Friday, June 20, 2008

Luxury watchmakers have never had it so good

NEW DELHI: If time is money, watchmakers certainly know how to make the best of it, and where. Things might be slowing down in the West, but here watchmakers are making a beeline to bite into the luxury and super-luxury segment. The emergence of a new class of affluent young professionals, managers and executives with bulge-bracket purchasing power is attracting ultra expensive watchmakers.

India’s luxury watch market, worth Rs 750 crore at present, is growing at 25-30% every year. No wonder, luxury goods maker LVMH Group’s Tag Heuer recently decided to shift focus to a more niche and high-end category. Brands like Timex and Titan, which have been traditionally chasing mass market, are trying to meet the new market dynamics by launching global luxury brands in India.

Says Swatch Group country manager G Kannan: “Global luxury brands recognise that India is no more a mere testing ground, but a lucrative market with explosive growth potential. Wrist watches have now become a style statement rather than just an instrument for time keeping.” Swiss-based Swatch Group owns some well-known brands such as Breguet, Blancpain, Omega, Longines, Rado and Tissot.

Already over 55 brands, including Rado, Omega, Breguet, Christian Dior, Tag Heuer, Corum and Franck Mueller are targeting professionals in the 30-45-years age group, besides wealthy businessmen. Luxury watch range starts from Rs 40,000 and goes up to Rs 1 lakh while the super-luxury watch category is available for upwards of Rs 1 lakh to a few crore rupees. And there are many in India who now feel it’s there time to invest in watches that cost upwards of six figure.

Recently, LVMH introduced its premium watch brand Grand Carrera in the country, which is priced Rs 1.4-2.5 lakh. It’s also planning to get its high-end luxury watch range Zenith into India that would be priced at Rs 2.5 lakh and above. “We believe more Indians would sport luxury watches in the coming years,” says LVMH Watch and Jewellery India GM Manishi Sanwal.

Similarly, Timex plans to introduce premium brands like Ferragamo, Versace and Valentino in the country. German luxury watch brand A Lange & Sohne, along with other competitive watch brands such as Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, JaegerleCoultre, are looking only at the upper crust with a price ranging between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 2.5 crore.

Currently, the group sells premium and luxury watches under Xylus and Nebula brands, respectively. Says Titan Industries COO Harish Bhat: “The upper middle class has a high disposable income, which, in turn, is responsible for a high growth in the premium segment.”

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