WHAT’S NEXT?


“The Swiss watch industry is becoming an oligopoly – whether we like it or not”

WHAT’S NEXT

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December 2019


“The Swiss watch industry is becoming an oligopoly – whether we like it or not”

In our latest report about the transformation of the watch world, we selected six major issues which are having a profound impact on the industry’s present and also on its future and discussed them with about forty stakeholders of the industry. Here is the take of Dr Frank Müller, Founder and CEO of The Bridge To Luxury.

ENTRY-LEVEL
“Pray that Apple doesn’t go round!”

“In the face of the technical advantages of connected watches, the brands able to offer social status, exciting storytelling and emotions will continue to enjoy success. However, branding is expensive and distribution selective. Hence, those who just offer mechanical functionality and design will struggle to survive. The industry needs to pray that Apple does not one day offer an iWatch in a round steel case.”

POLARISATION
“Every crisis strengthens the strongest”

“The answer is powerplay. The strong brands have got stronger over the years. Every crisis such as 9/11, Lehman and so on helped them gain market share at the expense of smaller and mostly independent brands. Better access to classical distribution, resources to build up retail (own boutiques) and online, stronger marketing budgets made sure that the powerful brands leveraged access to consumers’ minds and emotions. The polarisation will continue.”

"The industry needs to pray that Apple does not one day offer an iWatch in a round steel case."

DISTRIBUTION
“Consumers are not looking for self-praise from the brands”

“It will still take some time until the industry finds out what the consumer wants: a neutral place of judgement that ennobles watch brands, and not self-praise. That place used to be the traditional watch and jewellery retailer. But it may be too late. In many mid-sized cities traditional, family-owned and competent retailers have vanished as the brands created their own distribution universe and moved away to the big cities. Consumers need to be educated to dare and enjoy luxury in a complex process of sophistication. Brand boutiques and online platforms will not sufficiently provide for that journey.”

Dr Frank Müller, Founder and CEO of The Bridge To Luxury
Dr Frank Müller, Founder and CEO of The Bridge To Luxury

PRE-OWNED
“A single logic: owning the consumer relationship”

“First retailing, then online and now pre-owned, all these developments follow the same logic for the brands: owning the consumer relationship, controlling the sales cycle and eventually making more money. The reasons? Changing customers, stronger competition, dividend-hungry owners and ambitious executives in search of sales bonuses.”

OPPORTUNITIES
“Not a traditional business cycle, a structural crisis”

“The luxury industry in general and the watch industry in particular are not facing – as many brand owners, CEOs and executives would still like to believe – a downturn of typical business cycles but a structural crisis. The democratisation of luxury, a change in social values around the world, the technical revolution, demography, globalisation and other factors will lead to a barely growing, if not shrinking, consumer base. There will be no new China – and only those brands who adapt to this new reality fastest will have a chance of suffering less – as the industry will continue to suffer.

The big players will be able to cope with painful restructuring processes. However, it will be very tough for independent brands to survive in stagnant and saturated markets. The Swiss watch industry will change dramatically over the next two decades, becoming an oligopoly – whether we like it or not.”