Watchmaking Demographics

Every week, two new watchmaking brands are created

By Grégory Pons

New generations want new brands and new watches, at new prices.

Swiss watch exports are shrinking. Yet watchmaking demographics are growing! Every year, a hundred-some new watchmaking brands are born—around two a week—across all price segments and on every continent. The phenomenon is more easily perceived in emerging markets or in countries with no local watchmaking tradition. Indeed, there are already two watch brands in Nigeria. Seven in Poland. Sixteen in Sweden. And about a dozen have been created in Australia over the last twelve years.

Two explanations can be given for this healthy demographic: it comes down to a generational difference and the result of digitalization, in a global context of change. A common misconception is that the new generation doesn’t wear watches. This appears true but is fundamentally false. Young people don’t want to wear the same watches as previous generations (too expensive and too outdated). Generation Y [children of the millennium, between 15 and 30 years old] demand something new on their wrists. The "Ys" are reevaluating the codes of watchmaking luxury: a decline in "luxury for others”—an ostentatious status symbol—and a promotion of "luxury for oneself”—based on emotion, personal affinity and rapport. Hence the blossoming of new brands launched by entrepreneurs not yet in their thirties, with a lifestyle and accessible prices in mind. Some examples: Charlie Watch or Briston (France), Shinola (United States), SevenFriday (Switzerland), Komono (Belgium), Triwa (Sweden) and Daniel Wellington (United Kingdom).

With the Internet, it has become easier to create a watch brand. Through digitalization, crowdfunding sites (such as Kickstarter) have reinvented "subscriptions", much like Abraham Louis Breguet did at the end of the 18th century. Today’s watch designers can test demand, live and in real time. Twenty million dollars were collected by Pebble for its smartwatch! Ambroise and Adrien, the French designers of Charlie Watch, asked for 10,000 euros—and got 30,000 to launch their first collections aimed at their generation in total security. Around 150 watchmaking brand projects have benefitted from this type of online funding.

Too many guests for an ever-smaller slice of the cake? We live in a Darwinian economy, where survival-of-the-fittest rules. Let us be glad that the cards are being reshuffled with so many creative new prospects. May the best watch win!