Independent watch brands work with retail partners to grow sales and protect margins

Selling prestige watches that are not from the major groups may need more expertise and energy from retailers, but it is also much more rewarding, argues Tony Wasserman, SVP sales and marketing for BALL, Anonimo, Meistersinger and Muhle Glashütte in the USA, Canada and Caribbean.

Duber Time is the umbrella organisation that distributes this collection of brands in the region, but Mr Wasserman is quick to stress that the business operates more like a collection of independent subsidiaries in collaboration with its watchmaking partners, and works with a network of retailers just like the brands themselves would.

“We operate in partnership with the European watchmakers as if we were wholly owned by them,” Mr Wasserman explains. “The US is the biggest market in the world for these brands, so what we have to say is incredibly important. We collaborate on product design and pricing because we are able to advise the watchmakers on what will sell in our market,” he adds.

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The company is equally careful in the way it constructs its dealer network, ensuring that retailers do not face competition in their own areas. “When people buy our product, there is less pressure to discount because there will not be five dealers in the same city putting each other under pressure by cutting prices. In fact, our dealers work together, so if one does not have a watch that a customer wants, another dealer might supply it to them,” Mr Wasserman describes.

Rather than competing retailers putting pressure on each other because they are all selling the same brands, dealers for the likes of BALL, Meistersinger, Muhle Glashütte and Anomino are able to focus on what their customers want. “We are not over-distributed, and our partners have clients that love watches and want something new, interesting and different. Most clients for our brands already own ten or more watches; they love watches, they understand watches,” Mr Wasserman says.

It is not easy selling watches that are not as well-known as Rolex, TAG Heuer or Movado, but dealers of the independent brands are like a collective of aficionados that support each other, know their customers, and always take a collaborative approach to sales.

Mr Wasserman knows these dealers need a different level of support to the retailers of blockbuster brands, and he is prepared to make that investment in time, money and expertise.

“We put a huge amount of effort into training our dealers so that they understand our watchmakers. We also do all the marketing for retailers without demanding that they invest in co-op funding for things like newspaper and radio advertising,” he explains.

In a tough market, the brands of Duber Time are growing, Mr Wasserman claims. The business started with BALL, which is still its biggest seller, and added  Muhle Glashütte, Meistersinger and Anomino over several years, so they are at different stages of development and growth. “They are at different stages of maturity, but we have a great trajectory at the moment,” he says.

The business is looking forward to Baselworld this month because the advanced presentations given by the brands have shown perfect positioning for the US market. “What I have seen is the best collections in years. We are going to be presenting genuinely new products at the right price point for the US market — $1000, $2000, maybe as much as $3000 at the top end — which our dealers are going to love,” Mr Wasserman promises.

There may also be one more brand joining the stable. “I can’t talk about it yet, but it may be announced at Baselworld, and it is a very well-known name,” Mr Wasserman teases.

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