Swiss watch exports saw their strongest growth in more than five years during 2017 according to a report by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Hong Kong and mainland China were the top two markets for Swiss watches, with sales in Hong Kong rising 21.3 percent to 15 percent of the market and mainland China sales skyrocketing by 44.3 percent to reach 10.9 percent of the market.
According to Bloomberg, the 2012 crackdown on corruption that badly impacted the luxury watch market in China appears to have either played out or lost its teeth. Meanwhile, efforts by the Chinese government to bring luxury spending back to mainland China seem to be working.
Independent of external factors, Swiss luxury watches remain hugely popular in China. A colloquialism illuminates how important they are to signaling success among Chinese elites. The phrase “穷玩车, 富玩表” literally translates as “the poor play with luxury cars while the rich play with luxury watches.”
These are the five most popular Swiss luxury watch brands in China.
1. Longines (浪琴)
Longines is a luxury watch company based in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. Founded by Auguste Agassiz in 1832, Longines is currently owned by the Swatch Group. Its winged hourglass logo, registered in 1889, is one of the oldest, still-active registered trademark in the world. Longines is aggressively promoting its products in China and has hired celebrities, such as Aaron Kwok (郭富城), Lin Chi-ling (林志玲), Carina Lau (刘嘉玲), and Eddie Peng (彭于晏) as brand ambassadors.
2. Patek Philippe (百达斐丽)
Founded in Geneva in 1839, Patek Philippe is relatively new to many Chinese consumers. The brand opened its first China flagship on Shanghai’s Bund in 2005 with what now seems like rather dated panda-diplomacy. They created a special edition Panda Table Clock using traditional Chinese enamel-work.
3. Omega (欧米茄)
Founded in 1848 in Biel, Switzerland, Omega is famous for its accuracy. Like Longines, it has worked closely with Chinese celebrities to market its watches. In recent years, Omega has hired Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Liu Shishi (刘诗诗), and Coco Lee (李玟) as its Chinese ambassadors.
4. Piaget (伯爵)
Piaget was founded in 1874 by Georges Piaget, who began as a watch manufacturer before he developed his own line of watches in the 20th century. Piaget is very popular in China, with more than 30 stores around the country. Last year, in honor of the Lunar New Year, Piaget launched a zodiac-themed, special edition of luxury watches to cater to Chinese customers.
5. Rolex (劳力士)
Founded in 1905 in Switzerland, Rolex is arguably the most well-known luxury watch brand in China. Rolex’s round face shape is deemed auspiciousness according to Chinese tradition, and its golden crown logo symbolizes status and power. The brand has chosen top Chinese musicians Lang Lang (朗朗), Li Yundi (李云迪) and Yujia Wang (王羽佳) as its brand ambassadors.