It has been three over three years since Switzerland’s mighty Bucherer bought Tourneau at the start of 2018, a decision that was questioned at the time as the USA was seen as a difficult market that too many watchmakers had failed to properly crack.
Fast forward to today and Bucherer’s chief commercial officer has described the United States as a “rock star” market that has almost single-handedly dragged the group through the pandemic.
Europe has been a horror show. Bucherer’s stores in London and Paris were closed for six out of the past 16 months. Germany fared well in the early months of the pandemic, but the virus has caught up with it since and forced stores to close.
Switzerland has kept its economy moving after an initial three month shock in the second quarter of 2020, but high spending tourists from Asia and the Middle East have stayed at home.
Thankfully, domestic customers have filled the void.
In August’s Big Interview with Patrick Graf, Bucherer’s CCO describes that challenge of running the business through the most difficult period since World War II.
“In a nutshell, the UK was definitely a tough one with a heavy lock down. Germany also locked down pretty hard, but we were able to keep business moving in different ways and we had a strong bounce back after stores reopened. Paris is still suffering a lot, not just the watch and jewelry industry, but many other luxury businesses and retailers. It is really difficult and will remain so for a few more months. Denmark is doing OK, but is not a huge business for us,” he begins.
“Switzerland has been extremely strong, particularly in Geneva and Zurich. Some of our biggest flagship stores tapped into huge domestic spending power in those cities. People were really interested in jewelry and watches, perhaps because in Switzerland we now have negative interest rates so you have to pay to keep money in the bank so they have been looking for alternative investments like art and watches,” Mr Graf continues.
America outperformed all other markets.
“The USA has been a rock star market. Looking back, we can say it was a good decision to make the acquisition [of Tourneau],” he describes.
“[Bucherer CEO] Guido [Zumbühl] and I have spoken about this many times. We remember the time we were doing the due diligence in 2017. The world looked very different then and a lot of people had doubts about whether the United States could become a strong watch market again. We saw light at the end of the tunnel then, and we are super-happy. The country remained super strong,” he adds.
Remarkably, 2020 was a record year for Tourneau, which will start operating its first showroom under the Bucherer name when Time Machine in New York reopens in August.
“US was stronger than ever. I can tell you that we had a record year in 2020 and we are definitely going to see another record year in 2021,” Mr Graf reveals.