Q&A: Willie Hamilton, Company of Master Jewellers


The Company of Master Jewellers is the UK’s largest buying group for jewellery and watch companies. With the watch sector growing in volume and value for its members, the CMJ was quick to demonstrate its growing importance by getting on board as a Gold Partner for the WatchPro Hot 100. In an interview to announce the partnership, the group’s chief executive Willie Hamilton reveals significant trends in the UK watch market, and tells us why a project like the WatchPro Hot 100 is an important addition to the industry’s calendar.

WatchPro: The CMJ buying group is best-known for its jewellery suppliers and retailers. Is it significant that you are now partnering the WatchPro Hot 100?
Willie Hamilton: The CMJ recognised many years ago that there was a lack of cohesion between independent jewellers and the watch brands in the UK. One of our core principles is to bring the two parts of the supply chain closer together and we believe that WatchPro magazine and the WatchPro Hot 100 does that, along with celebrating the leaders in the industry here in the UK.

WP: What are the benefits to watch suppliers and retailers to be members of the CMJ?
WH: Bringing suppliers and retailers together in a trusted and informative commercial environment is key to the success of the watch industry and CMJ is the leading provider of this in the UK. Any watch brand looking for quality independent retail partners, who have the experience and trusted reputation in their local market to help build a watch brand in the UK should consider joining CMJ as a supplier. We can’t ever dictate what watch brands our retailers decide to work with, but we can provide the right platforms with two CMJ trade shows a year, and marketing assistance to promote new suppliers within the group, which all helps to promote a watch supplier to our members.


WP: What plans do you have over the coming couple of years to broaden and deepen relationships with the watch industry?
WH: The CMJ trade shows continue to develop brands within the portfolio of CMJ, which cements long term relationships and lays the foundations for new developments. We have seen substantial sales growth by working on this strategy and we believe that by working in partnership with WatchPro the relationships will be even stronger, so its more of the same but with more partners.

WP: Are there any particular trends that you are seeing from your members that sell watches? For example, exceptional year on year growth, more pre-owned, more fashion?
WH: The second hand timepiece market has exploded and CMJ was one of the first to recognise this. Over the past year, pre-owned watch sales through CMJ have risen by over 1000% and now equates for around 20% of our total watch turnover. But I believe that there is still substantial growth to harness.

The big watch brands are focusing more on selective distribution but loyal customers of the independent jeweller are wanting to purchase quality timepieces from them. The pre-owned watch brands fill this gap and are being recognised as a key purchase on the high street. You could equate the market in pre-owned watches with pre-owned cars. The independent retail jeweller is a trusted high street brand, where customers can feel confident that they are being sold a genuine timepiece with all the assurances of guarantees, servicing and repairs. As a result, this market segment is becoming increasingly significant to CMJ members.

Meanwhile, the trends for fashion branded watches will be determined by brand investment along with consumer fashion trends so we need to watch closely and predict the winners. High profile watch companies that are trusted brands, such as Rolex and Omega, continue to show good growth and in this economy are likely to hold and grow their market sector.

The watch industry in general is seeing phenomenal growth as consumers are no longer satisfied with owning just one watch. The middle market on the high street is the most competitive and most likely to see significant changes over the next few years as new brands emerge with the right products at the right price points. Watch consumers are becoming more discerning and more price-driven than ever before and the retail market needs to adapt to this.

WP: Are watches increasing in importance as part of the mix for your retailers?
WH: We never dictate to our retailers but always advise them to move with the mix – certainly watches are now becoming more of that mix and we have seen double digit growth of watch sales through the CMJ group over the past financial year.

WP: As a partner of the WatchPro Hot 100, you have an allocation of tickets to this exclusive party. Is there anything your members can say to you that will help them score a couple of tickets?
WH: Showing a genuine interest and commitment to supporting the watch category is always a good reason to be there.


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