For several months in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, luxury businesses registered limited sales. However, almost after six months, things are looking up again. Several stores have opened upand more and more consumers are shopping again.
Take for example the watch business. After major events around the world were cancelled due to the pandemic, three major events took place in the last few weeks—Watches and Wonders in Sanya (September 29 to October 31) and in Shanghai (September 9 to 13) and Geneva Watch Days (August 26 to 29).
But how are things in India for luxury watch players, a market that is known to be extremely value conscious and cautious? Gaby Bitarian, Brand Director, Panerai – Middle East & India, thinks that the pandemic has altered purchasing behaviour, which the brands are learning to adapt to. “Globally, markets are starting to gradually open up again. We are already seeing an upward uplift in sales within specific markets and in India as well, and hope to see a similar trend across the rest of the markets,” he says.
As per the ‘Luxury Watches & Jewelry Report 2020’ by Statista, which was released in August 2020, the luxury watches and jewellery segment (Europe, United States, China and South America) accounted for 20 per cent of the luxury goods revenue in 2019.
Things are different this year. COVID-19 and the lockdown cast a long shadow on all the businesses including the luxury watch sector. However, the global market is on the road to recovery and as per another report called Luxury Watch Market by End-user, Distribution Channel, and Geography – Forecast and Analysis 2020-2024’ by Technavio, as the markets recover, the luxury watch market size is expected to grow by USD 1.64 billion during the period 2020-2024, says Gaurav Mehta, Founder & CEO, Jaipur Watch Company. The report also predicts 43 per cent of the growth will come from the Asia-Pacific region; and China and India will be front-runners in terms of market size and growth.
The pandemic has severely impacted the bottom line of many industries and the luxury watch sector is no exception. Mehta’s company had been selling around 1,700 units per year, untill the COVID-19 outbreak; but since March, the sales have been wildly disrupted as the business came to a sudden halt.
While the revenues were low, the learnings were high. The first-of-it-kind crisis jolted everyone out of their comfort zones. It’s a wake–up call that has pushed brands to innovate, recreate and re-strategise.
Hence, the main focus for Paneraihas been to stay in touch with their customers and make sure they know that the brand stands by their side and is available to cater to their needs. “Panerai focussed heavily on being present within the digital landscape, with several activations aimed at providing content that resonates with our audience during this time,” informs Bitarian.
One such initiative was #OwnYourTime, which connected Panerai’s followers with the brand’s global ambassadors through several live-streamed sessions that involved Q&As and activities to help them cope during this difficult time. PAMCAST, a digital storytelling platform was introduced with the intention of enhancing the online customer experience.
Digitisation, indeed, has been the saviour in these times. While physical events were cancelled, brands were very quick to adapt. Bitarian points out that Panerai promptly prepared for the first digital version of Watches and Wonders and that the concept was much appreciated by the press, retail partners and clients.
“Times are changing. The once apprehensive luxury market is now slowly going online and creating unique, almost tangible experiences via events and new launches and for its customers,” says Mehta.
The Jaipur Watch Company works closely with its client online to create a blueprint of the design of their bespoke watches and follow up with multiple iterations until the client are happy. “We then create a 3D video of the watch to show how the final product will look. Only when the client is 100 per cent satisfied, we manufacture the watch,” says Mehta.
Does this mean that there will be fewer people who would prefer to walk into a showroom and buy watches online? Mehta points out that currently, there’s a tussle between the want to experience a product before buying and the need to buy online. “Which is why brands need to design tangible online experiences for their customers, creating a sense of trust and comfort in online buying,” he says. There will be teething issues, but eventually, the convenience of buying online will win and customers will not differentiate between a showroom experience and an online shopping experience.
Bitarian thinks otherwise, “The boutique experience will always play an important role in the luxury watchmaking sector, as clients still want to touch and feel the watches before making a purchase. However, digital will play a major role in decision making and building emotional connections with brands.”
As restrictions ease, Panerai has been welcoming customers to their boutiques on one–to–one appointment basis.
The Jump Hour Watch
Jump Hour Watch is Jaipur Watch Company’s limited-edition watch from their Harmony Collection. It is a unique timepiece that has an ‘hour window’ instead of the ‘hour hand’. Unlike the traditional watch, in which the hour hand sweeps the dial, this distinctive creation has a disc behind a tiny window on the dial that ‘jumps’ to indicate the hour accurately when the minute hand touches 12 (60 minutes). It works on a mechanism based on a modified automatic movement with a power reserve of 40 hours. This elegant timepiece comes with a steel case, chrome finish, special lugs and a ‘quick-release’ strap and is available in 2 sizes (46mm for men and 40mm unisex size).
Submersible Goldtech™ – 44 mm
Panerai Submersible Goldtech timepiece is made using a gold alloy with an intense and stable colour made possible by its significant copper content and enrichment with platinum. The dial features applied indexes and satiné soleil decoration, which is an unconventional embellishment in the Submersible collection. Known as Carbotech, this composite consists of overlapping carbon fibre sheets with alternating orientations. It is water-resistant up to 30 bar and has a black rubber strap and a trapezoidal pin buckle in titanium with black DLC coating.