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2018 Trend report: Big tick for men's watches

Men continue to express their personal style with watches. Why are these timepieces still the ultimate accessory of choice?

The men’s watch market has been inundated with smartwatches and wearables for a few years now. Some international suppliers are now even producing ‘hybrids’ – traditional watches that integrate smartwatch functionalities – in order to keep up with the times.

Despite this, traditional timepieces have maintained their relevance and stature as the go-to male accessory, assuring many within the industry that a classic timepiece that reflects the wearer’s personal style is still the most important aspect for male consumers.

Stuart Smith is the group marketing manager of Seiko Australia. He notes technological innovations only continue to propel the category forward.

“The mechanical side of the business has improved with technology over the years and is a lot more stable,” Smith says.

“Many of the ranges have changed over to solar technology, where previously we had mechanical movements and mechanical moved into quartz movements and then quartz moved into quartz-solar. Nowadays, watches have a lot more functionality.”

David Faraday, general manager of Oozoo, Dukudu and Pernille Croydon distributor hiPP, believes consumers are gravitating back towards the beauty of analogue watch faces.

“While smartwatches have their market, they are not for everyone or for every occasion. Traditional watches are still very much sought after as they represent fashion, style and classy aesthetic values,” he says.

“In a fashion-driven world, people are always conscious of being on point – men included.”
Faraday also believes the fast-fashion landscape means men are now more inclined to own more than one watch in order to keep up with rolling trends.

“Men are now much more likely to add to their collection, rather than just having one higher-priced watch that they wear for years as they did in the past,” he notes.



Sams Group Australia
Sams Group Australia


Timely trends

Minimalistic designs have been one of the biggest trends in the watch industry in recent years, according to John Wohlers, a retailer who runs his namesake business in Wangaratta, Victoria.

“In our regional area, we sell a lot of everyday work watches. These are mostly minimalistic designed watches on leather bands of 38 to 40mm,” Wohlers says. “Digital sports watches are also very popular.”

Faraday agrees with those sentiments. “We still see consumers leaning to classic, vintage slimline styles, particularly with oversized case diameters; however, textured faces and rugged strap styles are popular in the casual styles,” he adds.

Mulco Watches Australia CEO Randolf Ramos says a combination of simple and elegant features continue to prove popular this season. “Watches are a very personal purchase; for many, they are after something quite particular,” he says. “Elegant watches with leather bands and stainless steel bands are proving to be popular, with silicone bands now part of the smart casual look.”

Smith notes a penchant for dark dials, classic bands and hardy materials.

“Stainless steel is still popular with many models featuring dark blue and black dials. In terms of casing materials, black hard plate is very popular – it almost looks like a dress design but is quite hardwearing. Black and gold is also quite a popular colour combination with men,” he says.

Sam’s Group Australia managing director Sam Der Bedrossian offers a differing view. He notes his consumers have been bucking the minimalistic trend, instead purchasing more ‘complex’ designs in recent months.

“Generally speaking, the change in demand for men’s watches has shifted from basic to more complicated styles, like chronographs, tourbillions, multi-functions and automatic watches, and accordingly a larger-size watch case,” he says.

“Skeleton automatic watches, where the movement is visible through the front or back of the watch, have also been performing well.”

Changing attitudes

Ken Abbott, managing director of Timesupply, says he has noticed a shift in how men purchase timepieces. He believes they assess whether the watch will work as a fashion accessory, rather than viewing timepieces as long-term investments.

“There are so many things now taking the place of what watches used to do, such as phones, fitness trackers and smartwatches,” he notes. “The opportunity for sales is now in selling watches as fashion accessories, which are being treated more like a piece of jewellery – it’s a short term or seasonal purchase now.”

Der Bedrossian believes consumers who prefer traditional watches do so because they present an opportunity to express their own personal style.

“Traditional watches will always maintain their elegance and timelessness and can be worn like an item of jewellery; there will always be a market for them,” he says.

Phil Edwards, managing director of Duraflex Group Australia, agrees. He goes on to offer his view on the smartwatch market and how it consequently affects retailers selling traditional watches.

“The market has changed significantly in numerous ways; there are more competitor brands now in the market and customers are spoilt for choice,” he says.

“You’re either a traditional watch customer or a smartwatch customer; we quite simply don’t need to try to compete.”

Smith concurs, adding that consumers sway towards either category exclusively, which is ultimately a positive for retailers.

“I think smartwatches are good for some people; however, they have a completely different DNA when compared to the watches that have been on the marketplace for over 100 years,” he says.

“People associate with the DNA of a watch brand and the style that brand actually brings with it. Smartwatches are still growing – the technology is changing quite rapidly at the moment – so I tend to think that what is happening now with smartwatches might not be happening in the future.”

Hans Marti of Swisstime HQ believes smartwatches are most popular “at the younger end of the demographic”, and rely heavily on social media and influencer marketing, whereas traditional timepieces have other means of drawing in consumers.

“Influence is dominated by social media and peers but it is also very fickle; brand loyalty is not strong in this market as these items are usually positioned at the ‘throw-away commodity’ end of the market. Therefore, traditional watches will continue to prosper,” he declares.


Oozoo timepieces
Oozoo timepieces
Oozoo timepieces
Oozoo timepieces

Oozoo timepieces
Oozoo timepieces
Duraflex Group Australia
Duraflex Group Australia
Swisstime HQ
Swisstime HQ


Time to sell

Abbott says retailers looking to capitalise on men’s watch sales should focus on what trends are making waves locally and abroad.

“In order to forecast trends, retailers only need look to places like the United Kingdom to see what is popular in the season ahead,” he says, adding that suppliers do much of the trend analysis already.

“Ultimately it is up to the brands to have a grasp of what is on-trend or even to create the products to push that trend; if the retailer has a good supplier and a good brand in stock then they should already have an understanding of the trends on the market.”

Ramos says retailers can maximise their watch sales by stocking products that have strong brand recognition, as he believes loyalty in this category is stronger than other sectors of the jewellery industry.

“In a brand’s online presence, ‘influencers’ are very effective in selling men’s fashion watches. All the brands are integrating online sponsorship into their digital marketing strategies,” he explains.

“Retailers who are a bit scared about stocking new watch collections may find security in brands with these partnerships. In my opinion, the retailers need to be more focused on display and should offer more styles, especially something different to their customers.”

Marti agrees with these sentiments, adding, “Influence at the traditional watch level is dominated by traditional print, sporting events like Rolex at the tennis, social marketing influencers and ambassadors. Traditional watches are aspirational so loyalty is very high.”

Ramos acknowledges the apprehension some retailers may face when wanting to introduce new watch brands and recommends starting with around 12 watches, as well as carrying products across various collections.

“We are flexible with our brand and are always happy for our stockists to switch collections and models on display,” he says. “It is about finding what products fit best for their store and their customers.”

Wohlers believes it is ultimately the responsibility of the retailer to conduct thorough research before stocking new watch brands.

“Do your homework, explore the watch market and see what brands are selling well both in store and online,” he recommends. “If stocking a new brand, make sure you can compete with online sellers and ask distributors about advertising.”

There’s no doubt that the men’s watch category is replete with choices for stylish, fashion-forward males. Retailers would do well to ensure they’re keeping up with the latest releases and stocking accordingly.

The staple timepiece is here to stay.

Capitalising on sport watch sales is easy. Here’s how:

Bezel ready – ensure all staff know how to use chronographs and bezels so they can show their customers with ease.

Ask questions – find out what physical activities customers partake in and what functions they require in a sports watch; there’s no point in an abseiler seeking out a diver’s watch!

Keep it simple – if the salesperson cannot explain the technicalities of a complicated sports watch, learn it or do not stock it. To avoid confusing customers who know little about timepieces, never introduce them to more than three brands in a single visit.

Staff specialists – designate specific sales associates to become experts on various brands. The store then has a go-to person for times when tough product questions arise.

Educate – regularly invite representatives from every watch manufacturer represented in your store to provide training sessions for your sales staff.


Diving into sports watches

Men’s lifelong love affair with the sporting world is reflected in the continuing popularity of sport watches, which offer functionality, style and adventure all in one.

Seiko Australia’s Stuart Smith says one key feature of sports watches is their durability in various environments, including ranging temperatures and water resistance.

“Men do still want to buy a mechanical watch, especially divers; they’re certainly well sought. People appreciate the mechanical movement but there are many more options available for professional divers, and this covers sports watches overall,” he says.

In order for this category to gain traction in the market, Hans Marti of Swisstime HQ says suppliers of sport watches must continue to offer a variety of products to suit every man.

“Our traserH3 appeals to those pursuing sports, military and outdoor activities, marketed for the adventure type person,” he says. “On the other hand, we also carry design-focused products like the XEMEX or Jowissa for the style-conscious man.”


Duraflex Group Australia
Duraflex Group Australia
Swisstime HQ
Swisstime HQ

Keeping watch on sales

Fall back on these timeless tips to increase men’s fashion watch sales:

Know the customer – select watch brands that match the store’s demographic. Consider the generation’s interests and see if there are any brands on the market that reflect these.

Scout trends – dedicate time to researching watch trends online through various resources. This will assure customers that staff are up-to-date on the latest styles.

The mighty touch – get the customer to hold the watch while describing its features. All customers appreciate the tactile elements behind watch shopping.

Show passion – get excited about the product. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Take care – when showing expensive watches, wear one, not two gloves. One glove suggests care and prestige, while two can be pretentious and off-putting.

Career milestone – for young consumers, buying a quality timepiece is less of a necessity than it once was. Help them to perceive the purchase as a rite of passage of a young professional. In doing so, the retailer can hope they will return later at different points in their professional career.

Fresh language – avoid repeatedly using the phrase “watch”. This can be swapped out for “timepiece”, “masterpiece”, or the name of the particular model. In doing so, the presentation of the product has more finesse and the customer acknowledges the important nature of purchasing the watch.

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Saturday, 21 September, 2019 07:12am
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