are gradually veering away from the sleek and delicate ladies’ watch. They want what the men have. Big watches, watches with personality are all the rage in the luxury sector. As a result, luxury watch brands are having to move away from the traditional quartz mechanisms used in dainty women’s watches. The oversized watches being offered by Hublot, Patek Philippe and others are now being fitted with mechanical movements a la men’s watches. Mechanical motors take longer to make, which pushes up the prices.
Currently women purchase less than 10 percent of all Swiss mechanical watches that are sold worldwide. However, these numbers are on the rise, especially in emerging markets, as women catch up with men on the career front. China has already taken over as the largest market for Swiss luxury timepieces. However, China accounts for only 1 percent of the sales at Hublot, while Brazil, Russia and Mexico account for greater proportions. The figures suggest a far greater scope for growth in the emerging economies of the world. And the growing ladies’ watch market provides a further fillip.