PARIS – For the third consecutive year, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton kicked off the luxury watch industry calendar on Monday with LVMH Watch Week presentations of its brands Bulgari, Hublot, Zenith and now Tag Heuer.
Thanks to the Omicron variant, this edition has returned to a predominantly digital format, with houses showcasing their latest designs to press and retailers via virtual conferences and, due to Paris Couture Week, limited physical presentations.
In a statement announcing the event, Stéphane Bianchi, Managing Director of LVMH’s Watches and Jewelry Division, described the four-day digital showcase as a moment to “highlight the momentum of [the group’s] four houses.
The leaders of the house were optimistic and eager to impose a steady pace of new designs and technical developments during the week, and to make a place for themselves in an expanding market.
“The industry trend is positive, and one of the reasons is that the money is always there, as is the customer’s desire to acquire beautiful objects, especially when they have less opportunity to travel and to live experiences,” said Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith.
Swiss watch exports, a key industry indicator, rose 2.1% in the first 11 months of 2021, despite a contraction in the Asian market.
Tornare attributed these good results to “long-term work over the last few years. Despite COVID-19, we have worked a lot, kept in touch, done a lot of digital and gained market share. »
Although LVMH does not release individual figures for its houses, it did note that 2021 had been a banner year for Zenith since its acquisition by the French luxury group.
He revealed his intention to open the first store in Saudi Arabia; expand the company’s operations in China with new stores in cities without Zenith’s commercial presence, and strengthen its US presence with franchise stores.
Among the models featured were the Defy 21 Chroma matte white ceramic with accents in every color of the spectrum; the Defy Midnight Sunset and Borealis, which will have strap options using materials sourced from dead-end textile specialists Nona Source, and the Defy Skyline, fitted with the new El Primero 3620 automatic in-house caliber.
“We are aiming to significantly increase production this year…due to an increased appetite [for watches] which emerged this year. I’m not in favor of creating artificial scarcity because even though it has made some models successful, consumers end up turning their attention elsewhere,” Tornare said.
For its first full participation, Tag Heuer presented 11 new models from its Aquaracer Professional Series range. ” They are not [just] new models, it’s an overhaul to clarify both the offer and the range,” said CEO Frédéric Arnault.
Its flagship model is the Aquaracer Professional 200, with a slimmer silhouette and sleeker profile, functional for speed flying or ice skiing but also suitable for more sedate daily activities, according to the executive. Automatic and quartz options will be available across the range.
LVMH Watch Week also kicked off the 60th anniversary of the Autavia collection, a line created in 1962 by Jack Heuer, which was inspired by a dashboard timer that could go from the car to the airplane – hence its name, a portmanteau of automotive and aviation. .
Three new models will join this collection: two flyback chronographs equipped with the manufacture Caliber Heuer 02 COSC Flyback movement and a three-hand GMT model equipped with the Caliber 7 COSC GMT movement.
“But these are just a taste of what is to come. We are going to have a very rich first semester, with very strong stories – some of which will revolutionize the world of watchmaking,” said Arnault, noting that Watches & Wonders in Geneva would be the next big step where the brand’s major contingent new releases will be presented.
Among the developments to be showcased will be smaller sizes to accommodate smaller wrists, including female customers; mechanical developments and increased creativity on watch dials; upgrades on existing specs such as battery life and “a fitness experience, to invest more in sports,” he said.
Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, explained that to meet the requirements of partner brands who must “see, buy and resell now, not in eight months”, his press releases had been structured around three moments: “the LVMH Watch Week , April where we will show at the same time – but not integrated – Watches & Wonders, and September, with the Geneva Watch Days.
In the spotlight in January, the Serpenti Misteriosi secret watches, housing the Piccolissimo minute mechanical movement with its BVL 100 caliber 12.30 mm in diameter designed to be housed in the serpent’s head, and the Octo Roma Emerald Grande Sonnerie and its four gong mechanism.
Babin also opened up about the direction of Roman fine jewelry for the coming year, in a context where local needs – served physically or digitally – take center stage.
“The e-commerce roadmap that we planned to accomplish in five years, we did it in 18 months,” he said, noting that the Roman house had grown from seven e-commerce sites. trade in 2020 to 28 by the end of 2020. 2022, covering 90% of the global luxury market potential.
This led to expanding the lines to adapt to the tastes of the territory. Take the Turbogas family, which will be expanded to include yellow gold models. “It is structurally an important segment of the market, especially for the United States, where customers have traditionally favored yellow gold. [over the other tones],” he said.
The precious metal was also at the center of Hublot, whose 40th anniversary was cut short by the pandemic in 2020. The brand kicked off 2022 with a yellow gold offering reminiscent of its 1980s roots.
“The first merger [we did] was to bring a rubber strap with a noble material, and when you say ‘gold’ people think of 24 karat gold, which is yellow – not pink, not white, not gray,” said Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot.
Six models, from the Classic Fusion, Big Bang and Spirit of Big Bang lines, were presented in their gold and black livery, including a Big Bang Integral 40 with automatic caliber and open dial. “Our identity shows what is the soul of the watch – the movement,” he said.
The year will also see new variations on its tattoo-inspired timepieces, in partnership with London tattoo studio Sang Bleu; the Big Bang Unico Golf Orange Carbon; as well as editions for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November.
Describing 2021 as a “year of transition”, Guadalupe expected to enter 2022 on a solid footing, despite the Omicron variant and the changing healthcare landscape.
For its female clientele, which currently represents around 24% of Hublot customers and a segment that Guadalupe hopes to reach 30-35%, the new Big Bang One Click 33 and its patented interchangeable strap system comes with a rubber strap but also the possibility of choosing one of the 12 new leather straps.
He said he was pleased with the 2021 results, which saw the brand’s sales surpass those of 2019. He attributed these results to local consumers, particularly in China and the United States, where he expects that the “incredible growth rates of 2021 continue into 2022”, despite the impact of the so-called fifth wave of contaminations.
“In China, we rely on strong local partnerships, such as naming [rapper] Lay Zhang, ambassador, and the development of our distribution network, with the opening of five new stores last year. And of course e-commerce via WeChat,” he explained.
For the US market, investment in localized advertising has generated growth that has seen 90% of Hublot’s sales in the country made to a US customer.
Digital commerce will also continue to support growth, even if it is only “a few percent”, by his admission. But a sale is not the only goal.
According to Guadalupe, while some customers may click through to buy a $20,000 watch remotely, digital was an “opportunity to create a connection to drive customers to better understand the brand and transform sales” both online and offline, or to provide quick response on customer service troubleshooting. “One of the lessons of the pandemic is that keeping in touch with your customers even when your stores are closed allows you to continue working,” he concluded.