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Women in the luxury watch industry: Is the future female?
CHRONEXT OP-ED

Women in the luxury watch industry: Is the future female?

Hina Khan

In light of recent news, a female SPD politician in Germany had a photograph resurface to the internet from 4 years ago wearing a Rolex Datejust. This caused a lot of controversy in the media and sparked an internal debate among us surrounding women and luxury watches in general. Regarding this controversy, what’s interesting is that several male politicians have been photographed sporting a luxury timepiece by Rolex, those photographs didn’t seem to cause much of an outrage. But that’s all we’ll say to that topic for now. Let’s talk about how well the luxury watch industry represents women.

Marketing?

Like most products, watches are marketed according to gender. Put together the amount of models targeted towards men versus those towards women as well as the majority male executive ranks that dominate the industry - there is little doubt that the watch industry is predominantly a man’s world.

What we have noticed, is a change towards marketing watches towards women. Over the past few years, approach to women by watch manufacturers is shifting. Especially since realising that much of the market share was captured by fashion brands such as Michael Kors. Albeit, not seen as major competitors of the Swiss watch industry, it’s hard to ignore their success in the sale of women’s watches. With even former President of Omega commenting: “It’s really opened our eyes, fashion brands come in with a great name, great design and a completely different price segment and appeal to a market that could be ours”.

A significant difference that has been noted in the ladies’ segment, is the preference towards watches with bigger sizes ranging from 36 to 40mm. The amount of Chinese tourists, 50% of whom are female, has seen an increase of about 39% in Switzerland. With brands recognising this market - many with a traditionally male focus started hiring female brand ambassadors for their advertising campaigns; TAG Heuer even went as far as to proclaim 2018 to be the ‘year of the woman’ - a first in the Swiss watch industry.

With the product range now reflecting the women’s market, how much of those decision making influences are reflected by women in the actual boardrooms of the brands?

When we speak about the most powerful women in the world of fine timepieces, some names that spring to mind are Nayla Hayek, CEO of  Harry Winston Inc. and chairwoman of Swatch Group Ltd, Chabi Nouri, CEO of Piaget and the first woman CEO of the Richemont group and Catherine Alix-Renier who is the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre. These are some of the notable women who are in positions of authority in the industry. Whilst this is a great step towards representation, there is definitely more that can be done to achieve a more diverse boardroom as the vast majority of individuals in a higher power are still men. A research conducted by McKinsey & Co (a worldwide management consulting firm) revealed that businesses with a balance of men and women had a 15% more chance to outperform competition, with those numbers increasing to 35% with the addition of having a mix of people from ethnic backgrounds; the figures show that having this diversity can lead to profitable outcomes.

We can all agree that the corporate pipeline is seeing a change with more women supporting each other thus driving towards better representation. Let us not become comfortable with the status quo and push towards further progress in achieving diversity in the realm of luxury watches.