Watchmaking in the USA

Who are the biggest spenders in the watch world?


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July 2015

According to a report by Kantar Media, it’s business as usual among the watch brands when it comes to spending on marketing. The big brands continue to spend big, with overall expenditures also on the rise.

If marketing expenditures are anything to go by, it would appear that the watch industry is out of the economic recession. Kantar Media, a leading consultancy group which tracks advertising trends across the board, has released a report on marketing expenditures for the US market.

The initial figures are quite striking. For the first time ever, total spending on marketing by watch brands in the American market has surpassed the half billion dollar mark.

But perhaps more revealing is the recent surge in overall spending. In 2009, during the recession, total spending was around $250 million. Only five years later, that figure has more than doubled, reaching its peak at $535 million.

If we dissect that total figure, we get a better idea what brand has the most marketing weight.

Tennis star Ana Ivanovic advertising for Rolex
Tennis star Ana Ivanovic advertising for Rolex

It might come as no surprise that Rolex was king of the hill in U.S. advertising expenditure in 2014. This is nothing new, as the brand has held top spot for the last 15 years. What is surprising is that it was Timex that held the number one spot in the US in terms of advertising in 2000, when Rolex took over, as reported by Joe Thompson of WatchTime.

That might well show us not only how important the US market has become for Swiss watch brands, but also how American tastes for watches have changed.

Rolex was gauged to have spent about $56 million on advertising last year, which is over 10% of the total expenditure. Interestingly, that figure is estimated to be about $5 million lower than what the brand spent in 2013. But Rolex still remained at the top, showing simply how overwhelming its advertising spending has been to date.

The same cannot be said for other brands. Seiko, for instance, increased its spending by almost $4 from the previous year, but it actually dropped in the rank list, falling out of the top 10.

Another mover in the positive direction was Omega. The Swiss brand boosted its advertising budget by around 50% for the US market, bringing its total to around $34, good enough for third on the list.

Patek Philippe advertisement with the brand's famous slogan
Patek Philippe advertisement with the brand’s famous slogan

Patek Philippe also joined the elite 10, moving to the number 9 spot. It also accomplished that by more than doubling its marketing budget.

Those figures show just how “top heavy” the market is, with the big brands spending big. But even doubling spending on advertising doesn’t mean a brand moves up the rank list, indicating just how competitive they are in their spending.

But the point is not to move up in the list, as such. All that matters is moving up in sales figures. Indeed, spending more on ads doesn’t necessarily mean that a brand will leverage that into sales. These figures, as interesting as they are, say nothing about returns on investment and what the most effective means of marketing might be.

Here is the list of the top 50 watch brands in terms of their advertising spending in the U.S. market for 2014, in millions.

  1. Rolex (56.38)
  2. Breitling (45.11)
  3. Omega (34.49)
  4. Cartier (25.45)
  5. Citizen (23.62)
  6. Chanel (20.89)
  7. Movado (19.69)
  8. Longines (17.81)
  9. Patek Philippe (15.69)
  10. TAG Heuer (15.36)
  11. Seiko (14.94)
  12. Tudor (12.02)
  13. Breguet (10.02)
  14. Audemars Piguet (9.51)
  15. Chopard (7.98)
  16. Swatch (7.58)
  17. Parmigiani Fleurier (6.49)
  18. Richard Mille (6.04)
  19. Armitron (5.83)
  20. Baume & Mercier (5.71)
  21. Montblanc (5.60)
  22. Timex (5.52)
  23. Rado (5.38)
  24. Ball Watch (5.37)
  25. Ulysse Nardin (5.12)
  26. Zenith (5.01)
  27. Nixon (4.85)
  28. Shinola (4.82)
  29. Hublot (4.69)
  30. Dior (4.67)
  31. Victorinox (4.61)
  32. Fossil (4.34)
  33. Luminox (4.31)
  34. Tissot (3.98)
  35. Vacheron Constantin (3.95)
  36. Bell & Ross (3.92)
  37. Panerai (3.86)
  38. Michael Kors (3.68)
  39. Jaeger-LeCoultre (3.49)
  40. Casio (3.44)
  41. Blancpain (3.39)
  42. Ralph Lauren (3.22)
  43. Oris (3.17)
  44. Bulova (3.13)
  45. Louis Vuitton (3.06)
  46. Coach (2.95)
  47. Piaget (2.93)
  48. Harry Winston (2.89)
  49. Bulgari (2.50)
  50. Girard-Perregaux (2.31)

Source: Kantar Media