Late to the Party
Tatler Hong Kong|August 2020
Watchmakers are finally going online in a bid to jumpstart sales. But with boutiques closing around the world because of Covid-19, what does this mean for collectors?
Annie Darling
From augmented-reality filters that let you “try on” watches to virtual sales assistants offering up-to-date advice, today’s use of technology by watchmakers is striking for an industry that has famously clung to tradition. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, high-end watchmakers were struggling, particularly towards the end of last year after months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which is an important market for Swiss timekeepers. So when governments imposed Covid-19 lockdown measures just a few months later, the brakes were well and truly put on “Swiss Made” watchmakers everywhere.

For Giles English, co-founder of aviation-themed watchmaker Bremont, the numbers are impossible to ignore. “The industry has been badly hit,” he says, “but it will certainly recover.” Watch exports plummeted by more than 20 per cent in March compared to last year, according to a report released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS). Another study by private investment group Bank Vontobel predicts that exports will decline by 25 per cent in 2020, exceeding figures from the legendary quartz crisis of 1975 (down 15.2 per cent) and the more recent 2009 financial crisis (down 22 per cent). But don’t worry, your pocket-sized investments are still safe. That same report predicts that exports will bounce back by about 15 per cent in 2021.

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