Earnings, export numbers, and other MBA mumbo jumbo. All the numbers and strategy behind the watch industry, as well as analysis to make sense of it all.
Just for Fun
Lately, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a real lack of watch auction coverage around the internet. When I wrote my preview of Christie’s spring 2019 auction, there wasn’t much else out there covering the offerings at Christies, or the competing spring auctions from the other large auction houses, namely Sotheby’s and Phillips (I even tried to cover Antiquorum’s auction in our weekly newsletter because it seemed like no one else was). Sure, the sale of Andy Warhol’s Rolex garnered some headlines, but that’s little more than clickbait.
Say what you want about watch auctions, but they still bring some much-needed transparency to the market, help identify and define trends, and help advance scholarship, especially on rare and unique watches. And on a selfish level, learning about watches up for auction forces me to take the time to understand these new pieces and argue why one is worth highlighting in an article over another.
So, I’ll be making a concerted effort over the rest of the year to cover all the watch auctions I have time for. The first step in this is gathering up all the auctions from the various houses to make sure they’re on my radar for the second half of 2019
Probably the most important question about a watch is its provenance. Where did it come from, and can you prove that it came from where you say it did? For centuries, this has meant having a watch’s “box and papers” to sell alongside the timepiece itself. These box and papers are thought to provide proof that the watch is legitimate, and that the buyer can proceed with confidence.
In reality, there’s not a full-proof way to be sure that the box and papers being offered alongside the watch are legit. These papers can be forged, faked, or tampered with, and with the money to be made in vintage watches, the motivation certainly exists.
Vacheron Constantin is hoping to use blockchain technology to chain that. A blockchain, by design, is an open, distributed ledger that can record a transaction between two parties in a verifiable and permanent way.
Shares in Britain’s biggest watch retailer Watches of Switzerland Group Ltd rose by as much as 15% on their debut on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday. Shares climbed to as high as 315 pence per share, from an initial price of 270 pence. On its second day of trading, May 31, shares stabilized a bit, closing the day at 308 pence.
The listing of 34% of the company was set to raise around 220 million pounds ($278 million), valuing the retailer at 647 million pounds. The 270 pence initial price was already at the top end of the range initially targeted for the deal, suggesting strong demand for the retailer which accounted for half of all Rolex watches sold in the UK in 2018, in addition to being the UK’s largest retailed of Patek Phillipe, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer, and Breitling.
After a strong first quarter of 2019, Swiss watch exports slowed in April, down 0.4% compared to April 2018. It’s a dose of reality for the industry, after exports grew a total of 2.9% throughout the first quarter. April’s low sales bring growth through 2019’s first four months down to 2.1%.
The total value of exports in April was still higher than that in March, but growth was down because of a strong comparison base to April 2018. The trend toward precious metals and two-tone (gold-steel) timepieces continued, with the categories up 4% and 5.2%, respectively.
At Swatch’s annual general meeting a couple weeks back, Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek teased that the company would be opening a drive-through store for its namesake Swatch products in the next few weeks. The shop will be located next to the company’s headquarters in Biel, Switzerland, a town of about 55,000. It’ll be just across the street from the Omega Museum and nearby Omega boutique, surely serving mainly as a tourist attraction.
This little drive through experiment seems to indicate that Swatch still sees brick-and-mortar shops as a key part of its future, an assessment I agree with. In fact, Richemont reported in its earnings that it saw solid bricks-and-mortar retail growth, with a net positive number of stores opening. Interestingly, Richemont seemed to emphasize the growth of its directly-owned stores (as opposed to franchise stores). I’d bet Swatch’s strategy is similar. No matter if it’s selling online or in bricks-and-mortar shops, cutting out the middleman is the name of the game today.
Shares of luxury goods group Richemont closed higher on Friday as it announced strong sales growth amid weaker profitability in its 2019 fiscal year, which ended March 31.
Last year, Richemont purchased online pre-owned watch retailer Watchfinder, as well as online luxury destination Yoox Net-a-Porter. It also recently announced a joint venture with ecommerce giant Alibaba, though it continued to provide few details on that arrangement on its earnings call. With the acquisition of the online retailers, 16% of Richemont’s sales are now online.
Total watches sales in 2019 reached €5 billion.
Less than a week after rival luxury conglomerate LVMH posted a strong first quarter of 2019, sending the stock to record highs, Kering barely matched expectations. Kering shares fell 6 percent on Thursday after signs of slowing growth from the Q1 earnings. And while watches and jewelry aren’t a large part of Kering’s business, the group’s earnings may point towards the general trend of slowed growth in luxury goods.
Swiss watch exports had their strongest month of 2019 in March, growing at 4.4% with a value of 1.7 billion Swiss francs (CHF) for the month. Total exports for the first quarter of 2019 totaled CHF 5.1 billion, a 2.9% increase over the first quarter of 2018. The total value of exports was significantly boosted by a steep rise in precious metal and bimetal watch exports.
It’s not every day that the fashion and legal worlds truly collide, but that’s what happened yesterday when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Iancu v. Brunetti. The case involves California skate/steetwear brand “Fuct.” So as a lawyer, I had to write about it. Fuct, founded by Erik Brunetti in 1990, has been a fixture of skate and streetwear culture since its founding. Brunetti’s lawyer, John Sommer, who also happens to be general counsel at Stussy, promised that any references to “vulgar terms” would not be necessary during his oral argument, or if necessary, “the discussion will be purely clinical, such as when medical terms are discussed.”
Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) shares hit record highs after announcing strong earnings on April 11. In the first quarter of 2019, LVMH’s revenue rose 16 percent to 12.5 billion euros ($14 billion). Revenues were up 11 percent on an organic basis, which takes into account mergers, acquisitions, and currency fluctuations. Both numbers surpassed analyst forecasts.
In a decision in Swiss court that can’t be surprising, Swatch prevailed over Apple in a long-running dispute over Swatch’s “Tick Different” watches. The watches are no doubt a direct reference to Apple’s Think Different ad campaigns from the 1990s and 2000s. The Swiss Federal Administrative Court said Apple’s slogan was not well enough known in Switzerland to warrant protection.
Reporting from Baselworld, Reuters quoted a number of watch industry executives who said they expect to continue to see strong growth in 2019. This is despite a slow start to 2019 in which Swiss watch exports have risen just 2.1 percent in the first two months of the year. In 2018, Swiss watch exports rose 6.3 percent.
In late February, Swatch Group filed a complaint against Samsung Electronics, saying the company infringed on Swatch’s trademarks for various watch designs. A number of Swatch Group subsidiaries, including Blancpain, Breguet, Jaquet Droz, Omega, Tissot, and others are named as plaintiffs in the suit — Samsung didn’t seemed to be just as happy copying from the low as from the high end of the market.
In our Brief History of Universal Geneve, we concluded by hoping for an eventual rebirth of the brand.
Well, since we wrote that article in November 2018, a few developments pointing towards a rebirth of the Universal Geneve brand have happened. As someone astutely noted in the comments section of that article, Universal Geneve’s website, universal.ch, is now fully functional. It only features a history of the brand and a “contact us” form, but it’s definitely something.
If the New York Times writes a longer-form piece on a trend, is it a bubble? If so, vintage watch lovers might want to watch out.
In a new article, the Times calls out vintage watches as “yet another easy way for the rich to make their money into more money”.
After a stable January, Swiss watch exports grew 3.4% in February 2019. This is even despite a high comparison base, as exports grew more than 10% in February 2018. it’s a good sign that there may be additional room to run for the Swiss watch industry. Total exports totaled CHF 1.8 billion in February 2019, slightly higher than January’s CHF 1.6 billion total.
Confirmed: Apple is selling a lot of watches. And pretty close to the number we guessed.
After a strong 2018, some stability in Swiss watch export numbers.
Smart watch sales continue to grow, plus how many Apple Watches is Apple actually selling?
Swiss watch exports were up in December, but there are signs of stagnation.
Google wants to build its own watch to compete with Apple.
Watch Anish is coming to a slightly bigger screen near you.