HONG KONG — No other sector was hit quite as hard as luxury watches after China initiated its crackdown on officials' gift-giving.While the industry was left limping for a time, those days are over. Swiss watch exports to Hong Kong, its largest market, posted a 35.7 percent jump in February, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reported on Tuesday marking the 10th consecutive monthly rise.Globally, the industry may be contending with the Apple Watch nibbling market share, but Asia seems to be having a grand time. Longtime Panerai chief executive officer Angelo Bonati confirmed the brand was back to double-digit growth after dipping to single digits in 2015 thanks to Asia, while Swatch Group ceo Nick Hayek also confirmed to WWD that there was a strong acceleration in the last year boosted by China, with Swatch recording some of its best months in company history.In Hong Kong, one only needed to clock the upswing in-store openings across town this month. Thomas Meier, ceo of Glashütte Original, arrived to open the brand's first boutique in Hong Kong in Harbour City, while Audemars Piguet felt confident enough to open up its VIP lounge concept, AP House, a space not aimed at driving direct sales but at cultivating the brand's lifestyle. Its first house in Asia and fourth house worldwide, clients can use the location to “invite friends for lunch, organize a business meeting," Audemars Piguet ceo François-Henry Bennahmias said. "There’s no obligation to buy a watch. You can take a seat, relax and chill out, if that’s how the mood takes you.”[caption id="attachment_1202628419" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The newly debuted AP House by Audemars Piguet in Hong Kong.[/caption]The upbeat mood is also rippling across to the secondhand market, with Sotheby's, Bonhams and Phillips all appointing new heads of watches within the last six months. New to Bonhams is Tim Bourne, although the watch specialist has observed the regional market for the past two decades, first working in Asia in 1997."Yes, it has slipped back a little bit for the past two or three years but within the last six months to a year seen a resurgence in the market," Bourne said of the region. "I foresee the sales will start to grow quite significantly again.""It is competitive, definitely," said Thomas Perazzi, head of watches Asia for Phillips. Perazzi, who joined the auction house last November, moving from Geneva, has been struck by the youth of the new collector in Asia.
"'I would say that in Europe and in the U.S., the average age is between 30 and 50 and here in Asia we basically have collectors that are as young as 20 years old and then some who are 60 years old — the spectrum is much wider," he said.
Sam Hines, who took on the global head of watches position at Sotheby's in January and is based in Hong Kong, said some of the collectors arriving on the scene are as young as 18. Vietnamese buyers, in particular, are starting to make a name for themselves. Hines also noted that wealth tends to cluster around tighter circles in developing economies, which are excellent conditions for brewing a bit of competitive collecting.[caption id="attachment_1202629283" align="alignnone" width="1022"] A Phillips preview at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.[/caption]"At the moment, the collectors there have a huge hunger for Richard Mille," Hines said. "The collectors who are wealthy enough at this level tend to mix in the same circles. When one collector has the ultimate Richard Mille, their friends want to have one, too."
That's not to say that the market operates by quite the same rules as it did a few years ago. There is a greater emphasis on value, with even elite-level collectors showing price consciousness.
Yesterday, the Parisian fashion house @azzaro_official cut the ribbon on a temeporary retrospective at the wing of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The exhibition, which shows the lasting influence of the brand’s founder Loris Azzaro, is titled “Azzaro, Fifty Sparkling Years” and presents 50 looks. In it’s ’70s heyday, fans of the brand included Jane Birkin, pictured here, Raquel Welch, Brigitte Bardot and more. See more photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@trinaturk and @macys Inc International Concepts line are linking up on a collection for summer — filled with accessories, swimwear and shoes. The collection will also include a Mr Turk men’s line, both of which are the designer’s first entry into a more accessibly priced area. “It’s very world-traveler, gypset-inspired,” said Turk. The Trina Turk x INC line will launch on May 15th. #wwdfashion
Assouline is paying homage to the late Azzedine Alaïa with a reprint of "Alaïa Livre de Collection.” The book is comprised of photographs of the designer's summer 1992 runway show with models Christy Turlington Burns, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks, pictured here at right. #wwdfashion #alaia #tyrabanks
Fall 2018 accessories take on a painterly hue, with Nebulas Blue among Pantone’s top 10 colors of the season. (📸: @jonghyupstudio ; editor: @twallz21 ; stylist and set designer: @haideefindlaylevin ) #wwdaccessories
@americanapparelusa is relaunching the brand outside of the U.S. today, opening its online store to more than 200 countries. The company is also contemplating a return to brick-and-mortar, though details have not been confirmed. In tandem with the expanded distribution is a recasting of a social media ad campagn, called “Back to Basics,” pictured here, with a focus on diversity and a cast of models above the age of 21. Read more on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Exclusive: @britneyspears is continuing to expand her brand. The pop icon, who appears in @kenzo ’s latest campaign, is partnering with Epic Rights to launch a line of branded merchandise. Read @hernameislex ‘s story, link in bio. #wwdnews #britneyspears
The Duchess of Cambridge channeled Princess Diana’s look upon giving birth to Prince Harry, when she and the Duke of Cambridge departed the hospital with the new baby Prince this afternoon in London. #wwdeye #princeofcambridge
The new Prince of Cambridge has arrived! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge posed with the 8-pound newborn. She wore a look from one of her go-to designers, @jennypackham. Tap link in bio for more. #wwdeye #princeofcambridge