Eight years ago nobody thought you could sell a £30,000 Blancpain from a website. Today, they are being sold next to £15,000 Hublots and many other prestigious brands on The Watch Gallery’s website, which was acquired in 2012 along with the retailer, by DM London chairman David Coleridge.
The argument has moved on from whether luxury watches can be sold online; they can and do sell. Today, the debate is more about why some brands – Rolex being the flag bearer – still refuse.
The reason The Watch Gallery succeeds is not simply its presentation of luxury brands ranging alphabetically from 88 Rue de Rhone to Zenith, but the sophistication of its service and the back-end behind it. Customers can browse the brands’ collections; compare them on price and features; chat to experts online; and then decide how to buy. If a brand sells directly from the web site, there are various payment options, including interest-free finance.
If brands don’t sell direct, customers are pointed to authorised retailers, or offered click and collect at its physical stores including The Wonder Room at Selfridges and Rolex London at One Hyde Park.
The Watch Gallery has grown every year for the past eight, but its success can be attributed to more than just first-mover advantage, and its leadership requires constant vigilance. Right now, for example, the company is ensuring that challenging trading conditions do not dent profits. “Tougher business circumstances have caused us to be more efficient,” he says.
The debate continues over when, if ever, some luxury watches will sell directly to consumers online, but David is in no doubt which way the market is moving.
“Developing the luxury web business of The Watch Gallery,” has been the company’s greatest achievement in the past year, David describes. “The development of the luxury web business is the new market of the future,” he adds.