Rolex becomes most desirable luxury watch brand in China amid market reshuffling

Rolex, the Swiss manufacturer of luxurious watches, has been crowned the most desirable luxury watch brand in China, taking the title from its Genevan counterpart Patek Phillippe (2nd) who has held the top spot since 2010, according to Morgan Stanley’s latest analysis based on the Hurun Report (a leading research platform best known for its ‘Hurun Rich List’ of the wealthiest people in China).

The ranking is also a breakthrough for Hermès, who jumped to fourth having only appeared in the top ten for the third time since 2010, placing it ahead of Cartier and the timepiece expert Omega. While the luxury group Richemont has seen five watchmakers under its umbrella make it into the top 10, four of them (including Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Van Cleef & Arpels) saw rankings slip, with VC&A edged out of 10th place while Cartier retains the 5th spot.

Despite being the most sought-after, Rolex, is less dominant in the world’s second-largest watch market just after the United States. It is reported that the market share of the brand in the Chinese market now stands at 15%, about half as much as that it holds in other overseas markets.

Moreover, it seems the desirability Rolex has won from Chinese consumers has not yet fully converted into the motivation for purchases, as the brand is not a market leader judging by the sales figures. Instead, Swatch Group, Omega, and Longines have been front runners in this aspect, although Longines was not even included in the list.

On the other hand, Cartier has recorded a milestone in the watch category, pulling off an online sale of 502 units in 2021, which is worth a total value of 15.4 million RMB ($1.86 million). This is as a result of leveraging its flagship store on the Tmall Luxury Pavilion established by China’s e-commerce giant Tmall, which has been a powerhouse for global luxury labels.

Unlike traditional watchmakers, the fashion DNA of Cartier has been woven into its offerings, thus, flavouring machinery techniques with aesthetic elements such as jewellery, which turns out to be a technique for winning over the younger generations, especially women.

A recent report published by an industry research institute, iiMedia has confirmed there is a great appetite for stylish timepieces. As the majority (74.4%) of China’s watch buyers are aged between 20 and 45 years old, youthful, and ultra-modern watches turn out to be the most competitive, appealing to 44.6% of interested consumers, compared to 19.8% seen at traditional premium deals.

With China’s luxury watch market projected to hit 300 billion RMB ($36.2 billion) by 2023 after reaching 230 billion RMB ($27.8 billion) in 2021, the market landscape has become more diverse with additional market players joining the race providing a wider range of offers in order to keep up with consumer dynamics. To stand out from the crowd, therefore, requires not only technical expertise but also a sharp nose for consumer interests.


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