Generation Next: Watch Brands Millennials Love (and why)
Our top selection of brands that “get” the millennial market and the backstory of how we got to today.
In the watch industry – heck in any industry – many hands have been wrung about how to reach millennials. That is people aged 22 to 37 (and some aging hipsters who have been branded perennials) who are in the workforce and in the market to make their first high-end timepiece purchase.
The angst comes from forecasters telling us that the kids today don’t really want watches — they can tell time just fine from their phones. And that they aren’t into material things — that they value experiences over objects.
Certainly many manufacturers are feeling the pinch in that demographic. But others are thriving in this ever-evolving consumer climate. Here are seven brands that get the Millennial Market.
While Millennials grew up in the age of Google, they still want someone who can clearly communicate to them what the difference is between a cheap mechanical watch and an expensive handmade timepiece. Most watch cognoscenti consider Grand Seiko — Seiko’s premium luxury line — to be on par with Patek Phillipe, Vacheron Constantin and A. Lange & Söhne in how it honors grand watchmaking traditions while innovating with next generation movements (see the Spring Drive).
One difference between Millennials and, say, GenX or Boomers, is that they research purchases differently. While Grand Seiko been around since the 1960s, the brand is still relatively under-the-radar in North America. But Millennials value online opinions as much or more than traditional reviews and advertisements.
Any consumer considering purchasing a super complicated watch hits the internet to research things like calibers, finishing, and value. Eventually they are going to come across a website or forum singing Grand Seiko’s praises. And given the value of these fantastic time tellers, the brand is definitely a gateway drug for future watch addicts.
Millennials also love a good story. Tudor, like Grand Seiko, has an impeccable pedigree (the company was started by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf in 1946 with the mission to make watches with the same integrity and principles but at a more modest price). Yet, like, Grand Seiko, the brand was not that recognizable in North America.
So for the younger generation, there’s a real sense of discovery when it comes to Tudor. And while the brand has worked hard to shake off that “sister brand of Rolex” label, they also benefit from that company’s back story. But better yet, the new owners can still feel original in their choice.
Some watchmakers have been behind a big push to introduce lower-priced models with lower grade movements in order to entice newer buyers with their wares. But many Millennials know the difference. Which is what is attracting them to companies like Nomos.
With its smallish collection and emphasis on clean design, Nomos, doesn’t try to appeal to everyone. In fact, one of the things that is so alluring about this German brand. They know who they are, stick to their core values, create interesting movements and their young fans can’t seem to get enough.
Millennials also love meaningful things. Oris is another underrated brand with a rich history for fledgling collectors to explore. This generation is also attracted to things they feel are retro and authentic. After all, every generation believes that things were made better before they were born. But not everybody is comfortable investing in a previously enjoyed timepiece. Oris watches like the Carl Brashear have that vintage vibe that hipsters love.
The company is also committed to good causes: The Oris Aquis Staghorn is a crusader, out to save the world’s endangered Staghorn coral by using profits to clean up the oceans.
Social media matters. There are people out there who are buying watches for the ‘Gram’ and others follow influencers to inform their purchases.
TAG Heuer is a manufacture that uses social media in an interesting way. To install that FOMO feeling, there are lots of Instagram stories about brand ambassadors like Tom Brady and Cara Delevingne looking pretty fabulous at events. But there are also plenty of posts about Heuer’s history and its connection to racing.
TAG Heuer has also built a bridge between the present and the future with its Connected Modular 45, which has all the bells and whistles of wearable tech paired with some high end design. The naysayers said millennials wouldn’t wear watches because they have everything they needed on their phones, but now with Bluetooth technology, everything will be on the wrist.
Millennials came of age in an ever-evolving society, so they also appreciate an investment that can also adapt. Should TAG Heuer’s Connected Smart Watch technology become obsolete, for example, you can switch out the electronic with a traditional mechanical TAG module such as the Calibre 5 or the chronograph Tourbillon Heuer 02-T.
While Millennials may not be as into material possessions, they are a little obsessed with materials. Deluxe details such as precious metals, alligator straps and diamond studded dials don’t carry the same meaning or project the same social status as they did for previous generations.
IWC, for example, has just launched a “Summer Edition” Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph. This watch is meant to provide comfort in the hot weather, but it is also appealing on many different levels. For those who find the mining of precious metals troublesome, it comes with a nice, water-resistant stainless-steel case. It also comes with a robust blue rubber strap for those who don’t care to wear leathers.
IWC is also launching a whole range of matching fabric straps, which are both on trend (there’s a current craze for NATO and retro preppy grosgrain straps) and practical (Swapping out fabric straps is easy and makes your watch wardrobe more flexible). These limited edition (gotta catch ‘em all) straps also work with Pilot's Watches, Portugieser sand Portofinos and will be available at IWC boutiques.
Brand names are still important — just look at the logocentric success of Gucci and Supreme. But when making your brand appealing to millennials it’s also important to not make a big deal about appealing to millennials.
Panerai — a company that was almost synonymous with macho watches with a lot of wrist presence — has taken a low-key approach to finding a younger audience.
At SIHH, Panerai launched the Luminor Base Logo 3 Days Acciaio collection of entry-level priced timepieces. These new watches come in two iterations — the Base model and the small-seconds Luminor Marina. Both have a diameter of 44mm but come in a slightly slimmed down case which emphasizes the minimalist design of the classic Panerai typography.
These offerings are also great value for the money. Some companies dumb down the watches with perfectly serviceable but supplied movements. The Luminor Base Logo 3 Days Acciaio is powered with an in house, manual-wind Calibre P.6000. And there are other options that help you further justify your investment. Like if you want a change from the usual leather straps, you can select a blue or grey fabric version