Home / Companies / News /  Swiss watch imports touch $200 mn as Indians splurge

New Delhi: Demand for luxury watches in India has soared, with Swiss watch imports nearly doubling in 2022 from 2020, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said.

Watch distributors in India imported luxury watches worth Swiss franc 187.6 million ($200 million) last year, rising from Swiss franc 97 million in 2020.

Imports have grown 19% over 2021. With this, India has surpassed countries such as Kuwait, Ireland, Bahrain, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, and Malaysia in luxury watch imports.

Despite the sharp increase, the waiting period for some of the most desirable watches, including Rolex and Patek Philippe, is still about six months. And while a lot of this demand is said to be fuelled by an artificial shortage being created by luxury brands themselves, several collectors accept that they never stopped buying luxury watches during the pandemic.

Ashok Goel, founder of Delhi-based Luxury Time Pvt. Ltd, a distributor of brands such as Hublot, Tag Heuer, Zenith and Bomberg, confirmed the trend is true for their products as well. The company, he said, is reporting 50% more business than it did in 2019 and 250% more business than it did in 2020.

“Several brands across the world, especially the well-established and highly desirable Swiss companies, are currently focused on making and selling more high-end collectable watches directly from their own monoband retail boutiques," he said.

This is primarily because the super-rich never stopped buying collectable luxury watches during the pandemic, and the more unique the watch was, the more collectable it became.

Luxury watch retailer Kapoor Watch Co., the Indian retailer of Bvlgari, Cartier, Omega and Tag Heuer brands, also saw an uptick in business last year.

Pratiek Kapoor, the company’s head of marketing, said India’s purchasing power for luxury goods has increased tremendously during the pandemic.

The company is adding not just newer clients but their existing clients are also trading up and buying more now.

“Existing buyers are trading up with more high-end pieces. Also, newer clients are continuing to enter the fold," he said.

The major growth is primarily being driven by products in the price range of 8-16 lakh.

Late last year, Swiss luxury watchmaker Franck Muller launched a watch collection exclusively for the Indian market, priced between 8-20 lakh.

But one of the top distributors of luxury watches in the country cautioned that the sharp increase in sales of luxury watches could be due to certain factors.

The Chinese have been largely absent from the global luxury consumption market in the last couple of years; as a result of this, several international companies have renewed their focus on India.

The Swiss luxury watch industry could also be gaining in terms of value from the dollar strengthening and the rupee devaluing.

“The prices of luxury watches have increased by 25%. But the overall demand for luxury products in India has gone up. Just like other asset classes, Indians are now seriously investing in luxury watches," said Nitin Chainani, CEO of Swiss Promotion Pvt. Ltd, a firm that distributes luxury watches here.

And it is no surprise that passion investments that are likely to be made in 2023 showed a high percentage of growth in the Indian context.

According to a recent report, titled The Wealth Report: Outlook 2023, by Knight Frank, Indians were more likely to buy luxury watches as compared to their Asia-Pacific and other global counterparts in the ultra high-net-worth individual category. As much as 53% of Indians are likely to purchase luxury watches compared to 48% Asia-Pacific and 46% global counterparts.

“The proposition of investible wealth towards passion investments changed in the last four to five years. Today, since 2018, when Indians spent 3% of their wealth on these types of investments, there has been a 1% increase. Luxury watches, for instance, which are relatively better to store, transact with and resell, compared to others, are highly investable for this asset class of people," said Vivek Rathi, senior vice-president of research at Knight Frank India.

Varuni Khosla
Varuni Khosla is a journalist with close to 14 years of experience in writing business news stories for mainstream newspaper companies like Mint and The Economic Times. She reports and writes on luxury and lifestyle brands, hospitality and tourism news, the business of sports, the business of advertising and marketing and alcohol brands.
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