Beyond the covid-19 horizon, the regional luxury industry seemed to have performed relatively well in Q4 of 2020, thanks to deferred purchases or ‘Revenge Luxury’. Relative is an elusive term, but for an elastic industry that was preparing to seek shelter from the storm and ready to weed out the weak, the crisis turned brands and authorized dealers on its heads and forced them to revamp their business models and marketing efforts, with personalized and more authentic messaging.
It was time for a change, and many brands were ready to accept that. The sometime clannish watch community was forced to branch out digitally (such as Direct to Consumer), practice agility and speed - virtues not heavily associated with the traditional industry and few brands even exceeded their forecasted sales targets (MB&F experienced their best sell-out in semester 1 of 2020).
While some brands fare better than others and some fairs did not, moment of silence for Baselworld, 2020 was a transformative year for the monolithic industry. We share the floor with members of the watch community and ask them for their opinion on notable takeaways from this very particular year.
The Power of Contact
There were a lot of hard lessons to be had for the watch industry in 2020—an industry known for its traditional approach to just about everything. Sure, brands learned their capabilities to reach the market/their audience digitally, but the real takeaway is a stern reminder of the value of human interaction and in-person access to product. The 2020 news cycle was rife with overlapping content, where media was forced to craft thoughts and opinions from press releases and the occasional Zoom webinar. Much as these digital connections have helped us all maintain connection with the industry, it was those outlets and writers with direct access to product who were able to properly evaluate new releases and give readers a clearer perspective. Much as studio photos and videos go a long way for marketing materials, the truth will always remain in the touch, feel, and thoughtful examination of new watch releases first hand.
-Justin Mastine Frost
Editor in Chief, Watchuseek
Embracing Digital Solutions
I think a key takeaway is not to underestimate how we could be using digital resources better as an industry. As a great example, I'd like to quote IWC CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr, who said in an interview earlier this year: “The digital proximity we are experiencing right now may have a lasting effect on how we communicate with our customers, partners, and journalists. I think it is likely that we will put an even bigger emphasis on video content in the future."
Editor & Co-founder, Quill & Pad
That the watch world will prevail. We have witnessed crisis in the past, but this year, with COVID -19, the watch industry as a whole was quick to adapt -- faster than ever before. I think the fact that there was so much under-utilized digital space hit home. Brands embraced technology like never before, so did retailers and even the auction houses and it had a great impact on saving the day. I have spoken to many executives over the past year and they all recognize that we can’t be totally digital. We need personal interaction. We need to feel the passion and enthusiasm in person, we need to see and touch the watches. But I think the key lesson learned from 2020 is that digital is not the enemy. Digital and virtual are necessary tools that, when used creatively, will enhance all future interactions. I think that moving forward into a post-pandemic new normal, these brands, retailers and others will be happy to have personal contact again, but they continue to evolve their digital prowess.
Senior Contributor, Forbes
Time for Innovation
Innovation is alive, well, and expanding in the watch industry and presents both threats and opportunities. New communication methods, sales channels, brands, collaborations, and even economic and financial models are shaking up the traditional, product-centric world we've known -- while at the same time a new generation of entrepreneurial independent makers is delighting us with both the re-invigoration of traditional watchmaking methods and the creation of exciting design-led brands.
Resident Collector, Quill & Pad
Agility is Key
One of my biggest takeaways is that the smaller or more independent brands performed so well during 2020 due to their agility. This was the number one success factor because they could take decisions on what to say, how to say it and what to launch quickly and efficiently because they had 100% control on decision making and were therefore able to adjust their business model in a relatively short time in order to adapt to our ‘new normal’. I think it demonstrated that brands should reduce the process of approvals and decision making, and should stick to their core DNA and make decisions based on that so that they don’t get lost in the mayhem. This was also obvious during some of the watch industry Insta live sessions that took place during lockdown. Things were casual and light because the circumstances demanded it – people were on camera without a proper studio setup or branding behind them and the audience loved it – being natural and genuine is what people were craving and there was a sense of relief of not having to worry so much about strict branding guidelines. Now that we’ve gone there, maybe this is something to consider as we move forward, that the industry needs more openness for the exchange of ideas and to take more risks.