Celebrations for the Lunar New Year were dampened by the spread of the coronavirus, with rising fears as towns were placed under quarantine. Parades were cancelled, travel bans imposed across China and many brands shut down stores. Nike, for example, temporarily closed half its stores and Apple closed all its stores. In a reversal of roles, instead of cashing in huge profits, as one would expect from a nation that is expected to make up 65% of the world’s luxury spending by 2025, brands have been giving back, with big names such as LVMH and Kering donating money towards efforts to fight the virus. Chinese tech giants, including Baidu, have also pledged millions towards medical research and supplies. So, in a very different context to usual, which watch brands came out on top this Lunar New Year?
Using a social listening tool, we analysed which five watch brands made the biggest impact on social media during the Lunar New Year. Here are the results.
Each year Chopard releases an astrology-inspired watch to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The dial of this year’s execution shows a rat (for the Year of the Rat), depicted using the ancient Japanese art of Urushi painting. Chopard kept up a steady stream of social media posts throughout the period, a possible reason why the brand ranks high on our list. This included nine posts on its Instagram account in red and gold, the traditional colours of the Lunar New Year, including a video showing the craftsmanship behind the dial. The dial itself could be another reason for this popularity. It shows Chopard’s respect for Chinese tradition, featuring symbols such as spring flowers to represent the spring festival. The watch is produced in a limited edition of 88, which is a lucky number in Asian cultures.
The brand didn’t run any special social media campaigns for Lunar New Year but it did release a watch inspired by Chinese astrology, a tradition it began in 2009. This year marks the 12th edition and therefore the conclusion of the 12-year cycle of the zodiac. That this is the end of this “tradition within a tradition” could be why Panerai was so prominent on social media. The watch’s bold design compared with other Chinese zodiac watches could also explain its popularity. A hinged cover on the Luminor Sealand – 44mm is etched with a rat using the sparsello technique, following which layers of gold threads are hammered into the etched surface. This was also a limited edition of 88.
Cartier, along with other brands including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, built on the New Year tradition of older family members giving red envelopes containing money to younger members – red being the colour of good fortune and happiness – and created its own red envelopes. Cartier’s envelopes gave the starring role to its panther and were embellished with gold leaf as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Knowing that the brand didn’t release any special New Year watches, its spin on the red envelopes explains why it was so popular on social media. Cartier is investing heavily in China, including the opening of an online store on the Tmall Luxury Pavilion platform. While there were no specific campaigns on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, the brand is active on WeChat, China’s largest messaging app.
For the 2019 Lunar New Year, Bulgari launched a controversial marketing campaign with a play on words that many found offensive. Looking at social listening, this doesn’t appear to have affected the brand’s popularity this year – possibly the result of heavy investment in China where Bulgari plans to open new stores and expects to see its jewellery sales double over the next five years. Six Instagram posts in traditional red and gold highlighted the Diva’s Dream collection. The desirability of its jewellery amply compensated the fact the brand didn’t release a special New Year watch.
After Omega, Rolex is the largest luxury watch brand in the Chinese market, and this desirability no doubt explains why it remained popular during the celebrations, despite not releasing any New Year watches or posting about New Year on its social media accounts.