Strong demand for upscale brands keeps KSA’s watch market vibrant

Strong demand for upscale brands keeps KSA’s watch market vibrant
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Strong demand for upscale brands keeps KSA’s watch market vibrant
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Updated 28 May 2013

Strong demand for upscale brands keeps KSA’s watch market vibrant

Strong demand for upscale brands keeps KSA’s watch market vibrant

It’s undeniable that Saudi Arabia is a strong market for wristwatches — from top-of-the-line to downscale brands. The numerous and expensive brands in the local market attest to this.
They also show the buying capacity of Saudi nationals and foreigners. The shop manager for well-known brands said that the “market value of the local watch industry is difficult to quantify but it’s big.”
Illustrating how big the size of the local watch market is Mohammed Salem, manager of a Mounir branch at the Al-Moussa Center in Riyadh, said:, “If a local customer wants a watch worth SR 1 million, a local company could bring this in from abroad like Switzerland.”
It probably helps to determine the size and value of the local watch industry to know that Saudi Arabia and the UAE now consistently rank among the top 15 importers of Swiss watches.
Industry sources estimate the booming global market for new and old watches at $ 40 billion and the luxury watch market at over $ 3 billion.
The expensive brands in the market include world-famous brands — Audemars Piguet, Baume & Mercier, Blancpain, Breguet, Breitling, Bulgari, Cartier, Chopard, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega, Panerai, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Rolex, Tag Heuer, David Morris, Chopard, among many others.
It’s not uncommon to see tycoons, business executives, and scions of rich families wearing these. In fact, the collectors among them own not only one but two or more of these expensive timepieces, which they use alternately.
“They go for these exquisite timepieces because they reflect their financial status as well as position in society and in business and industry,” said Abdallah Ahmad, a Saudi engineer. What he said could not have been further from the truth.
In an article entitled “Why good timepieces will always entice good gentlemen,” Horacio Silva says, “Watches from prestige luxury houses like Cartier confer an instant status-conscious glamor on the wearer while a Vacheron Constantin chronograph suggests a man who is as reliable and reserved as the tables at his favorite establishment restaurant.”
Their prices range from SR 7,000 up to SR 250,000 to a staggering SR 1 million, such as those specially made with diamonds. Most of these watches are from Switzerland. One may ask, “Why are they expensive?”
It’s because they are of exacting standards of reliability and precision and a combination of prestige and performance. While conveying the quintessence of aesthetic refinement, these wrist instruments are equipped with high performance “motors,” patiently assembled by watchmakers at the peak of their art.
To many, their appeal is irresistible. For sure, many wish that they have one of these, which has given way to the proliferation of fake products in the market. Their design is exactly the same as the original. But the comparison ends there.
The manager of an upscale watch shop said: “ We’re not bothered by fake watches in the market bearing the names of our products. We already have regular customers. They come to us when they like new models of our watches.”
He added that owners of expensive watches know they could hand down their timepieces to their children so that they have not entertained buying fake timepieces.
“Only those who couldn’t afford a genuine watch buy a fake version to show off,” he said.
Asked what brand is the most popular among his Saudi buyers, he said that “as far as we’re concerned, there’s nothing in particular.”
“Our customers keep their watches for years. So when then come to visit us, they look for new models. But we have many other Saudi customers who also look for and buy other brands,” he said.
The genuine and precious timepieces could be found in fashionable shops in posh department stores or malls and boutiques owned or rented by some 16 dealers.
These include Richmond Group, Saddik & Mohamed Attar Co., Mounir, Al-Homaidi, Al Husseini, A-Ghazali, Al Farhan, Ahmed Saed Naji, Usman Watches, Al Hammad Watches, Bajsair, Alshaya, Fantastic House, Daham, Al Barakat and Jehan.
Richmond Group is the dealer for Piaget, Panerai, and Jeger-LeCoultre; Saddik & Mohamed Attar Co.- Rolex and Tudor; Mounir — Michel Herbelin (Paris), Omega, Guy Laroche, Le Baron, Roviva, Roamer, Rochas, Claude Bernad, Edox, Charles Jordan (Swiss), Emerson, Police (China;, Al Homaidi — Raymond Weil, Movado and BNB (Swiss); Al-Husseini — Omega, Longines, and Tag Heuer (Swiss); Al Ghazali — Rado, Tissot, and Voucherin Constantin; Al Farhan — Choupard, Zenith and Mouanawa (Swiss); Fantastic House brings in watches from China and make it more expensive by adding diamonds; Daham — Omega and other brands which make it more expensive by adding jewelry; Bajsair — Omega, Balmain, Charles Jordan and Tag Heuer; Alshaya — Esprit; Al Barakat, Jaeger-LeCoultre; and Jehan which sells watches with gold and jewelry that costs from SR 100,000 to SR 300,000.
But if the Kingdom is a strong market for upscale brands, it’s also flooded with cheaper watches whose prices range from SR 180 to SR 500. Most of these are made in China (Dante, Laros), India (Titan), South Korea (Samsung), Japan (Seiko, Citizen and Casio (which is assembled in China), and Switzerland (Wester). Except for Seiko which is automatic, all the other brands are quartz.
With the passage of time, however, a changing trend could be noted among Saudi wristwatch users. Saudi female professionals used to wear expensive watches like their male counterparts. Not a few of them still prefer these. However, many of them now prefer big but cheaper watches.
“They are attractive to look at and trendy, complementing the fashionable clothes which I like,” said Walaa Hawari, a PR practitioner in the Saudi capital.
But young Saudi women consider wristwatches as not that essential like they used to be. They consider these as accessories more than timepieces.
“I and my 14-year-old sister Raya don’t wear watches. To know what the time is, we look at our cell phones. We’d rather have bracelets or accessories,” said 22-year-old student Tala Alim.
Young Saudi men, on the other hand, go for cheap but trendy wristwatches like Fossil, which costs from SR 300 to SR 700. Asked why, a 17-year-old male teenager said: “ I don’t know. I just like it. But I’m not saying that all young Saudi teenagers have the same taste. Others could be fond of expensive wristwatches.”
Asked if Swiss-made watches dominate the market, the manager of a wristwatch store said: “Swiss-made watches have a good reputation based on our experience. But it’s a fact that not all customers go for Swiss-made watches.”
He said that for them, Swiss-made watches are costly and settle for other brands such as those from Japan, China, South Korea, and India.
“Many customers have been used to Seiko or Citizen watches. Their tendency is to stick to these although others try the other brands like Titan from India,” said Farouk Abdul Ali, a Bangladeshi salesman of watches in the old commercial district of Batha.
A new trend in watchmaking has emerged. Rumor has it that everyone from Apple to Microsoft is working on smart watches to compete with the handful that are already arriving on the market.
“But before those started making waves, there was the Pebble, a kickstarter project that began last April in order to build a durable sports watch that could also receive text messages and calls and play music,” says Jenna Wortham in an article entitled “Pebble raises $ 15 million as wave of smart watches arrives.”
Before anyone had seen a finished product, it dazzled tens of thousands of people online, who then contributed $ 10 million to see the device manufactured, she adds.
Recently, Pebble announced that it had raised $ 15 million from Charles River Ventures to propel the company out of its idea phase and into full-on start-up mode.