Keeping Time on Keeping Time

a new breed of watch-wearer is emerging, & they’re not just sporting smartwatches

Consumers are changing how they wear watches. Total watch market sales have risen 17% to $9.5 billion in the 12 months ending June 2019.

Smartwatches have driven much of this growth, but an increasing number of consumers under 35 years of age are embracing the fine watch segment, according to a new report from The NPD Group, “How Watch Customers Tick — from Smart to Luxury.”

“More U.S. adults are wearing watches today than four years ago, and that is a healthy trend for the entire industry,” said Reginald Brack, a watches and luxury industry analyst for the NPD Group. “Smartwatches have become the entry point for new watch consumers looking to make their own personal statements, creating an opportunity for many traditional watch brands across all price points.”

Across all age groups, the number of consumers who say they wear a watch today has grown since 2015, with the most significant shifts happening at the younger demographics. While 20% of 18 to 34-year-olds said smartwatches are the type of wristwatch they wear most often, another 13% identified fine and fine Swiss options as their primary watch — an increase from 2015. The older consumer continues to be the sweet spot for the high-end watch market, but the younger generations are bringing new growth to the segment.

Women are also bringing growth to the high-end, luxury traditional watch market. Sales of women’s watch models priced at $5,000 or more grew 8% in the 12 months ending June 2019, exceeding sales of the sub-$500 segment for the first time in recent years. Overall, fashion and basic watches have not seen the same upticks in recent years as their fine and smart counterparts — preferences have evolved, particularly among the female watch consumer.

“The introduction and popularity of smartwatches have brought a mix of challenges and opportunities to the watch market, but recent gains in the luxury segment are pointing us in the direction of a resurgence,” said Brack. “New consumers and watch-wearing behaviors are paving a path for reinvention across the marketplace.”

“How Watch Customers Tick — from Smart to Luxury” provides a unique view into the United States watch marketplace and consumer behavior, helping to understand the specific target audiences across all segments — from new technology to timeless value. This report combines a range of NPD’s data assets, including NPD’s Retail Tracking Service (point-of-sale) data, Connected Intelligence data, and Checkout e-commerce data, as well as insights from NPD’s strategic partner, CivicScience. Other public and private information also factored into the report’s development.