How Luxury Watch Brands are Innovating Digitally


Tamar Koifman | September 15, 2011

Tamar Koifman of Fashion’s Collective, explores the ways haute horlogerie brands are leveraging new media to tell their stories

“Luxury watch marketing” and “digital innovation” rarely shows up in the same sentence, let alone together in an article headline, but contrary to what the industry might think, there are some haute horlogerie brands paving the way online.

As a recent transplant to Geneva, Switzerland, home of the most prestigious watch brands, I’ve had an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with the business of high-end watches, an industry that I admit I previously knew very little about. In Geneva, it’s hard not to know someone who works in the watchmaking industry, and as a strategist at Digital Luxury Group, I’ve had the chance to take that knowledge even further, working with a number of well-known watchmakers.

When the topic of luxury watch websites comes up, there is one brand that is consistently referenced as a benchmark within the industry. IWC, headquartered in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and owned by luxury conglomerate Richemont, has a stellar website. Big, beautiful images, detailed product descriptions, and captivating lifestyle content, set this site apart from the rest. It was one of the first watch brands to incorporate commenting and social media plugins, and though it’s not e-commerce enabled, IWC has set the bar high for competing brands.

Mobile marketing has been an important differentiator for Jaeger-LeCoultre, another Richemont brand. One of the first luxury brands to launch an iPhone specific application back in 2009, Jaeger-LeCoultre has cited over 100,000 downloads in less than two months. The application is more than just a glorified website; it shows users the step-by-step of watch production and acts as an education tool. In addition to this app, Jaeger-LeCoultre also has a separate iPad application for downloading and viewing the brand’s magazine. With mobile applications and a mobile-optimized website, Jaeger-LeCoultre is definitely pushing the industry forward in the mobile space.

In the field of social media, several brands are taking the lead. TAG Heuer, an LVMH brand, has done a good job of growing its Facebook fan base while maintaining a high engagement rate. The same can be said of Hublot. Both brands have around 250,000 followers and post regular updates that elicit strong response rates. While Facebook has been the primary playground for most watch brands in the social space, there is a big opportunity for brands to play a stronger role on Twitter and other platforms. Benjamin Clymer of the watch enthusiast blog Hodinkee, agrees. In the WorldWatchReport, an annual industry analysis put out by Digital Luxury Group, Clymer said, “As time goes on, brands that really seek to embrace social will focus more heavily on Twitter because it is so much more dynamic than Facebook.”

When it comes to search engines, where luxury brands (watches especially) are constantly battling counterfeit websites, search engine optimization and advertising are important weapons. Watch and high-end jewelry brand, Piaget, has perfected its search engine optimization for this exact reason and takes an interesting approach to SEO. Looking at the footer of the website you’ll find a link titled “Search Guides,” this links to a very clever site map of sorts, specifically designed with search engine keywords in mind. In addition, “related searches” can be found across the entire website, making for a search-friendly presence. The results are clear as well; Piaget has over 7,000 pages indexed on Google. Their competitor, Chopard, for example, has only 1,500.

Unique to the luxury watchmaking industry is the importance of enthusiast forums and brand moderators. Haute horlogerie brand, Vacheron Constantin, operates one of the strongest forums, The Hour Lounge. With 12k to 15k unique visitors per month, the brand has done a great job of engaging the high-end watch collector and was previously highlighted on Fashion’s Collective.

The brands cited above are just several examples of luxury watch and jewelry brands that are innovating digitally, though there are many more. What are your favorite digital marketing examples from luxury watch brands? Share your insights in the comments below.

Search | Social Media | Watches