Management consultant Deloitte’s 2021 Swiss Watch Industry Study has found the United States to be the second most optimistic market in the world when it comes to future growth, despite the roaring success of the past 12 months setting a high bar for the luxury market.
Only China was more optimistic about future growth, a reflection of starting from a much tougher starting point. 57% of executives surveyed expect strong growth in China compared to 31% in the United States.
Deloitte’s study is based on an online survey of 67 senior executives in the watch industry between mid-August and early September 2021. The company also surveyed 5,558 consumers in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Only 10% of respondents thought the USA watch market would stagnate in the coming year, compared to 49% in Europe.
Swiss watch executives looking at the global market were cautiously optimistic, and limited their positivity to the upper end of the business.
77% of executives judge the outlook for the Swiss watch industry as positive for the next
year, but they expect growth only in segments of CHF 5,000 (export price) and above.
A quarter of executives expect the Swiss watch industry overall to achieve pre-pandemic sales by the end of 2021, but 36% believing it will take until the end of next year.
Optimism about the top end of the market is in stark contrast to the situation at the volume end.
Asked about growth expectations in various price segments of the watch market, the entry level sub-CHF 500 market scored -2.5 on a scale of -5 to +5 while the very high end for watches priced at over CHF 25,000 scored +2.5.
An encouraging finding from the research came from its survey of consumers across the world, which found that younger customers feel more inclined to buy and own a watch than older customers on which today’s industry relies.
Deloitte asked: How has your attitude towards owning a watch changed over the past five years?
For baby boomers, only 15% said owning a watch had become more important to them, but this rose to 22% for generation X (currently aged 41 to 56); 37% for millenians (aged 25-40) and 33% for generation Z (aged under 25).
The question did not distinguish between analogue watches and smartwatches, and the study did find a dwindling proportion of consumers owning traditional watches.
in 2020, the annual study found 41% of respondents usually wore a traditional watch (mechanical or quartz), but this dropped to 34% in 2021.
Over the same two years, smartwatch wearing increased from 18% of respondents to 22%.
The study shows why luxury watch businesses focus so much of their energy on China and Hong Kong. 5,558 consumers from 11 countries were asked whether they are willing to pay more than CHF 1,000 on a watch. Two thirds of respondents in China and Hong Kong said yes while only 16% in the United States concurred.
The image of a watch brands was the most important criteria for selecting which product to buy in China, but in the United States the price to value ratio was listed as the number one factor.