Watches of Switzerland is celebrating a milestone achievement this year, marking twenty years in business. As someone who has played an instrumental role in its success throughout this time, what have been the major changes you’ve seen in the business over the last twenty years?
E VdG: The world has experienced some dramatic changes over the past twenty years, from the Asian financial crisis in 1997, to the rise of the internet in the early 2000’s, and of course the global financial crisis in 2009. At the same time, a great deal of consolidation has taken place in the watch industry, resulting in the establishment of luxury groups that have brought together previously independent watch manufacturers and introduced a new approach to the concept of “luxury” in the watch industry. This had led to an evolution in the market – independent wholesalers have disappeared as these new luxury groups roll out international platforms and internalize distribution. We have had to adapt to the realities of this bold new world and forge ahead creating our own brand awareness.
Throughout all these changes, we have always maintained our focus on the traditional values of offering great product matched by high-quality service at all stages during the buying process as well as after sales. This has not only enabled us to survive where others have stumbled, but also thrive. Since opening our first boutique in Perth all those years ago, we have grown to five boutiques nationally, serving the major markets of Sydney and Melbourne. In the face of this growth, these core values continue to be as important, if not more, important to our business than in the past.
Watches of Switzerland is consistently recognised as one of the most successful luxury watch retailers in Australia. What do you attribute this ongoing success to?
E VdG: At the centre of everything we do is the customer. We want to make sure that every interaction with Watches of Switzerland is not only positive but also memorable. To that end, we have invested considerably in the past years and are continually upgrading our stores and internal systems to ensure we offer our clients the most luxurious and seamless experience possible. With this same goal, we regularly put on events for our clients at our boutiques and other exclusive locations around Australia to create unique opportunities for them to interact with our brand partners and their products. Finally, several years ago we recognised the growing importance of our digital presence and have continued to invest extensively and intelligently in this area to develop our capabilities further. Once again, with the overarching goal of offering our clients the best experience possible.
What are the key strengths of Watches of Switzerland that set it apart from its peers?
E VdG: First, and foremost, we live and breathe the business – as a family. We also have several long-term employees who have been with us for a decade or more, with one individual even celebrating seventeen years of service this year. We also pride ourselves on the depth of knowledge and passion our sales teams in each store demonstrate, and we support their efforts with ongoing training. We believe having well-informed, up-to-date staff is of critical importance, especially as the amount of information available online makes consumers and collectors more and more knowledgeable each year.
Secondly, we recognised early on the importance of representing the best brands in the world and continue to evolve our product offering. We always strive to hold a depth of stock in key brands so customers can make a well-informed purchase decision while viewing a large range of pieces in store. This commitment has helped us to become Australia’s number one retailer for major brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, IWC and Panerai.
What further changes do you envision for the next twenty years, and beyond, for Watches of Switzerland?
E VdG: We will continue to develop our digital presence, with a focus on introducing additional features, such as pre-ordering, before eventually rolling out a full-scale e-commerce offering. We will also be branching out into pre-owned and vintage watches for the first time, adding yet another facet to our business and further enhancing our customer offering. At the same time, we will continue to focus on providing comprehensive training to our staff and creating unique and engaging ways to interact with current and potential clients to deliver a truly memorable experience.