According to Jean-Claude Biver, LVMH’s Head of Watchmaking, young consumers are displaying a notable interest in luxury timepieces. Specifically, he remarks on the high presence of watches on Instagram and bloggers’ social profiles.
And Biver’s argument isn’t unfounded. Last year Mintel found that Generation Z and Millennials were now more engaged with the watch industry than older age groups.
In his role at LVMH, Biver has overseen several traditional brands shift their market position. TAG Heuer, for instance, has continuously updated its brand image to stay on trend. Recently TAG has been investing in wearable technology, social media and culturally prominent brand ambassadors. TAG’s aim with this strategy is to integrate itself into a range of niche youth tribes. This can be seen in the variety of influential figures they collaborate with – including socialite Cara Delevingne, snowboarder Gerakdube Fasnacht and EDM musician Martin Garrix.
TAG’s approach to marketing is slowly becoming a routine operation for many watch brands. With exports of Swiss watches sinking by a tenth in 2016, watchmakers can’t risk distancing themselves from digital channels.
Similar to TAG, Vacheron Constantin has heavily invested in social media to help update its traditional brand image. Behind this repositioning is Digital Ambassador Alex Ghotbi. Rather than using social media to merely circulate exciting brand material, Ghotbi helps produce bespoke imagery to suit the online environment. This can be seen on Vacheron’s Instagram profile, where the brand has cultivated a modern and trendy lifestyle identity through their photography.
Going beyond social media, e-commerce is also sharply emerging as another tool for luxury watch brands. For many notable figures in luxury, e-commerce is still seen as significantly inferior to bricks-and-mortar. The common argument is that online shopping can’t replicate the experience of physical luxury shopping.
However, with grey market and used retailers growing online, many high-end watchmakers are beginning to experiment with e-commerce’s capabilities.
Omega, for instance, launched the Speedy Tuesday as an online-only watch. In just over four hours all 2,012 models had been bought. As Omega demonstrates, affluent consumers aren’t opposed to purchasing high-priced goods online. Furthermore, Omega showed how to retain a sense of exclusivity with online selling, by limiting stock and distribution channels.
Selling luxury in the age of the millennial requires brands to create digital footprints that align with the latest style and design trends. Within horology, influencers are increasingly shifting the industry culture away from prestige and exclusivity towards street style and urban cultures.