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Feature Stories, Fashion, Watches

It's about time: Fashion Watches of 2018

While jewellery trends come and go, fashion watches remain stylish no matter the season. TALIA PAZ provides the latest insight into this enduring category.

Every year, suppliers and retailers are introduced to luxury watch manufacturers’ latest offerings, including their updated versions, special editions, and a bevy of new, unique styles.

After key releases are unveiled at the important watch fairs – think Switzerland’s enigmatic Baselworld – the fashion watch trends inevitably trickle down the supply chain, making their way to the local market.

"Classic styles continue to stay on trend and always will."
Simon Garber, director of Cluse distributor Heart & Grace

Here is where the cascade of vibrant colours, striking bands, simplistic details and ornate embellishments come into play, with consumer demand for this category showing no signs of abating.

With that in mind, here’s a taste of the latest trends shaping the ultimate statement accessory category.

Peak demand

Minimalist yet versatile styles continue to saturate the watch market, Simon Garber, director of Cluse distributor Heart & Grace attests. 

“Classic styles continue to stay on trend and always will,” Garber says. “They can be adapted with new fashionable colours and fabrications each season to match any wardrobe. Classic watches really can be dressed up or down to suit any look.”

Cluse expanded into jewellery mid-2017 when the brand debuted three bracelet ranges. Capitalising on the trend of pairing watches with bracelets has paid off – it’s one of the key trends making the rounds locally and internationally. Are there other trends that retailers should consider this year?

“Square watch faces, rose gold, interchangeable watch straps and new bi-colour mesh straps,” Garber declares.

Heart & Grace
Heart & Grace

Jeanette Sceats, managing director of Pierre Cardin supplier Instyle Watches, has a few other ideas. She says simple, understated styles remain strong and what was fashionable a few years ago also seems to be coming back for round two – albeit in a slightly revamped way.

“Medium-size women’s watches are coming back but not as large as they have been in previous years,” Sceats notes. “We have also been asked to release more women’s watches with crystals so it looks like ‘bling’ may be coming back too.”

This appears to be the case for the men as well. “After the last few years of the very simple and minimal style men’s watches, we have been asked for more large, multi-function and chronograph men’s watches,” she continues. “There is still a part of the market that wants understated, simple styles, but this look is diminishing in popularity.”

David Faraday, managing director of Oozoo Timepieces and Dukudu distributer Hipp, offers his own take on what consumers will want this year.

“While the 40 mm, oversized watches continue to be the most popular, retailers need to be aware of the resurgence of desire for smaller-case watches – think 32 or 36 mm,” Faraday says. “Also, mesh straps are definitely in greater demand. Understated, simple styles are classic, and classic will always be popular.”

Staying ahead of the game

Fashion watches continue to experience healthy consumer interest; however, suppliers and retailers agree that maintaining a share of the market is one of the biggest issues they face. Those challenged with the task of maintaining robust sales believe a well-considered strategy is integral to success.

“We all know many brands have entered the fashion watch market because of the high consumer demand,” Faraday says. “Retailers should always consider the quality of the watches and a supplier’s commitment to fast warranty servicing and after-sales service when choosing which brands to stock.”

Instyle Watches
Instyle Watches

Sceats agrees with these sentiments, adding that it’s up to retailers to make sure their stock is fresh and consistently in tune with consumer demand.

“The market is tiring of so many watches with leather straps or mesh bands and consumers are looking for watches with linked, integrated metal bands,” Sceats says. “As well as wholesalers, we are watch designers and we need to work hard to find and design styles that the consumer is looking to purchase.”

Part of the game plan is to take more chances with stock, Garber adds: “Take a risk with new styles and colours to see if they resonate with your customer. Fashion trends now move at a fast pace, so it’s important to stay one step ahead and educate customers on the latest offering.”

Young at heart

A 2017 report by UK research firm Deloitte offered interesting insight into how retailers can sell watches to younger generations. One of its main conclusions? Gen Y and Gen Z shoppers care more about the style of a watch than any of its functions.

“For all practical purposes we can assume that every Millennial consumer already owns a functioning and highly-accurate timepiece in the form of a smartphone or tablet,” the report begins. “Mobile devices can offer all of the functionality of an analogue watch and more. They can also duplicate most, if not all, of the functions of a smartwatch. Yet Millennials continue to buy analogue watches for reasons of fashion and prestige.”


An article by US business publication Fast Company also provides insight into the younger generation’s penchant for fashion watches.

“Many of us [Millennials] are feeling that we’re not consuming technology anymore; technology is consuming us,” it begins. “Millennials have distinct memories of wearing watches while they were growing up… [therefore] Millennials have a nostalgic association with analogue watches. They’re looking for timepieces that look more sophisticated than the plastic Swatch or Casio Baby G watches they wore when they were children, but don’t want to shell out thousands for a high-end luxury watch.”

As Steven Kaiser, president of watch and jewellery consultant company Kaiser Time also explained in an article with US publication National Jeweler, a watch should always be treated as the emotional purchase it is. As such, this means some specific selling strategies need to come into play for younger generations.

“Aside from being technically educated on the intricacies of quartz and mechanical watches, sales staff need to romance the purchase by sharing the history of the brand and by telling personal stories that resonate with potential buyers,”

Instyle Watches
Instyle Watches

Kaiser said back in 2016. “The ability of the salesperson to key in on the emotional part of the purchase is in many cases just as important as the technical aspects of the timepiece itself.”

Staff must also be equipped to counter an all-too-common sales rejection: that consumers don’t require watches when they have mobile phones. The best way to do this is to entice shoppers to physically try on watches of interest.

“Phones do tell the time but nothing will ever replace the feeling of having a beautiful timepiece on your wrist,” Gretchen Mathews, senior vice president of human resources at watch retailer Tourneau, said in the same article.

Faraday also offers some advice for capitalising on the desires of younger generations. “Choose models that are in line with the current fashion trends,” he says. “Keep your range looking fresh and always have something new and exciting to catch your customers’ eyes.”

For the ‘gram

Employing some simple social-media techniques can do wonders for watch sales, and a good place to start is by taking inspiration from some of the big watch names.

Last year, Omega marketed its latest watch on Instagram and then created its own hashtag – #SpeedyTuesday – so that consumers could upload images of their purchases or search directly for the watch. The simple strategy paid off as the watch reportedly sold out within four hours!


Local retailers could use similar marketing ideas to improve the visibility of their latest offerings. After all, as Faraday explains, social media continues to be “very influential” for shoppers.

“Consumers are more aware of the concept of a fashion watch and are matching their watches to their outfits and changing them in line with the season,” he says.

Garber agrees with these sentiments. “Social and digital media has had a huge influence on consumers buying fashion watches,” she adds. “Influencers, celebrities and consumers love to share their watches on social media; consumers follow these fashion influencers to stay up to date with the colours and styles trending globally and buy into these new styles.”

Keeping track of what consumers are following on social media isn’t the only strategy retailers should be employing to boost watch sales. Instead, Sceats advises those seeking additional inspiration to take notice of what’s on the fashion runways.

“Look to the more fashion-forward parts of the market to determine what styles are the focus of international icons. These styles will usually trickle down the market but leave their influence in many ways, such as sizes, colours, simplicity or bling,” Sceats explains.

“Look for new styles that are wearable but have features that will attract the eye of passing consumers. By adding some colour and imagery to the store windows, you will attract customers more than by just showing the same conservative styles you have been selling for several years,” she adds.

Trends may come and go but consumers continue to maintain a healthy appetite for fashion watches. With a few savvy techniques, retailers can ultimately gain the upper hand in this robust sector.

Talia Paz • Staff Journalist

Talia Paz is a staff journalist for Jeweller, and has more than three years' experience as a freelance journalist for national and international publications, covering a wide range of industries.

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