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Luxury watches driving the rise of microbrands

By Kristopher Fraser

Mar. 4, 2019

Business

Dan Henry Watches has published a study saying that sales of luxury timepieces are on the rise, and according to the creator of Dan Henry Watches, that growth has contributed to a new trend in the industry: the emergence of microbrand watches.

Purchases of luxury timepieces, for more than 100 years a fashion staple and functional accessory for men, had been on the decline in the first decades of the 21st century. However, contrary to previous results, the demise of luxury watch brands — like Rolex, Omega, and Breitling has been greatly exaggerated — in fact, U.S. sales of watches that cost more than 1,000 dollars increased 13.5 percent in 2018.

Hodinkee, the online wristwatch magazine, reported that, "The three-year luxury-watch slump in the United States is over."

Henry, a collector of vintage wristwatches for 30 years who maintains a personal collection of more than 1,500 classic timepieces, believes that the revival of luxury watches and resulting skyrocketing prices have led to the evolution of microbrands – those small companies that produce batches of lower-price, high-quality watches numbering in the hundreds, rather than the tens of thousands of units manufactured by large global brands.

"Many microbrands have been created by timepiece enthusiasts and watchmakers," said Henry in a statement. "Similar to the impact of small, local clothing designers, microbrands bring a fresh, independent look to a previously rigid, consolidated market.

"Because microbrand founders generally come from within the watch community, they create models that better reflect the aspirations of the collectors who are major influencers of this market," Henry said in a statement.

This revolution in microbrands is the result of several factors, according to Henry: interest among digital natives, low operating costs (sale through e-commerce), wide distribution (global couriers), and low-cost or no-cost spending for marketing (social networks). "As a result microbrands focus their resources on manufacturing and deliver high-quality product at an affordable cost," Henry said in a statement.

Henry created his own microbrand after receiving several offers to purchase parts of his collection that he had posted on Instagram. This response led Henry to create an online database for his collection at www.timeline.watch, and to then to design his own microbrand, DanHenryWatches.com, that is inspired by his favorite timepieces.

Henry's designs are vintage inspired, but the movements are current-day and production technology is cutting edge. Henry's microbrand has expanded from four models in 2016 sold to a small group of customers into a broad line of 16 timepieces in multiple colors sold worldwide, and with plans in 2019 for new releases every two months. And Henry's sales have grown 200 percent in its first couple of years without spending for marketing.

"The success of new microbrands is not the result of traditional corporate marketing," said Henry in a statement, "but rather in the competence of microbrand entrepreneurs in creating an desirable affordable product, based on their connection to their audience."

Larger luxury brand watches continue to be boosted by events like SIHH, the international watch trade show for luxury brands including Piaget and Ulysse Nardin. When smartwatches came on the scene, they were expected to prove tough competition for the luxury watch market, but that has yet to come to fruition, if it ever will at all.

photo: via PR Newswire