With no more luxury watch exhibition in Geneva usually held at the end of January, LVMH has taken its watch brands to Dubai for LVMH Watch Week, taking place at Bulgari Resort Dubai. The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, best known as SIHH has been replaced and rebranded as Watches & Wonders and it is scheduled for April 25th.
Why Dubai? “On a group level,” said Ricardo Guadalupe, Hublot’s chief executive, “we thought Dubai would be more fun. The city is also a huge hub, the middle of the world. For Hublot, the region represents 10 percent of our sales.
Stéphane Bianchi Head of the LVMH Watch Division and TAG Heuer chief executive told the New York Times that in 2020 he would introduce a new TAG Heuer platform based on “passion for action, mental strength, high performance and avant-garde,” backed by new products as well as new retail and marketing strategies. He added “Our brand spirit should be maverick,” Mr. Bianchi said. “We want to prioritize people authentically linked to the brand.”
Mr. Bianchi said that early this year, TAG Heuer would introduce a new website in line with its “strong ambitions around retail and digital.” Those include opening new TAG Heuer boutiques even as the company stops working with some of its third-party retail network (it ended 20 percent of those relationships last year). “We have to rebalance wholesale and resale,” he said.
This year, TAG Heuer marks its 160th anniversary, focusing activities around its most commercially successful product, the Carrera sports chronograph. The brand plans to present one limited-edition piece in Dubai, but hold most of its key launches for Baselworld. “Carrera is a huge part of our turnover, and the new collection will be a huge launch for us,” Mr. Bianchi said.
Mr. Bianchi also said that beginning this year, TAG Heuer will make new timepieces available immediately, following the see-now/buy-now concept that fashion brands have embraced in recent years, some with mixed results. For TAG Heuer, Mr. Bianchi said, “It doesn’t make sense to show a watch and then not sell it for six months.”
This spring, he said, the brand plans to release a major update of Connected, its luxury smartwatch. Sales of the timepiece, introduced in late 2015, are generally thought to total 60,000 to 100,000 a year (the company’s sales figures are not published). By contrast, analysts were expecting last year’s sales of the Apple Watch to reach around 25 million.
The Italian luxury maison BVLGARI presents in Dubai the Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon powered by the smallest women’s tourbillon movement now on the market and the Divas’ Dream Minute Repeater Malachite, the world’s thinnest minute repeating watch (one that chimes the time on demand) for women. Bulgari also intends to introduce five models for its Octo Finissimo line of ultrathin watches, including its first in steel.
“Swiss watchmaking has to reinvent itself,” Bulgari CEO Jean Christophe Babin said . “We have to be more daring and more futuristic, rather than overusing vintage and the past. Such watches may satisfy an older clientele, but they’re not resonating with the younger generation. We talk about Elizabeth Taylor, but we don’t use her in our advertising because my daughter doesn’t know who she is. Very few brands have managed to reinvent themselves, which explains why, overall, Swiss exports are very sluggish.”
In Dubai, HUBLOT presents the Big Bang Integral watch an evolution of the brand’s most recognizable model, offering a collection of bracelets in titanium, gold and ceramic. However, Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe remains cautious “Growth is going to be challenging,” he said. “When I started in the industry 30 years ago, Switzerland was exporting 5 billion Swiss francs in watches. Today it’s 20 billion Swiss francs. But doubling our business in the next 10 years will not be possible.”
He said that in 2018 Hublot recorded double-digit growth, but that growth fell to single figures last year. “Hong Kong has suffered,” he admitted, referring to the impact that continued civil unrest and an economic recession have had on luxury watch sales in that region. Guadalupe said he believed that Hublot could produce as many as 80,000 watches a year during the next decade, but that that would be its limit.
ZENITH is the smallest brand in LVMH’s watch division. “We are small and we need to grow,” Mr. Julien Tornare said. The Defy range was introduced a few months after his appointment in 2017, and Mr. Tornare said Zenith had increased its annual production to 23,000 pieces from 21,000.
Mr. Tornare expressed a global concern “No region is healthy today,” he said. “It’s quite difficult to be confident. But we are at a turning point, characterized by changes. A few years ago, no brand wanted to hear about e-commerce, but now look at where we are. The same with customization.
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