20. time-business


Couture: Luxury watchmaking in Las Vegas

TRAVEL NOTES 🇺🇸 UNITED STATES

Français
August 2018


Couture: Luxury watchmaking in Las Vegas

In the wake of Baselworld’s massive restructuring, all watch fairs around the world are rethinking how they operate. However, the Couture Time fair in Las Vegas seems to be doing quite well. Brands are indeed increasingly insisting on “local events”. Would this be an explanation? Three questions to Gannon Brousseau, the show manager.

I

t is a cosy salon, where watchmaking occupies a whole wing of the Encore hotel in Las Vegas. A perfect environment for luxury watchmaking – however a minority share of the Couture fair compared to jewellery. Hence the creation of an “event in the event”, Couture Time, dedicated to watch brands. While its long-time rival JCK (read here) has been navigating in the entry-to-medium range environment, the Couture salon has become the rendezvous of luxury watchmaking during Jewelry Week that takes place every year in early June in the city of Nevada.

The Encore and Wynn hotels host the Couture/Couture Time show in Las Vegas in June
The Encore and Wynn hotels host the Couture/Couture Time show in Las Vegas in June

Heavyweights like Longines or Omega, TAG Heuer or Tudor, and independent brands like Oris or Raymond Weil, Eberhard & Co. or Mühle-Glashütte were present in order to meet their retailers and distributors (this is a professional event, by invitation only) and above all to try to better understand this American market. The latter remains an imposing weight for luxury, but it has experienced major difficulties in the last three years, diminishing from 2.4 to 2 billion francs of annual Swiss watch exports (see the FH figures here).

Couture: Luxury watchmaking in Las Vegas

Attending the show, Europa Star met Gannon Brousseau, the manager of Couture and Couture Time.

Couture: Luxury watchmaking in Las Vegas

How would you sum up the 2018 edition?

We are always striving to improve our event and make it the best business environment for our brand and retail partners. This edition has been good with increasing attendance and, even more importantly, increased enthusiasm among professionals. In particular, we welcomed more international retailers to the event. What I also note is that brands have more quality time with their retail partners, allowing them to walk through their collections in very meaningful ways.

Couture: Luxury watchmaking in Las Vegas

The world’s largest watch fair, Baselworld, is in trouble. It has just suffered the departure of the Swatch Group. What impact is this weakening of the Basel show having on you?

In recent years, we observed fewer and fewer American retailers wanting to travel overseas. And though we do not compete with Basel, we do believe we offer watch brands a great environment for them to conduct business with their retailer partners. And as brands have begun to embrace alternative ways to roll out new product, we have encouraged them to save a new launch for our event, especially if it is a limited edition for our market. It’s a great strategic move, especially for retailers and media!

“As brands have begun to embrace alternative ways to roll out new product, we have encouraged them to save a new launch for our event.”

Couture: Luxury watchmaking in Las Vegas

In the United States, more than anywhere else in the world, consumption patterns are rapidly changing, especially with the rise of e-commerce. Many watch retailers have had to close down. How do you view the evolution of the American watch distribution networks, as a B to B show?

The consolidation of watch distribution continues to unfold its effects. That said, I am absolutely convinced that physical boutiques will remain the corner stone of watch distribution. But as you have already started to see, the in-store experience will change and adapt to meet today’s customer needs. This is also true for us as a trade fair: we have to be open to change and we have to listen to our brand partners and find solutions for their needs. This year we formed a partnership with the RedBar group of collectors (read the interview of its co-founder Adam Craniotes here) to attract connoisseurs and add a different dimension to our event. We are a very hands-on management team and we are constantly engaged with our customers throughout the year. For us Couture and Couture Time is a community that extends well beyond the week in Las Vegas.

“The consolidation of watch distribution continues to unfold its effects. That said, I am absolutely convinced that physical boutiques will remain the corner stone of watch distribution.”