Before the anti-corruption campaign, high-end timepieces were one of the most sought-after luxury items by rich (and corrupt) Chinese government officials looking to flaunt their power. The campaign, initiated in 2014, largely curbed that demand, causing the whole market to decline. But the global luxury watch industry is making a comeback and, according to data published by Federation of Swiss Watch Industry, a younger generation of affluent consumers from mainland China and Hong Kong are largely responsible.
Since May of this year, the growth of the watch industry exports from Switzerland, the country that is virtually the sole seller of luxury timepieces around the world, has once again gone back to the positive territory after nearly two years of decline.
In July, the value of Swiss watch industry exports rose 3.6 percent from one year before to 1.7 billion francs, with imports by mainland China and Hong Kong both increasing 22.3 percent and 16.8 percent, respectively, according to the monthly report.
The renewed demand from the Chinese market is believed to be helping to stabilize the global recovery of the luxury watch market and the momentum is expected to continue into the future, the Federation said.
Some industry players such as Richemont Group, which owns luxury watch brands including Jaeger LeCoultre, Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin, also confirmed the Federation’s findings that the recent momentum from China was sustainable.
Gary Saage, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Richemont said, in May, that the demand from mainland China has been really strong for almost nine months.
Accordingly, a number of luxury watch brands have ramped up their efforts to expand further into the Chinese market in recent months.
Last December, Jaeger LeCoultre launched a marketing campaign featuring Papi Jiang, an online influencer with a massive following of young Chinese, in order to curry favor with her fans. The campaign had a sensational reception being that it was the first time that an upscale watch brand had collaborated with a Chinese online celebrity.
On the social media platform WeChat, the watchmaker Roger Dubuis also recently unveiled a special edition watch designed exclusively for Chinese consumers. The campaign was successful, attracting approximately 17,000 engagements and garnering the brand an additional 7,500 followers on its WeChat account.
International watch brands also further tapped into the Chinese market by collaborating with the country’s second-largest e-commerce platform JD.com for Super Watch Day, an event in late August, in which JD.com introduced many new brands to its platform including Chopard, Tag Heuer, Zenith, and Citizen.