A world watch tour

Italy, a stable market and a deep watch culture

2017: -0.6%

February 2018

Italy, a stable market and a deep watch culture

Contrary to Hong Kong, China or the UK, which have experienced dramatic increases or decreases these last years, the Italian market seems much more stable. It remains home to a compact number of watch aficionados and consumers of highend well-established Swiss brands.


n Italy, the wristwatch market was worth around 1.5 billion euros back in 2016. After a slight increase in growth, data for this year showed figures were stable. The global data refers to products sold in Italy through jewellery channels to Italian and foreign consumers, and it shows a -7% drop in quantity and a +0.3% increase in value. The average price rose from 209 to 223 euros. The Italian consumer therefore continues to prefer high-value watches, with a steady trend over the last five years.

Men’s watches represent 43% in volume and 52% in value, while women’s watches represent 44% in quantity and 41% in value. Diverse trends within watches in Italy are expected to result in a 2% compound annual growth rate at constant 2017 prices over the forecast period. Demand for high-end watches is expected to continue to grow between 2017 and 2022. However, increasing competition among manufacturers and retailers, especially with slightly lower-priced products from overseas, is expected to limit growth potential for value sales.

Italy, a stable market and a deep watch culture

Optimistic trend

Sales of historic brands such as Rolex or Audemars Piguet remain constant, although they have experienced a slight decline in recent years due to lower foreign currencies. Rolex Italia SpA led sales in 2016 followed by the Swatch Group, recording a value share of 14% and 10% respectively. Rolex is a highly recognised watch brand in Italy, offering a large collection of high-priced products. The Swatch Group, besides the mass brand Swatch that registered success over the review period, offers a broad range of premium watches with Longines and Omega, ranked respectively third and fifth in brands. It is important to highlight how brands like Omega are growing in the last period, decreasing the gap with the world’s top brands and gaining a place among them.

It is important to highlight that almost 90% of the global watch market is represented by Swiss watches. In 2016, exports of Swiss watches lost 9.9%. Industry experts look at 2017 with optimism; despite a negative start in the first two months of the year, it should mark a return to stability. Positive signals arrive even from China, in January and February (8% and + 6.4%), confirming the recovery of the Asian giant. In 2016 the only plus sign was recorded by the United Kingdom, with a + 3.7% driven by the low value of the pound.

The optimism of the various watchmakers’ executives also extends to foreign tourists shopping in Switzerland and the rest of Europe, representing 5% of watch exports: purchases are indeed destined to grow. It is clear that classic brands continue to appeal to higherend customers.

Impact of the connected watch

Finally, there is no significant threat from smartwatches: for 72% of those who responded to the study, intelligent timepieces do not represent a direct competitor to traditional models. The number of consumers intending to buy classic watches is increasing in many countries and the presence of smartwatches could well be a strength and not a weakness; Indeed, for 14% the connected segment could represent a growth opportunity for some brands.