By  on April 23, 2007

There's never been a better time for luxury watches.

Executives at last week's Swiss watch fairs — Baselworld Watch & Jewelry Show in Basel and the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva — cited robust demand for their most expensive timepieces, strong momentum in emerging markets and increased attention from women as elements that are pumping more power into their already formidable engines.

Most executives described market conditions as no less than amazing, saying that the global wealth-creation machine is propelling their most expensive products to unprecedented levels of success.

machine is propelling their most expensive products to unprecedented levels of success.

"If you haven't made money in the last couple of years, it's time to quit," said Corum owner Severin Wunderman. "It's literally insanity. In my 40 years in the business, it's never been like this."

Such declarations resounded from most leading brands, from Rolex and Omega to Patek Philippe and Cartier, all of which introduced models that retailers said are sure to drive more gains in the market.

Officials from those firms, as well as Tag Heuer, Hublot, Audemars Piguet, Zenith, Ebel, Van Cleef & Arpels, Jaeger LeCoultre, Baume & Mercier, Chopard, de Grisogono, Bulgari, Chanel, Harry Winston, David Yurman and Montblanc, all said they anticipate strong double-digit growth in 2007.

Exports of watches increased 22.7 percent in February, the most recent month reported, boosted primarily by gains in the most expensive timepieces, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Watches costing more than $100,000 were plentiful at the fairs and timepieces in excess of $1 million emerged as the new benchmark for the extraordinary, largely because of demand from Asia, Russia, the Middle East and the U.S.

The bullish mood reflected the findings of a Goldman Sachs report released this month before the start of the Swiss fairs that concluded consumer demand for luxury watches is likely to accelerate in the next six months, especially for pricey and sporty styles. Results of the annual survey, which is based on responses from 89 international retail groups, representing more than 600 stores, were the most positive since the investment house began the polling in 2003.

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