Since 2020, the global economy has been put to the test, with numerous industries and sectors of society still struggling to rebound in 2022. However, one that has defied the odds is the Swiss Watch Industry, with exports reaching over $22 billion in 2021, the highest recorded in its history.
Exports in January 2022 continued to see growth, with an uptick of 37.5%. While manufacturers have increased supply to support the market’s growing needs, retailers and watch collectors have voiced that this outturn is still insufficient.
Demand for high-end watches including Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Rolex has skyrocketed since the pandemic, which, at its beginning, had little to no inventory available for hopeful Rolex buyers. Ben Bridge Jeweler buyer Joe Perez put matters into perspective, “Demand is going through the roof. Patek has always been that way, but Rolex has been that way since 2018, and it just keeps getting tighter, even though Rolex continues to make more and more product.”
Despite Audemars Piguet augmenting watch production to 50,000 from 45,000 in 2021, in an effort to cater to both new and returning clients, some buyers, still struggling with too little supply, have chosen to pursue other high-quality alternatives. President of Wempe Jewelers in Manhattan, Ruediger Albers, makes reference to the Laureato collection by Girard-Perregaux which has risen as a worthy option in place of sports watch brands such as GMT-Master II and Nautilus.
In reference to Patek Philippe’s performance, Aurum Holdings chief executive officer Brian Duffy says it is one of the luxury brands for which demand “continues to exceed supply”. At the same time, brands historically associated with less demand are also surprising retailers who have noted an increase in their wide-scale desirability, including Cartier, Panerai, IWC, Tag Heuer, and Breitling.
Cartier, for instance, has recorded higher sales than average, despite a price increase of 3-5% in the first quarter of 2022. With 65% of its clientele being millennials, according to Cartier CEO Cyrille Vigneron, this demand is only expected to soar.
A positive trend has also been observed for the Swiss luxury watch, Breitling, whose CEO, Georges Kern, expressed that the brand has “gained huge market share during Covid”.
Luxury watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier, known for producing 3,000 to 4,000 pieces annually, has also been on the receiving end of extraordinary sales. Parmigiani CEO Guido Terreni credits the brand’s niche style and the growing appreciation for refined luxury watches for this spike in consumer interest.
Terreni shared, “In my 21 years of luxury, I have never seen a moment like this. Luxury is becoming bigger and bigger, and the bigger it becomes the more it becomes mainstream. This trend has given birth to a counter-trend of niche brands, of brands that are dedicated to clients that want to set themselves apart…”
A strong brand personality is being credited as the reason for such a progressive trend among luxury watches. This trend was validated by a remarkable revenue of $21.5 billion earned in 2021 with Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet ranking on top.