American retailers are looking forward to heading to Europe again for Watches & Wonders in Geneva.
However, having endured two years of covid-inflicted isolation, they have a few stored up grievances to air when they sit down with the brands.
In an article by Roberta Naas for the Geneva edition of WATCHPRO, retailers were asked what they hoped to see and hear at Watches & Wonders.
Instead of a wish list focused on new dial colors or other engineering and design-related issues, they are more interested in how the brands are screwing over their loyal retail partners.
Steven Holtzman, vice chairman of C.D. Peacock on Chicago, is particularly steamed about the way brands keep their most exciting new watches for their own boutiques and ecommerce sites, and only throw a bone to their multibrand retail partners once they have satisfied their own demand.
“Brands launch new products that we may not see in the market for six months — this is most predominant with brands that have their own retail stores. By the time the product reaches the family-owned stores, the buzz has diminished, and the salespeople are exhausted from telling the clients that the product is not in stock yet,” he observes.
Roberto Chiapelloni, owner of Manfredi Jewels in Greenwich, CT, is similarly frustrated.
“I wish the brands would take a closer look at what the multi-brand retailers are doing for them on the local levels and in terms of market share. How sad is it that they continue to make ‘boutique only’ editions that take the business away from the multi-brand retailers,” he tells WATCHPRO.
“We were a retailer of Audemars Piguet for 30 years and now they are boutique-only, like Richard Mille, and now even Vacheron Constantin is doing it with the Overseas Blue dial as a boutique-only piece. They keep taking away our business and I wish they would just look at the opportunities and advances we have brought them. We grew some of these businesses with our own money. To cater to our clients, to educate our customers, we have used our money,” he fumes.
For Hank Siegel, owner of Hamilton Jewelers in Princeton, NJ, his excitement is undiminished at the prospect of live launches and his focus is on the Swiss getting the product mix right.
“I would love to see more choices in yellow gold for women. In fashion, yellow gold has been hot for a couple of years and the watch brands are catching up. Rose gold does well, but yellow would create additional opportunities,” he suggests.
He would also like to see more entry points for a new breed of enthusiasts to get started in watch collecting.
“Younger clients in our markets who appreciate fine watchmaking want to get into collecting but feel that availability of certain styles and/or opening price ranges preclude them from doing so. I would love to see continued emphasis from some brands on both entry level price ranges in fine watchmaking, as well as unique and innovative design for higher level models,” Mr Siegel advises.
On the West Coast, Stephen Silver Fine Jewelers president, Jared Silver, is excited to see what independent watchmakers create.
“I refer to 2021 as the “Independent Enlightenment”, and it’s been such an amazing transformation to see. In many ways, the independents seem to have gotten the memo about relevant product before many of the group-held brands. Watches like the Urwerk UR-100, MB&F LM101, MB&F Evo series, and Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto are models for which demand far exceeds supply. I am not at all concerned about product from these companies. I am willing to bet their novelties this year will far outstrip the big brands in terms of creativity,” he predicts.