Turn back time: How the Swiss watch industry is embracing second-hand sales

A space for some only elite, handcuffed buyers and private jet captains, the Swiss watch industry is changing over time and adopting a more …

A space for some only elite, handcuffed buyers and private jet captains, the Swiss watch industry is changing over time and adopting a more frugal, sustainable direction: resale.

According to a new report published by global accounting giant Deloitte on October 14, 2021, luxury watches are increasingly sought after, with almost a third of them being second-hand – or “second-hand” as the industry calls it. buyers say they will get one in the next twelve months.

“It’s a strongly growing market,” said Karine Szegedi, consumer, fashion and luxury leader at Deloitte in Switzerland.

“And it’s not just that consumers don’t have enough money to buy a watch on the primary market, it’s also about rarity and certain models.”

Indeed, the industry is embracing this move, where two-thirds of executives see it having a positive impact on their brand.

“A few years ago, pre-owned watches might have been a hallmark for used watches, but now it’s a much more professional market with certified watches. “People also feel more comfortable buying them because they can trust sellers more than they used to,” said Jules Boudrand, Deloitte’s watch industry leader.

Visitors view Cartier watches at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, SIHH, 2011.

The impact of the pandemic on Swiss watches

Like many businesses, Switzerland’s watchmakers are slowly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed stores and manufacturers, and limited international traveller numbers.

According to leading association, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, 2020 was an “unprecedented year”. The value of Swiss watch exports fell to 17 billion Swiss francs, compared with 21.7 billion a year earlier, an over 21 percent decline.

How digital helped drive sales

As with many other industries, sales through digital platforms helped brands mitigate some of the losses.

“The watch is still historically bought in the store, but you can have very expensive, couple of hundred-thousand-franc watches sell entirely over the internet and e-commerce. That is now not unusual,” Szegedi told Euronews.

Amongst the doom and gloom, China emerged as a vital export market – during the first European lockdown in spring 2020, the share of Swiss watch exports to the country more than doubled to 22 percent. It’s now considered to be the industry’s most important market in the near future.

While second-hand sales are on the rise, sales of luxury timepieces with price tags over 3,000 Swiss francs – about 2,800 euros – have been a “lifeline” for most brands.

“The Swiss watch industry is becoming the luxury watch industry more and more,” said Szegedi.

28th of Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, watchmaking fair in Geneva, Switzerland, 2018.
turn back the clock
It’s unclear when the industry will recover and reach pre-pandemic sales volumes, but 36 percent of executives expect this to happen by the end of 2022, according to the Deloitte report.
A return to face-to-face sales will help. A COVID-19 certificate is required to enter restaurants, bars, museums, libraries and some other entertainment venues, as Switzerland lifted some quarantine restrictions in April.
The prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), dubbed the “Oscars” of the Swiss watch industry, will return in person on Friday, 22 October (with the awards ceremony you can watch live on Euronews on 4 November). com), after a social distancing relationship last year. The winners of the best of the show will take home the “Aiguille d’Or” grand prize.
Sustainability in a second
Another rising trend alongside second-hand sales is sustainability.
World leaders will meet in Glasgow, Scotland in November for the postponed COP 26 UN climate conference, billed as a “vital” meeting in attempts to limit global temperature rise.
Even Swiss watchmakers play their part. 72 percent of brands surveyed by Deloitte are investing more in sustainability, focusing on ethical sourcing and the environmental impact of materials.
“You can see that some brands are making multiple attempts to use some recycled materials in bracelets, straps, and sometimes cases,” Boudrand says. Said.
“Customers really want more in terms of sustainability, and that will be an increasingly important factor.”
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