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Luxury Goods – China is Buying

The Chinese are Now Top Watch Buyers

China is likely to become the world’s largest luxury watch consumer in 2012 and have sales surpassing 210,000.

Customers are snapping up these expensive accessories to make a fashion statement, give as business gifts or collect, according to the report published by the Shanghai-based Fortune Character luxury magazine. The first reason stated by our respondents for luxury watch shopping is to match their outfit. Telling time was the least- stated reason, accounting for 5 percent.

Why buy a luxury watch ?

  • 37% to complement a suit.
  • 26% for hobby or collection
  • 15% as an investment
  • 8% as a commercial gift
  • 7% to show status
  • 5% to keep time
  • 2% other

Where luxury watches are bought ?

  • 59% in domestic store
  • 37% overseas
  • 2% through agencies
  • 1% second-hand stores
  • 1% online stores

For the first time since the study was launched in 2004, China surpassed the USA as the country exhibiting the highest demand for luxury watches, representing 23 percent of all watch-related searches, giving Asia-driven brands such as Swatch Group’s Omega and Longines a tailwind against a slowdown in Europe this year.

The watch and jewelry sector has become a new growth area for brands such as PPR SA’s Gucci unit and LVMH that have not traditionally specialized in this category.

Statistics from the global advisor Bain and Co show that watches and jewelry have taken the place of perfume and cosmetics, becoming bestsellers in China since 2010, leading the market with an annual output of 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) in 2010.

Gucci, one of the top three brands in China, has seen a promising increase in sales, with “double-digit growth” in its watch and jewelry sector every year in China. One of the advantages for the company, is the “strong brand awareness” among Chinese consumers, although dedicated manufacturers such as Rolex Watch Co and Omega Watch Co still dominate the market.

An extremely powerful force in the luxury and fashion industries with 60 brands, LVMH took control of the Italian jeweler and watchmaker Bulgari Time SA in March last year. Many industry insiders said the move indicates the company’s ambitions to tap into the emerging markets in Asia such as China, where Bulgari has drawn the vast majority of its sales. It is expected that the acquisition will help LVMH’s watch and jewelry businesses better share the fruits of the Chinese market, which, including the LVMH unit, Tag Heuer, and Zenith SA, accounted for only 20 percent of its business in Asia.

Numbers from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry show that China became the world’s third-largest market for Swiss watches in 2011, with the highest increase in sales, 47.8 percent, among all markets. Hong Kong has remained the top market with the largest number of orders for Swiss watches since 2008.

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