9 Marketing Secrets of Luxury Watch Brands

Posted by David Kindervater on Jan 29, 2019

Traditional luxury watches are a hot item these days, even with the popularity and affordability of digital smartwatches. In fact, luxury watch brands are not only surviving in the modern age, they're thriving.

After three consecutive years of decline, Swiss watch exports to the U.S. are on the rise. American Swiss luxury watch sales jumped substantially in the first half of 2018 versus the same period a year earlier. Luxury watch sales were set to top £1 billion in Great Britain in 2018, and VIP concierge service Watches of Switzerland reported a 29% increase in global sales.

Luxury watch brands have proven they can successfully market their timepieces. Let's discover some of their marketing secrets so you can apply them to your business, too.

1. Rolex: Start With a Brand Concept

luxury watch brandsRolex got its start in the early 1900s. This was an era when men were primarily using pocket watches, because wristwatches weren't very precise. Women found wristwatches more appealing as an item of jewelry rather than a timepiece.

Enter founder Hans Wilsdorf. He believed in the potential for the wristwatch in the 20th century. So he made it his mission to turn it into an everyday object for both men and women—one that would be elegant, accurate, durable, and waterproof. He wanted to prove that wristwatches and chronometric precision were suitable partners.

Wilsdorf's vision became a reality in 1914. One of his first wristwatches received the same Class A certificate normally reserved for marine chronometers. It was the first such distinction awarded to a wristwatch.

This was a tremendous accomplishment, but he still needed a name for his luxury watch brand. He recognized the importance of brand concept, so he developed some criteria for his would-be moniker, and they're branding principles that still apply today.

Wilsdorf determined that the name should be:

  • brief, with no more than five letters;
  • simple to pronounce in any language;
  • pleasant sounding;
  • effortless to remember;
  • easy to etch onto the watch's dial and movement.

Thus, the name Rolex was born.

Its iconic Oyster model emerged in 1926 as the first waterproof wristwatch. The Oyster has since become the pillar of Rolex's legendary fleet, which sells between $5 and $8 billion worldwide annually. As a result, Rolex is the most popular of the luxury watch brands (with the sales figures to back it up). 

The Secret: When you're developing your brand, begin with a concept that will help to establish what your business is all about. Start with a suitable name, then focus on your company's culture, message, and how your product helps your customer.

2. Tag Heuer: Keep Up With the Digital Evolution

digital evolutionEntrepreneur Edouard Heuer founded Swiss luxury manufacturing company Tag Heuer in 1860. The then-20-year-old's vision from the outset was to revolutionize the industry. It's a goal that continues to this day with the moniker "Swiss Avant-Garde Since 1860."

As technology and the times evolved, so did Heuer's brand—from the oscillating pinion (invented and patented by Heuer) to numerous aesthetic and commercial revolutions.

With the recent rebuild of their website, Tag Heuer wanted to keep pace with the digital evolution. They thought of mobile-first with the design, since 60% of their site visitors were coming from a mobile device. Besides streamlined editorial content, they also enhanced the product experience with an optimized e-commerce setup that allowed site visitors to easily make a purchase.

Additionally, Tag Heuer recognized the need to focus on the future. So they began to target a relatively untapped market: that younger generation pursuing power and affordability.

CEO Jean-Claude Biver said:

"Our approach enables us to attract younger generations and encourage them to fall in love with beautiful pieces and to wear a wonderful chronograph on their wrist. Attracting these consumers is a challenge that I'm delighted to be taking up together with a team who is passionate about what they do and highly committed to their company."

The revised website experience—plus a social media emphasis using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn—has Tag Heuer poised for the future. 

The Secret: Mobile phones generate more than half of all worldwide website traffic. Don't wait to optimize your website for growing mobile visitors. Create a responsive site that caters to the mobile user first, but serves visitors from any platform. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) helps you put mobile first by loading pages faster to mobile devices. 

3. Tiffany & Company: Find Your Focus

tiffany blue boxTiffany & Company's legacy dates back to 1837. Businessman Charles Lewis Tiffany arrived in New York City with a passion for the most beautiful diamonds in the world. He also had a vision to redefine glamour and style everywhere.

Tiffany started a luxury jewelry and specialty retailer by catering to the wants of magnates, socialites, and heads of state. They were known as Tiffany, Young and Ellis at the time, and their initial mid-1800's branding featured "stationery and fancy goods."

Once they realized their niche was jewelry rather than paper goods, however, they rebranded themselves to match their target market demand. They understood that to fulfill their potential, they would need to focus on jewelry alone and be the best in the business as Tiffany and Company, sans stationery and other fancy goods.

Today, the brand's coveted Tiffany Blue Box is an international symbol of style and sophistication. When you buy a luxury Tiffany and Company watch (or any other Tiffany product), it comes in a distinctive blue box tied with a white satin ribbon. This serves as a constant reminder of the rebranding that set the focus for this legendary company.

The Secret: Rather than trying to be all things to all people, focus on what you do best. Then go after it with everything you have. A fundamental rule of marketing is you can't be everything for everybody. You can't build your brand and market it to serve everyone. Focus on your competitive advantages and make them the core offerings of your business. It's better to be great at one or two things rather than average at a bunch of them.

4. OMEGA: Exclusivity in Social Media

social media marketingSwiss luxury watchmaker OMEGA is a brand that has found success in the luxury market for more than 100 years. Since 1848, they've learned to adapt to the times and find their audience.

Currently, that audience is hanging out on social media, so it wasn't a surprise to see them utilizing social for an exclusive marketing campaign, even if it seemed like a non-traditional choice for a manufacturer of luxury goods.

OMEGA turned to their Instagram account with the hashtag #SpeedyTuesday and generated millions of euros in profits for a limited-edition Speedmaster watch. It proved Instagram's potency as a selling platform and the network's potential for luxury brands. The offer featured 2,012 pieces, and OMEGA sold out in four hours and 15 minutes. The campaign was so successful they tried it again and sold all their available Speedmaster Ultraman kits in just under two hours. 

This is not how your father bought his OMEGA watch, but it's clearly an effective way to sell luxury watches today.

OMEGA President and CEO, Raynald Aeschlimann, shared some of his insight into the campaign:

"This was a hugely adventurous and pioneering project. It was new territory—especially for a luxury brand—but its success was not a surprise. With the Speedmaster, we knew there was a dedicated community of online fans who would react enthusiastically. They're posting and sharing their love for the Speedmaster every day—often using the #SpeedyTuesday hashtag to promote content and comments. It’s a truly unique watch community and one we're proud to participate in as a brand."

OMEGA connected with their passionate fans on a human level. They listened to their online community and responded with a product that was sure to please. It was largely an understanding of their brand and their customers. And it worked.

Aeschlimann continued:

"This goes beyond simple marketing. It’s about building trust and relationships with customers. It’s something we plan to continue for the future and I know it will generate much more success."

The Secret: Social media is a powerful platform you should consider when you're crafting your next marketing campaign. About 76% of U.S. consumers have bought a product they discovered on a brand’s social media channel. Try a limited quantity and/or time-sensitive campaign and measure your return, but always listen to what your supporters are telling you via social. Give them what they want. If you have an enthusiastic social following, they're likely going to support your endeavors.

5. Bulgari: Embrace Omnichannel Marketing

omnichannel marketing bulgariMany luxury brands would think twice before opening a retail store these days. Since 2017, many U.S. luxury retail brands have struggled to survive. That's why it seemed like an unusual move when Italian luxury brand Bulgari reopened their U.S. flagship store in New York City. There was a method to their supposed madness, however.

It's called omnichannel marketing. Bulgari is regularly named as one of the best luxury brands for establishing an omnichannel experience for its consumers.

In an era dominated by e-commerce, the brick-and-mortar store serves as a "luxury house," where retail becomes an integral part of the consumer experience. Bulgari uses omnichannel marketing to give their customers complete brand involvement.

Bulgari has created an omnichannel journey with multiple touch points blending digital with traditional retail. In China, they even added hotels to their mix of offline boutiques and e-commerce web pages. While online, Chinese customers can create a list of preferred products they're interested in, then make an offline appointment at the boutique closest to them to learn more about those products.

The Secret: Give your customers an integrated shopping experience. Whether they're shopping online, calling your business on the phone to speak to a customer service rep, or visiting your brick-and-mortar store, the experience should be seamless. This is true omnichannel marketing and it has its rewards. Companies with an omnichannel approach keep almost 90% of their customers.

6. Cartier: Develop a Multichannel Digital Strategy

When it comes to digital competency, Cartier's considered a leader in the luxury jewelry sector. The french luxury goods conglomerate was rated at a "Genius" level because of its effective combination of e-commerce, digital marketing, social media, and mobile.

Cartier received high praise for their YouTube and Instagram channels, plus they excelled with their search-engine marketing strategies and website product pages.

Their series of "Winter Tale" advertising campaigns provide good examples of the multichannel marketing mix. These campaigns featured online and mobile display advertising, a dedicated microsite, video spots, and social-media marketing.



Cartier's mobile advertising featured interstitial ads that connected consumers with the videos, asking them to follow the Cartier leopard along a journey of discovery. To reach their desired market, they targeted the specific sites and apps they wanted to align with. They also chose specific carriers and types of phones. For example, they determined that an AT&T customer would have a better credit rating than a MetroPCS customer. Thus, they targeted the AT&T customer as a better fit for their products.

The Secret: When creating a digital marketing campaign, be sure to include as many channels as you can effectively use. Why? Multichannel shoppers spend 3x more than single-channel consumers. Plus, half of multichannel marketers say they almost always reach their target ROI.

7. Breitling: Banish Sexism

Breitling boutiqueSwiss luxury watchmaker Breitling had become infamous for its hyper-masculine marketing. When Georges Kern became the company's new Global CEO in 2017, however, he initiated changes. This included a non-sexist approach to their advertising efforts.

Historically, Breitling's ads oftentimes depicted scantily clad women in what was generally considered sexist content. Additionally, its flagship New York City boutique featured a sculpture of a busty woman on top of a torpedo.

The ads have been revised and the artwork has since been removed.

In an interview with a Swiss newspaper, Kern said:

"Some customers thought they were funny. But such clips were no longer suitable and do not reflect the values of today’s society. We just can’t show this stuff anymore.”

In turn, Breitling upgraded their branded boutiques. The Pop Art pin-up girls have been replaced by luxe pool tables, motorcycles, and industrial designs. In a press release, some of the wording included "updating its trailblazing innovative spirit for a new era," and "opening our doors to a new generation of Breitling enthusiasts."

The Mad Men marketing era is a thing of the distant past. Women are no longer portrayed as powerless or unable to take care of themselves. Sexist advertising, the kind that Breitling used along with their aviation themes, was considered more offensive than effective. Female pilots said the company was behind the times, missing out on golden opportunities to promote women in aviation.

The Secret: To be inclusive with your marketing efforts means striving to create a visual culture that's more representative. Inclusivity in advertising is a bigger challenge than any one company alone can solve, but you should be aware of the layers of diversity. Gender and skin color are just the beginning. Your customers are complex and unique, and your marketing should reflect that.

8. Crown & Caliber: Make Customer Service a Priority

Crown & Caliber is the premier consignor of used luxury watches in America, and they operate with an emphasis on customer service. They learn what the luxury market wants from the brands they deal with every day.

Crown & Caliber CEO Hamilton Powell said:

"When dealing with expensive items, it's important to portray trust and professionalism. Excellent customer service is the best way to put a customer at ease. Successful customer service representatives will portray empathy and will make the owner feel comfortable placing their beloved [luxury item] in safe hands."

The Secret: Whether you own a luxury business or not, it's always a good idea to give your customers the royal treatment. Besides showing empathy and building rapport with them, you can simply thank them for their business. A handwritten note is a great start.

When you have a large number of notes to write by hand, Simply Written can help. Our patented digital handwriting technology is an engaging and powerful way to show appreciation without investing a lot of your valuable time. Here's how it works.

9. Be Creative and Experiment

Smartwatches, which can retail for a few hundred dollars or less, have cut into the sales of traditional watches with more than 115-million units sold in 2017. Sales are predicted to double within the next four years.

Even with that kind of growth, there's not much evidence to suggest that luxury watch sales have been greatly affected—as the statistics have shown. There is cause for concern, however, and it's plain to see that each brand type has an eye on the other when it comes to creating and marketing their products.

Apple's Luxury Approach

luxury apple watchTake Apple for example. They've attempted to make their popular Apple Watch more extravagant by offering a high-end timepiece (the Series 4 Hermes) as well as various luxury bands. Now they're marketing these options to their current customers who might want an elite Apple Watch experience. Not that Apple needs to worry about their watch sales. They've never released their wristwatch sales figures, but CEO Tim Cook recently said his company sells more Apple Watches than the entire Swiss watch industry combined.

Introducing Smartwatch Hybrids

Naturally, the admiration works both ways. Some of the luxury watch makers are creating what's become known as smartwatch hybrids. They look like traditional watches, but they sync with a smart device to track activity goals and sleep.

The Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture is just such an example. It was the first watch to combine technology with a mechanical, manufacture-made movement. Aside from its status as a luxury timepiece, it features step and sleep tracking, plus health coaching from a companion app. The price tag is $3,795 and Frederique Constant is marketing it to their current customers.

These products represent an act of survival more than anything else, and there are questions to answer. What do you do when your competition creates a product that could run you out of business? How can you make what they made, only better?

The Secret: Be creative and experiment. When you're stepping into new territory for your brand—for whatever reason—don't be afraid to climb outside your brand boundaries. Test your marketing messages with the goal of attracting some of your competition's customers.

Learn Marketing From Luxury Watch Brands

Luxury watch brands can teach you a lot about how you conduct your marketing efforts. Most of these brands have been in business since the 1800s, so they've likely seen everything that works and everything that doesn't. We can learn from both their triumphs and mistakes. Hopefully, their marketing secrets can help your brand succeed.

One concept that most luxury watch brands can agree upon is how to treat consumers with great care—to give them the luxury customer service experience they deserve.

Regardless of how luxe your business is, when you want to show how much you appreciate your customers, send them a handwritten note of thanks. Simply Written's handwritten correspondence is simple—and effective. Start today and help your business create connections that last a lifetime.

Contact us with questions or request a free sample today.

Topics: luxury marketing