ABOUT TIME: In a strategic shift for Compagnie Financière Richemont’s watch business, IWC Schaffhausen has launched exclusively on Mr Porter and Net-a-porter, the only pure play e-tailers to carry the high-end timepieces.
Until now, Richemont’s high-end watches have been sold through monobrand stores, or bricks-and-mortar third-party retailers. Cartier watches were the only exception: Last May, they started selling through The Watch Gallery, which has online and bricks-and-mortar outlets in the U.K.
It’s no surprise, either, that Richemont chose Mr Porter and Net to sell the brands: the group, which formerly owned Net, holds the largest single stake in the sites’ parent, Yoox Net-a-porter Group, and retains substantial voting rights in the company, which is quoted on the Milan bourse.
Like many luxury goods captains, Richemont’s owner and executive chairman Johann Rupert has long been wary of the web and the leap into e-commerce, but has begun to embrace digital changes as he looks to shut underperforming bricks-and-mortar stores and streamline company operations.
Richemont’s high-end watch business is also suffering, as demand in China and Hong Kong weakens. As reported earlier this week, Richemont plans to enter talks with Swiss unions as it looks to slash 200-250 jobs in its watchmaking division.
Sales in Richemont’s specialist watchmaking division, which also includes Vacheron Constantin, Panerai and Piaget, decreased by 17 percent in the first half of the fiscal year, while those at Richemont’s jewelry brands, which also sell watches, were down 13 percent.
Over the past year Richemont has been systematically buying back some of its highest-priced watches, most of them gold Cartier models, saving the jewels and melting down the metal in a bid to help its third-party wholesale partners.
Mr Porter and Net have inked a global partnership with IWC: On Thursday, a selection of core models across the Pilot’s Watches, Ingenieur, Aquatimer, Portugieser and Portofino families launched on Mr Porter. Models include the signature Portugieser Tourbillon Mystère Rétrograde model. Earlier this week Net launched with a selection of timepieces across the Pilot’s Watches and Portofino families.
Mr Porter prices range from $3,950 to $121,000, while Net prices range from $3,950 to $37,900.
“This is a great opportunity for us to make our products more easily accessible for a younger generation of watch lovers who are used to shopping online,” said Georges Kern, chief executive officer of IWC, which was founded in 1868 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and is one of the largest luxury watch brands in the world.
Federico Marchetti, YNAP’s chief executive officer, said the move “will propel our fine watches and jewelry category to the next level,” while Alison Loehnis, president, Net-a-porter and Mr Porter, added that fine jewelry and watches are a “key focus” and “sure to appeal to our discerning global customer.”