The leaders of some of the biggest Swiss watch brands like Patek Philippe and Oris, said the demand for luxury timepieces is starting to slow from an unprecedented industry boom during the pandemic, according to a Bloomberg report.
“I see in the past two months, the market is a little bit slower than before,” said Thierry Stern, the chair and controlling shareholder of Patek Philippe SA, the family-owned Geneva-based brand.
“I don’t say that it’s very bad — not at all. But I just see that it’s slowing down,” he added in an interview.
Oris, the independent brand, said although its revenues are up by double-digit percentage points so far this year it too is seeing some early signs of softness from retailer orders, the Bloomberg report added.
“The sell out has been continuously good but then stocking has been a little bit softer,” co-chief executive Rolf Studer said in an interview.
The comments mark an early indication that the luxury watch sector may be cooling after demand and Swiss exports surged to record levels close to 25 billion Swiss francs ($27.6 billion) during the pandemic as a new generation of consumers, particularly in the US, rediscovered mechanical timepieces, states the Bloomberg report.
"Demand for Patek’s watches, which start at around $30,000, still far outstrips supply. But the company’s president said anticipation of new models or concerns about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and economic uncertainty could be damping consumer appetites," the report added.
Oris said the US market was still strong as was France but European countries including Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands were more challenging, it said. “You see that people are a little more cautious,” Studer said.
Julien Tornare, the head of the Zenith watch brand, warned that there is “quite a bit of instability everywhere” despite ending 2022 with the best-ever sales performance since being acquired by luxury juggernaut LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE in 1999. Tornare pointed to the “trauma” of the three-year pandemic shutdown of the China retail market, which was the top destination for Swiss watch exports before being surpassed by the US in 2021, the Bloomberg report added. “I think we need to be a bit patient to get back to what we knew before,” Tornare said of Chinese buyers who have yet to fully return to pre-pandemic spending habits since the end of Covid-Zero policies there.