Diving Watches: From Sports Watches to Certified Icons
As another year comes to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the biggest news from the watch industry in 2018. Overall, there weren’t many major stories, but the few there were shook the entire industry to its core. Let’s take a look at what happened in 2018.
In late July 2018, the Swatch Group released a statement announcing that Swatch Group brands would no longer be participating in Baselworld as of 2019. Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek made the initial announcement, followed by a lengthy statement from the Swatch Group. The statement refers to a changing world where everything is “more transparent, fast-moving, and instantaneous.” Such a world calls for a new approach, away from the classic annual watch fairs.
The Swatch Group feels watch fairs need to rethink and reinvent themselves and have “the courage to make real progress and to bring about true and profound changes.” Baselworld’s organizers, the MCH Group, have yet to announce their plans for how they will continue to attract watch brands and visitors to the fair in 2019 and beyond.
A couple months later, in September 2018, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) also had brands announcing their exits from the annual trade fair after the upcoming 2019 edition. Both Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet have said that a changing world with evolving business models caused them to decide to leave the industry’s second largest trade show.
Richard Mille explained how, going forward, they will be focusing more on direct sales in their own brand boutiques rather than relying on multi-brand retailers. At the same time, Audemars Piguet stated that traditional trade fairs are no longer in line with what the brand expects. They feel fairs focus too much on watch professionals, such as press and retailers, while Audemars Piguet wants to shift their attention to the customer. Furthermore, the brand would like to release new watches throughout the year rather than waiting for one specific event.
After Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona sold at auction for a staggering $17.75 million in 2017, it seemed nearly impossible that lightning could strike twice. However, Phillips sent similar shock waves through the watch industry when Elvis Presley’s Omega Tiffany ended up fetching $1.8 million at auction in Geneva in May 2018. After initial estimates valued it at between 50,000 and 100,000 Swiss francs, it exceeded every expectation to become the most expensive Omega watch ever sold.
In late September 2018, the French magazine Challenges broke the news that Jean-Claude Biver had decided to terminate his operational duties as President of LVMH’s watch division. Biver then confirmed the report, stating “I am giving up my operational responsibilities, but I’m staying as non-executive president of LVMH’s watch unit and its three watch brands, TAG Heuer, Zenith, and Hublot.” The reason for Biver stepping down is related to his ongoing health issues, which keep him from continuing in his active role as CEO of TAG Heuer and Zenith.
Luxury goods powerhouse Richemont appointed Jérôme Lambert as their new CEO in September 2018. Lambert is a longtime Richemont executive, who had previously been in charge of Jaeger-LeCoultre and Montblanc. He was promoted from COO to CEO—a position that had been vacant since March 2017. The greatest task ahead for Lambert is to keep Richemont growing in a world of ever-changing consumer habits.
Yet another brand started their own certified pre-owned watch program in 2018. In July, the Geneva-based independent watch brand MB&F announced they would be selling pre-owned MB&F watches through their brand website. They are the latest in a growing number of brands setting up certified pre-owned watch programs to control the resale of their watches.
That’s a good note to end on. Ultimately, it’s all about how brands and the industry are able to inspire and surprise consumers through the incredible watches they release every year.