LONDON — In a move that nods to the collective power of Compagnie Financière Richemont’s companies, Net-a-porter and Mr Porter have forged a strategic partnership with the Geneva-based fair Watches & Wonders.
The Richemont-owned sites will become “privileged” online retailers of Watches & Wonders, which is dominated by high-end names belonging to Richemont, such as Cartier, IWC Schaffhausen and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
The collaboration will launch Monday with 14 watchmaking brands. There will be shopping and content platforms, special editorial and product curation as well as brand launches and bespoke customer-facing campaigns.
It also marks the first time that all 14 brands will be sold together.
The partnership will involve Net’s EIP (Extremely Important Person) virtual events and small-scale appointment-based activities.
There will also be virtual, one-to-one appointments and interactive Instagram Live conversations hosted by Porter magazine’s editor in chief Sarah Bailey, and Mr Porter’s senior watch editor, Chris Hall.
Both sites also plan to introduce a number of shopping “enhancements,” including an improved size guide and the addition of trend-driven, occasion-based and material filters so that customers can fine-tune their searches.
The initiative comes in the wake of the Watches & Wonders digital platform that appeared on Net’s new Tmall flagship in April. It also marks the start of a yearlong program of watch-related activity.
As part of the new deal, Net will introduce the latest designs from Cartier, Hermès, IWC Schaffhausen, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin.
Mr Porter will host a selection of the latest designs from across 13 watch brands, including Cartier, HYT and Panerai, and will introduce two brands — Ulysse Nardin, which is owned by Kering, and Bovet, which is owned by Pascal Raffy.
Ulysse Nardin will launch with eight timepieces, including the Blast Rose Gold; Bovet will launch with four timepieces, including the limited-edition Dimier Recital 27 Green.
Alison Loehnis, president of Net-a-porter and Mr Porter, told WWD that teaming with Watches & Wonders was a big move for both online players.
“It’s hugely important. Fine watches is a core category for Net-a-porter and Mr Porter, and we’ve made the curation and refinement of our brands and selection a big focus. We have invested in hiring specialist teams — from experienced watch editors to highly trained personal shoppers — ramping up our dedicated content, adding more bespoke services, all with a view to building an online destination that does justice to these exceptional timepieces and sets the standard for fine watch e-commerce.”
Loehnis added that the partnership marks “a significant moment for us, and also for the evolution of fine watch sales, as heritage maisons shift toward digitalization. This project is a synthesis of our e-commerce know-how and the most established industry experts, and includes the introduction of further brands and novelties, more in-depth editorial, site enhancements and new customer experiences, with something for both the first-time buyer and the avid collector.”
Cartier made its online debut in May, 2017 with an exclusive pop-up on Net, launching the latest iteration of its famous Panthère watch. The brand quickly resonated with the retailer’s audience: The first watch was said to have been sold within two minutes of the launch via WhatsApp. Mr Porter had similar success with its Cartier pop-up.
Business in the category was so robust that by 2018 Net had launched a fine jewelry and watch suite.
Matthieu Humair, chief executive officer of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, the Geneva-based body that promotes watchmaking and organizes the Watches & Wonders fair, said the partnership “will create a new channel for fine watchmaking.”
Earlier this month Watches & Wonders hosted a show in Shanghai, joining a growing number of luxury labels that have taken to Mainland China while travel remains subdued due to COVID-19 quarantine measures.
Eleven watch brands, including Cartier, IWC Schaffhausen and Jaeger-LeCoultre, took part in the event at the West Bund Art Center.
The program included product launches, talks, panels and workshops on watch trends, technology and mechanical movements, as well as demonstrations by artisans.
Watches & Wonders, which was formerly known as SIHH and traditionally takes place in Geneva, became an online event in April this year as plans for a physical gathering were scuppered by coronavirus shutdowns in Switzerland.