In the past year, the watch industry has witnessed a slew of unusual partnerships. As brands seek to tighten distribution and enterprises seek greater efficiencies, acquisitions and consolidation have become par for the course. So far this year, European retailer Bucherer acquired Tourneau (America’s largest watch retailer) and Richemont announced its attention to acquire the remaining shares of Yoox Net-a-Porter Group (the bid is currently under review by Italy’s stock market regulator, and an update is expected later this month).
Industry experts speculate that growing tension between Swiss watchmakers and American retailers is just part of the reason brands are charting course toward the siren song of direct-to-consumer online distribution.
Many traditional e-commerce holdouts have either partnered with online pure-play retailers to begin selling online, like Net-a-Porter and Hodinkee, or taken the plunge into online selling themselves. L2’s Digital IQ Index: Watches & Jewelry finds that 62% of brands now support DTC e-commerce, up from just 53% last year. At the accessible end of the price spectrum, there is near-universal DTC e-commerce adoption (90%).
Higher-end luxury brands remain a holdout, however: just 35% maintain their own online distribution. As gray market and resale sites continue to eat up their share of search real estate, perhaps more watch brands will come to recognize the value of carving out official space and becoming a true digital player.