Haute Horlogerie and Generation Z: the new challenge for exceptional Swiss craftsmen.

We all remember Patek Philippe’s surprise arrival on Instagram for the announcement of their new exhibition at the Patek Philippe Museum on March 18, 2018, or IWC’s recent campaign for its “Pilot” collection as a tribute to the film “TopGun”.

These are all events that are gradually changing the landscape of the small world of fine watchmaking. But how best to transcribe the DNA of each brand composed of so many different values? This is what we will see in this article through illustrated examples.

When Harvard University professor Gérald Zaltman says in his book, entitled “How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market” that “95% of purchasing decisions are conveyed by our emotions”, he does not believe he is saying so well for the field of fine watchmaking, where the brands’ efforts to try to reach their customers’ subconscious are disproportionate.

Indeed, what could be more emotional than watchmaking which, unlike other passions such as the automobile, has almost no practical use except the pleasure of having a piece of jewelry around your wrist?

Compared to women’s jewelry, watchmaking is not far from being a male passion. Therefore, targeting men emotionally requires different marketing methods than targeting women.

As a result, a man will be more likely to be attracted by technical data and theoretical information rather than by long general explanations about how a particular movement works.

In addition, the marketing of (high-end) watchmaking must face the problem of gender diversity and the growing interest of women in men’s watches, such as the Rolex GMT Master II Batman (116710BLNR-0002) and Pepsi (126710BLRO) models whose steel models were unveiled at the 2013 and 2018 editions of the BaselWorld international watchmaking exhibition.

In addition, the world of luxury watchmaking is changing rapidly thanks to social networks, and the brands that have been slow to get started have had to redouble their efforts to impose their place in this parallel world where many traditional marketing codes are being shaken up.

This is the case, for example, of the Geneva-based firm Patek Philippe which, in order to catch up and impose its ancestral know-how on Instagram, has begun to publish publications in a way that is unprecedented for watchmaking: in “Giant Squares” (9 publications together forming a large image in the feed), each publication itself being composed of a 360 photo in the form of a slide show or a short video on the history of the Manufacture and one of these models.

Favoring quality over quantity, Patek Philippe is paving the way for many brands such as Audemars Piguet, which have gradually begun to publish publications in unconventional ways, for example by adding white borders to their publications or by superimposing images to add a depth effect to the feed.

These marketing methods are above all an asset for brands in order to better target Generation Z (young people born after 1999) who have grown and evolved with the era of social networks and who are no longer at all impressed by traditional Instagram feeds, reflecting a timelessness too great for this generation that wants everything, immediately, at full speed.

This generation is particularly distinguished from Generation Y by a greater influence from outsiders. On Instagram, these watch “influencers” are pulsating and getting younger and younger.

During my visit to the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (thanks to Audemars Piguet for the invitation), I was able to clearly see these hordes of influencers running in the lounge with their suitcases between two planes, wishing to share all their itinerary in real time on their Instagram stories for their followers. Welcome to the generation of the Whole, right now.

In this regard, and this since BaselWorld 2017, many brands have also started to share their events in real time during the fairs, so that each brand strengthens its fan community, as well as each influencer, strengthens its fan community.

This merger between brands and influencers is also achieved through progressive marketing, by blogs or influencers, of watch accessories or even watches themselves. This is the case, for example, of the Hodinkee Instagram page, which over time has become an accessory store and then a watch store itself.

This importance of online presence is all the more important as more and more watch brands are abandoning watch fairs, such as Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet with the SIHH, which have decided to focus on local advertising thanks, in particular, to their brand’s influencers and ambassadors, rather than on this professional fair, in order to stand out from the competition in another way than simply by a beautiful stand during a watch fair.

This desire to stand out is also that of the Swatch Group, which has abandoned BaselWorld to launch its own watchmaking event on the same dates as the Basel fair, but this time in Zurich.

At BaselWorld 2019,  where our production team was present, we were able to observe that the marketing of fine watchmaking is now essentially done via omni-channel marketing techniques. For example, visitors were invited to take pictures  in front of a stand to be entered in a prize draw, or to win some goodies. Moreover, the emphasis was placed on celebrities who did not fail to create a buzz by posting the photos of their watches on social networks and livestream their visit on instagram to attract more people to the fair. For the 2020 edition, we will be present to cover the event with our editorial agency. See you there!