Ocarat: the French retailer with 180 brands

June 2024

Ocarat: the French retailer with 180 brands

Its catalogue reads like a who’s who of affordable contemporary watchmaking, from established names to startups and micro-labels. As well as making 99% of its sales in France (and 90% online), Ocarat carries just about every French brand and hosts an annual event in Paris for the watch-loving public.


t’s a name many French watch enthusiasts will know. A retailer that accompanies them in their journey from low-priced quartz models to the upper echelons of mechanical complications. Last year Ocarat sold in the region of 50,000 watches in France, ranging from Casio to Pequignet, Tissot, Lip or Frederique Constant. The company, which has just one brick-and-mortar store, in Paris, makes almost 90% of its revenue online.

Prior to co-founding Ocarat, Arnaud Poujade was active in the diamond industry in central Africa, with a trading office in Antwerp - a long way from France and a long way from watchmaking – until the 2008 subprime crisis brought him back to France.

Arnaud Poujade, Ocarat co-founder
Arnaud Poujade, Ocarat co-founder

From diamonds to jewellery to watches

He picks up the story: “My business partners and I had decided to move our diamond trading business online. Jewellery was the obvious next step, followed by watches. Wanting to add more brands to our catalogue, we went to Baselworld and realised straight away that without a physical store, we had no chance!”

With e-commerce still in its infancy, brands needed the reassurance of a physical outlet. “We opened the Ochrono store as a way to gain access to famous brands but quickly started to branch out with independents and less well-known names.”

Back then, in the mid-2010s, a multitude of startups were emerging thanks to Kickstarter. Barely a day went by without at least one email announcing the launch of a new watch brand landing in journalists’ inboxes.

But digital has its limits and a brand can soon become trapped in this type of disruptive model, particularly when its cost structure doesn’t factor in a traditional retailer margin. The ones that stayed the course found their way to Ocarat and its ‘phygital’ model.

Best of both worlds

“The e-commerce site means we can extend our catalogue without the physical limits of a store,” notes Arnaud Poujade. “Our current retail space is at 91 Rue de Rivoli, between the Louvre and the Samaritaine [department store], in a district that has the second highest daily footfall in France, after the Champs-Elysées.”

It’s thanks to this pioneering hybrid strategy that Ocarat can offer a choice few can match, with 45 watch brands in its Rue de Rivoli store – a mix of styles and genres from the most affordable to incursions into complications and Haute Horlogerie – and some 180 brands on its e-commerce site.

This eclectic selection is underpinned by the retailer’s ethos to always seek out the most interesting brands, whatever their pedigree, as long as they bring something fresh to the table – worth noting at a time when the majority of new retail doors are opened by brands with the sole purpose of carrying their own products.

Ocarat: the French retailer with 180 brands

A new event in Paris

Ocarat has built up “600,000 active customers” and carries a significant number of French brands, from Lip, Yema, Herbelin and March LA.B to Awake, Inercy, Buci and Sartory Billard, among others. Arnaud Poujade relishes the fact that “so many of these brands have succeeded in positioning themselves within their segment and in customers’ minds. We’re also seeing a generational shift with the emergence of French brands that know exactly how to use digital communication and socials, including for an English-speaking audience. The standouts are the ones that reach an international clientele.”

The cherry on the cake: Ocarat has given the Parisian public the multibrand event the city has been lacking for a number of years. The inaugural We Love Watches, in 2023, featured 48 brands and both the afternoon and evening sessions were sold out. This year’s edition, on October 12, will take place beneath the iconic skylights of La Samaritaine department store, with almost double the number of exhibitors and an expected 1,500 visitors.

It’s a very different mindset to the industry’s exclusive, invitation-only events (although be warned: tickets, which go on sale in June, sell out fast) and a continuation of what Ocarat sets out to achieve on a daily basis, which is to introduce the general public to watches, and specifically French watches, through a more open view of retail that shines a spotlight on brands that others might overlook. And if 180 watch brands aren’t enough, Ocarat also carries 130 jewellery brands.

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