THM Research reveals.
Recently, the Omega X Swatch collaboration watch, the MoonSwatch, urged throngs of people from all over the world to crowd storefronts. These buyers weren’t all fans or connoisseurs; these were people propelled by trends, legacy and affordability. It was a perfect storm of sorts that had never been seen before in the watch industry.
What this tells us is that there is a new group of people interested in watches and they are looking for something different than what has been traditionally offered. This new group, known as Generation Z or Gen-Z, comprises people born between 1997 and 2012, and they are looking for luxury watches that are more than just status symbols. They want watches that are stylish, but they also want them to be functional and have a story behind them.
Keeping that in mind, The Hour Markers team asked Gen-Zers what they want from luxury watch brands, and here’s what they said:
A story behind it all
One 21-year-old respondent noted, “Our perspectives are changing and we are inclined towards vintage watches and historical contexts. Their legacy makes them valuable to new consumers like us.” In other words, Gen-Z is interested in watches that have a story to tell. They want to know where the watch comes from and what it represents. This is likely because Gen-Z is a very socially conscious generation. They are interested in brands that are transparent and have a positive impact on the world.
While many members of Gen-Z are still finishing up their schooling and starting their careers, they are already thinking about how they will spend their money. And when it comes to luxury watches, affordability is important. Several respondents noted that they would like to see more affordable options from luxury brands. The respondent said, “I think the big issue for my generation is the price point. We love beautiful things but often can’t justify the expense.” This is probably why the MoonSwatch did so well, priced at just US$207 (super pocket-friendly for an Omega timepiece).
Besides affordability, some are also looking to invest in timepieces that hold long-term value. Recently, Bloomberg reported that pre-owned luxury watches, such as Rolex Daytonas and Patek Philippe Nautilus timepieces, had increased in value by over 30 percent over the past year. In fact, they were valued higher than vintage cars and cryptocurrency. This is the generation that cares about wealth and how to increase it, so it’s no surprise that they would be interested in watches as an investment.
Value and exclusivity
Though affordability is important, so is value. Greater purchasing power and diversified tastes have made this generation a sought-after audience for luxury brands. These are also the characteristics that make Gen-Z look for exclusivity and prestige. They want products that are unique and not mass-produced. One respondent said, “I would like to see more limited edition watches because we want to feel like they are part of a select group that has access to something special.” This is a growing trend in the world of luxury watches, with brands like Patek Philippe releasing special editions of their timepieces and Rolex introducing new metals and materials to their lineup.
Some Gen-Zers are also willing to spend more on a watch that they perceive as being valuable, such as a Rolex, Seiko or Patek Philippe. This preference for quality over quantity is something that luxury watch brands have always strived for. It is also something that Gen-Zers are willing to pay for, as evidenced by the growing market for pre-owned watches.
Gen-Z is a very socially conscious generation and they want their luxury brands to reflect that. Sustainability is important to them and they are looking for brands that are environmentally friendly. One respondent said, “I would like to see more sustainable/eco-friendly watches that use sustainable materials and processes. We are living in a time when the climate crisis is at its peak, and it is upon us and brands to show up and make changes.” This is likely because Gen-Z has witnessed the devastating effects of climate change firsthand and they want to be part of the solution. Many luxury watch brands have been acting on this preference, too, with brands like Chopard releasing timepieces crafted from sustainable materials. The Ulysse Nardin Diver Net is another example, as it is made from fishing nets, plastic bottles and the like.
Additionally, Gen-Zers are looking for transparency and they want to know that the brands they support share their values. One respondent said, “I would like to see brands be more transparent about where their watches are made and how they are made.” This is an important consideration for many young people who are looking to invest in luxury goods.
While Gen-Zers want their watches to look good, they also want them to be functional. This generation is all about experiences and they want their watches to reflect that. One 24-year-old respondent said, “I would like to see more features/functions that are useful in our modern lives. This could include things like GPS or activity tracking, which are becoming increasingly popular in the world of luxury watches.” Many brands are already catering to this need, with TAG Heuer releasing the Connected Modular 45 smartwatch and Omega releasing the Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Skyfall Limited Edition watch with GPS coordinates engraved on the case back.
This generation is very diverse and they want brands to reflect that. “I would like to see watches that are designed for people with smaller wrists (like me),” a respondent shared. This is an important consideration for many women and people of smaller stature. Fortunately, brands are beginning to address this need with companies like Citizen creating timepieces specifically for women and children, and Vacheron Constantin balancing fashion with functionality in their ladies’ watches.
Yes, they want brands to be conscious and cost-effective, but they also want brands to be creative. This generation is always looking for the next “cool” thing and they want their luxury watch brands to reflect that. One respondent said, “I would like to see more ‘out there’ designs, be it interesting dials with floating elements, eye-catching bezels, quirky inspirations and more. When you’re sporting a watch on the wrist, it can be a conversation starter, and for me, the more interesting the better.” This could also include things like unique materials or daring colour combinations. Luckily, there are already several brands doing this, such as MB&F with their crazy horological machines and Urwerk with their avant-garde timepieces.
It’s clear that Gen-Z has different priorities when it comes to luxury watches. They are looking for watches that are stylish, but also have a story behind them and are affordable. And as a generation that is always connected, they are also looking for watches that are more than just pretty accessories.