At a time when the luxury watch market is adapting to radical changes in the global marketplace, brands must ensure excitement and desirability are part of their communication strategy to help attract the attention of modern luxury consumers, said Patrick Pruniaux, Head of Kering’s Swiss Watchmaking Maisons.
His comments come at an interesting time for the Swiss watch industry. Having only recently returned to growth, the market has suffered in previous years, particularly in 2015 and 2016 when its exports were impacted by slow global economic growth, a clampdown on “gifting in China and fears of terrorist attacks in Europe.
However, last year, the value of Swiss watch exports last year grew by 6.3 percent to $21 billion (€18 billion). While growth was strong in the first half of the year, climbing to 10.6 percent, it slowed to 2.3 percent in the second half according to figures released by the Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), adding to concerns that continuing uncertainties may be lingering over the industry.
Navigating the complexities of the luxury watch market is one that Pruniaux is extremely familiar with, having being appointed to his role as chief executive of both Kering’s Swiss Watchmaking Maisons: Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux in August last year. He previously worked at Apple for the launch of their Apple watch for several years and TAG Heuer for nine years.
“It’s a very interesting time for the watch market, it’s unique actually. I think the watch market as we all know, went through different phases of expansion and crisis in the past, but this time it’s different,” said Pruniaux. “I think the market is growing but the market is being completely reorganised. On one hand you have a certain type of consolidation, it’s true in the distribution, but there is also something that is new to the watch industry, something which is only a phenomenon that started 10 or 15 years ago, which is the fact that the brand tends to speak directly to the end consumer and this can be done through brick and mortar retailing, but it can be online.”
Part of generating that excitement and desirability lies in driving product innovation, believes Pruniaux, who shared his insights on Reshaping Luxury, a new co-production between CNNMoney Switzerland and DLG (Digital Luxury Group). “The sense of innovation, that has always been really strong in the watch industry, needs to prevail and needs to be explained to the consumer and maintaining that consistency and that genuineness I think is paramount.”
Adapting brand communication for different markets is also an important factor that luxury watch brands should consider, notes Pruniaux. “For us, it’s very important to make sure that the message we communicate in China is being understood very clearly, and it is also being localised in meaning of the message and the product.”
“We want to make sure we have a deep understanding of the consumer,” he said. “Because it’s a fast-changing market, very prompt to adopt new behaviours and new consumer habits.”
“We see some major shifts in China,” he continued. “From a country that used to have conservative tastes … now there is a very fast evolution towards more sporty products. That’s one trend. Also, in China I believe we are starting to see consumers also being trendsetters, much more than followers. They are eager to move away from mass luxury brands and it’s true in watches but the same is true also in some other areas of luxury."
Brands must think about being present in every sense for the consumer, said Pruniaux. “Omnichannel means we are going to take care of the client wherever the client is going to be and however they want to talk to us,” he noted. “We are going to come to you and we are going to make sure we deliver a superior experience wherever you are going to be, whether its online, whether it’s going to be in brick and mortar, whether it’s going to be in our own store or with a partner, and I think that has an influence on the rest of the organisation. And it’s probably more than an organisation, it’s a mindset.
Watch the full episode of Reshaping Luxury here, a new production focused on the ever-changing landscape of the luxury industry. Aimed at providing insight, analysis and interviews with leading experts and executives in the market, Reshaping Luxury is a co-production between CNNMoney Switzerland and DLG.
Cover image: Patrick Pruniaux, Head of Kering’s Swiss Watchmaking Maisons. Photo: Courtesy.