It’s been a tough year. China levied an additional tax on imported luxury goods, sales tanked in Hong Kong, the Swiss franc got too big for watchmakers’ boots… and that’s just for starters! Suffice to say, the spirit is less festive and more anxious. That crunching sound you can hear isn’t snow, it’s the eggshells we’re walking on. “There’s no fire on the lake”, the Swiss like to say, meaning there’s nothing to get het up about. Well this time it looks as though Lake Geneva has gone up in flames!
So you see, Dearest Santa, our first wish is for a ray of hope; an upturn in the global economy so that we watchmakers can catch our breath and jump back in. It’s not like we haven’t dealt with crisis before. Between 1975 and 1985 we were as good as gone after Japanese firms flooded the market with quartz watches while we could only look on in disbelief. The excesses of the 1990s came back and bit us on the butt in 2001, 2002 and 2003. In 2008 the economy went into recession. Still, if anyone knows the dangers of a conservative mindset, you do. This is Life 2.0 after all. A long white beard, red tunic and wire-rimmed glasses hardly make you a hipster…
Anyway, what’s the wifi like in the North Pole? Because most of our clients are glued to their smartphones. We dug in our heels but finally we’re getting round to digital too, so if you could slip “E-commerce for Dummies” into our stocking, that would be great. Richemont placed its order in November. Georges Kern, ex-CEO at IWC Schaffhausen, now has the newly minted position of Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital. Jérôme Lambert, former Chief Executive of Montblanc, takes on the role of Head of Operations. Together they are taking the helm at Richemont, the world’s second-largest luxury group which in November announced a spectacular drop in profit for the first half of its fiscal year 2016, down 51% to €540 million. Their mission is to consolidate the group’s presence in the digital market. Reload!
Admit it! You know as well as anyone that digital platforms can generate strong growth. Don’t tell me you’re not counting the clicks at www.perenoel.fi? We’d love some online ho-ho-ho ourselves, so if you don’t mind we’ll add a dash of digital success to our wishlist. The English-speaking markets have far fewer internet hang-ups than we do; let’s just say we’ve allowed ourselves a little observation time in the luxury world. And be fair, the digital native isn’t easy to pin down. They grew up with a rattle in one hand, a smartphone in the other. They’re the instantaneous addicts who care more about experiences than status symbols, which is triple bad news for watchmakers. According to the Digital Competitive Map, 6% of luxury sales in 2015 were made online, a figure expected to increase threefold by 2020. Who’s to say that come one snowless Christmas Eve, Dear Santa, you won’t be doing your rounds by Uber-sleigh?
Fingers crossed it won’t be this year. We’ve spotted some fantastic watches to go under the tree, and better still on our wrists. As someone who spends 364 days of the year at 10,000 metres altitude, maybe you’ve come across the Breitling Navitimer 01 chronograph, a limited edition of 1,000. It’s a new interpretation of a high-flying favourite since 1952. Just the ticket for the astronauts who are currently orbiting the earth in the International Space Station.
We also have a few gift ideas for the people closer to home. A Baume & Mercier Promesse Moon Phase for Hillary Clinton, because she needs a lucky star; an Oris Dexter Gordon Limited Edition for David Cameron, just to convince him he’s still “Doin’ Allright” after Brexit.
Dear Father Christmas, please could you also bring a Vacheron Constantin Overseas on a hard-wearing blue leather strap for the former Mr Kardashian who started the year as Bruce and ended it as Caitlyn? And save the ivory leather version for his step-daughter Kim, a white flag she can wave at robbers. Last on our list is an all-gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Automatic for Leonardo DiCaprio, who won his first Oscar for wrestling a bear, and a Hublot Big Bang Ferrari Unico Carbon for Pope Francis, for the Italian touch.
One night to deliver gifts to seven billion quite a few hundred thousand people… we’ll be cheering you on this Christmas Eve. And when the festivities are over, join us at SIHH from January 16th to 20th 2017. There’s an open day for the public on Friday January 20th. Ideal for spotting the trends that’ll be on our list for Christmas 2017.