The pandemic disrupted the Swiss watch industry and proved a catalyst for some beneficial change. The industry is more optimistic compared to 2020, but concerns remain, and many players are adapting their business strategies to new realities. Over the past 18 months, the Swiss watch industry underwent an acceleration of digitalisation and this continues. But this shift was borne out of necessity. In the future, proactively recognising, anticipating and adapting to the demands of a changing landscape will make the difference between those in the industry who simply survive and those that thrive.

This eighth edition of the Deloitte Swiss Watch Industry Study is based on an online survey of 67 senior executives, interviews with industry experts and an online survey of 5,558 consumers in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

77% of executives surveyed judge the outlook for the Swiss watch industry as positive for the next year.

Key findings

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Industry prospects are positive

77% of executives surveyed judge the outlook for the Swiss watch industry as positive for the next year, but they expect growth only in segments of Chf 5,000 (export price) and above. 24% expect the Swiss watch industry overall to achieve pre-pandemic sales volumes by the end of 2021, with 36% predicting sales parity by the end of 2022.

China’s influence

Chinese consumers have helped the industry through the pandemic. The Chinese luxury watch consumer is much younger, on average, than consumers in other countries, willing to spend more and very open to innovative and new retail models. The industry is focusing its attention on mainland China and working out the best ways to approach this market.

It’s all about omnichannel

67% of executives surveyed believe that offline sales will continue to dominate, but digitalisation continues to accelerate and an omnichannel strategy is essential. Nearly half of consumers want to buy via e-retailers, social media or e-auctions.

Consumer behaviours

With Millennials and Gen Z gaining more purchasing power, they are the generations most interested in watches and they prefer luxury mechanical watches if given the choice. Smartwatch wearers continue to increase in numbers, but 23% of consumers wear both traditional and smartwatches. Timepieces have become solid investments and almost 1 in 5 consumers buy watches for this purpose.

Pre-owned professionalises

Brands see the pre-owned market as a way to introduce themselves to new audiences. 65% of executives are implementing some type of strategy for the certified pre-owned market. The proportion of consumers who are likely to buy pre-owned increased 11 percentage points compared to 2020.

Serious about sustainability

72% of brands are investing more in sustainability to reduce their carbon footprint and address consumer demands. 60% of consumers consider sustainability in their purchasing decision with the most important aspects being ethical sourcing and the environmental impact of the materials. Supply chain transparency and traceability are crucial now and in the future.

Industry highlights

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Karine Szegedi

Partner

+41 58 279 8258

kszegedi@deloitte.ch

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Jules Boudrand

Director

+41 58 279 8037

jboudrand@deloitte.ch

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