After a frenzied week of new model unveilings by many of the world’s top luxury watch companies, the massive watch and jewelry trade show Baselworld wraps up tomorrow in Basel, Switzerland. Although Swiss watch exports to China declined last year, “all eyes were on Hong Kong and China,” for the fair, according to Women’s Wear Daily.
In order to connect with fans on China’s social media, digital luxury marketing firm Digital Luxury Group sent fashion blogger Peter Xu, who has over one million Weibo fans, to Switzerland to report live from the event. “Chinese luxury consumers are on average much younger than the rest of the world and eager to use technology to showcase their personal tastes—hence the idea of connecting our clients to this strategic Chinese audience,” said Pablo Mauron, Digital Luxury Group’s general manager for China on why the firm teamed up with Xu.
Last week, Digital Luxury Group also released its annual World Watch Report, which found that internet searches for Swiss watch brands in China are growing rapidly. One of the main sources of growth was searches for women’s watches, which surged 145.5 percent from last year. According to Mauron, “We believe that this is only the beginning of the love story between Chinese women and luxury watches.” According to him, “While in the past jewelry brands had the biggest share of this segment, couture brands contributed to influence the perception of luxury watches as a high-end fashion accessory and consequently participated to the expansion of the interest.”
We checked in with Xu for his firsthand account on the latest China trends he’s been seeing at Baselworld, as well as what he thinks brands can do to attract younger Chinese customers.
Was there a heavy presence of Chinese media and bloggers at Baselworld this year?
[For] Chinese media, yes—I heard more than 80 traditional press and 300 people; [for] bloggers, I don’t think so. We usually storm the fashion weeks and events, so this time Digital Luxury Group really blazed a new trail with me. There are also more celebrities coming.
What were brands presenting at Baselworld doing to reach a Chinese audience?
Brands apply product and marketing strategies catering to the China market, which has been experiencing changes for a few years. Emerging consumers of the new generation are more inspired by fashion and design, and prefer more unique pieces. They are also active in social media; therefore, unique products with design and fashion elements, as well as online word-of-mouth, become crucial.
Which new watch models do you think will be especially popular with Chinese customers?
Classical models from Patek Philippe, Rolex, etc. are still going to be popular, with their quality, heritage and uniqueness. But new models that are pushing the boundaries with new design and creative campaigns, such as the Masterpiece Square Wheel from Maurice Lacroix, the LaFerrari & World Cup series from HUBLOT, the ScubaTec from Carl F. Bucherer, and the Aeroscope Red Edition from Jean Richard are going to be popular, especially among younger consumers.
Swiss watch exports to China declined last year as a result of the government’s anti-corruption campaign. What should watch brands be doing more to reach new Chinese customers?
I think it is a brand new start for them! I’m a fashion lover and represent millions of emerging new consumers from China. I spend heavily on fashion and clothes, but not until Baselworld did I really find how intriguing watches could be and how strongly I love them, from a fashion and design perspective. I think brands should reach out to more consumers like me through social media and star power. Recently, there has been an impactful Korean TV drama called My Love from the Star (Chinese name: Laizi Xingxing De Ni, 来自星星的你) in which celebrities wore many high-fashion clothes and accessories of the current season from Chanel, Burberry, Moncler, and Stella McCartney, and received a great market response.