Bi-metallic watch sales spike

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Vogue for versatile watches hits UK market.

The latest figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS) have revealed a rise in demand for bi-metallic watches following a sharp increase in export sales volumes.

The FHS said that, alongside the continued rise in demand for gold timepieces, bi-metallic watches “showed the same trend”. Demand has accentuated the overall performance of Swiss watch exports, the value of which increased 16% at the end of 2011.

In total, bi-metallic gold and steel watch exports increased 15.8%, with 117,500 timepieces exported in November last year with a value of £337.7m.

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In the UK the trend for bi-metallic watches also appears to be on the rise. WatchPro has spoken with a number of Swiss watch brands and retailers in the UK to find out how sales of mixed-metal timepieces have fared, and the news largely upholds the latest export figures.

Alan Mace, managing director of Citizen UK described a “definite” rise in the sale of bi-metallic watches. “This [was] reflected in our Christmas TV advertising which features both ladies and gents two-tone watch models,” he explained.

The most popular styles at Citizen are two-tone watches with a combination of steel and rose gold plate, something that Daniel Brown, director at multiple watch and jewellery retailer Beaverbrooks has also noticed.

Brown said that there has been a rise in bi-metallic sales and while it has been hard to pin this to a particular brand, rose gold appears to be the metal of choice, teamed with steel or yellow gold.

Anthony Burten Shaw, retail director of Laing the Jeweller in Glasgow, stockists of brands such as Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Cartier and Omega, concurs that there has been a rise in its bi-metallic watch sales. “Rose gold and steel is very popular and yellow gold and steel is getting strong again. Traditional styles are coming back,” said Burten Shaw.

Advertising campaigns such as that for Longines’ Dolce Vita steel and rose gold watch starring British actress Kate Winslet have also helped to raise the profile of bi-coloured timepieces, pushing them back into the mainstream, and onto the public’s wrists.

A closer look at the entry- and mid-level bestsellers of online watch retailers such as the Watch Shop and TH Baker’s The Watch Hut reveal that some of its top timepieces are bi-metallic.

Amid the Watch Shop’s most popular men’s watches, a sporty looking bi-metallic Rotary with blue-coloured bezel and dial is its best-selling two-tone timepiece, while watches by Michael Kors and Seiko are also high ranking.

For women, bi-metallic watches appear to be a little more popular, perhaps due to the accessibility of wearing both gold and steel simultaneously, making the watch easier to match with jewellery. The Watch Hut’s bestselling two-tone timepiece for women is an Accurist bracelet watch in the style of the bead charm bracelets made popular by brands such as Pandora and Trollbeads. The Watch Hut’s second bestselling bi-metallic watch is a Citizen retailing at £233, while a fashion-led chronograph by D&G and thereafter several Citizen Eco Drive timepieces make up its most popular gold PVD and steel lines.

Demand from women is something that brand director and head of global strategy at Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zahra Kassim-Lakha, has also noticed. “We do see an increased demand of bi-metal watches, mostly for women,” she explained.

Meanwhile back at the retail end of the industry, Cottrills business watch manager Stephen Drake said demand for gold and steel timepieces has remained constant across its stores in Cheshire and Lancashire with women taking the helm.

“I would comment that this type of watch is more trend orientated as opposed to being influenced by price increases,” he said. “Ladies in the UK have finally taken up the mantle set by our more adventurous European counterparts and wearing a man-sized watch has become second nature. It also offers ladies a larger product portfolio to choose from.”

As the last figures from the FHS show, bi-metallic watches are an area of the market that can be tapped into from both the high-end Swiss watch brands – TAG Heuer and Rolex are behind some of the most classic bi-metallic watches – and also at the entry-level end of the scale, with fashionable timepieces.

Of the FHS figures, gold plated silver watches also enjoyed a boost at the end of 2011 with export figures for gold plated timepieces jumping an impressive 99.4% in November last year compared to 2010, with an export value of £4.8 million. Gold watches continued to enjoy high export figures, with a 24.3% year-on-year increase in export volumes in 2011 with a value of more than £473 million.

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