PARIS — The watchmakers of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton have landed in Miami for the fifth edition of the LVMH Watch Week showcase, running until Thursday.
Gérald Genta and Daniel Roth, the independent watchmakers incubated by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, are joining Bulgari, Hublot, Tag Heuer and Zenith in the traveling showcase that first launched in Dubai in 2020 and returned to a fully physical format last year in Singapore, supplemented with a two-day stop in New York.
For LVMH Watches & Jewelry Division chairman and chief executive officer Stéphane Bianchi, this year’s edition is an occasion to “once again shine a bright light on the collective momentum of our watchmaking maisons.”
Describing the showcase as “an exciting kick-off of the year for the watchmaking community” and the group’s watchmakers, newly minted LVMH Watches CEO Frédéric Arnault promised the four-day event would “go beyond timepieces [and will be] an experience, a celebration of craftsmanship, and a showcase of innovation.”
Miami was chosen as the year’s destination for its position as a dynamic international crossroads that is a hub of contemporary luxury and culture but also because it is “a prominent city in a strategically important market” for the French luxury conglomerate.
Overall, exports of Swiss watches to North America surpassed 4.2 billion euros in the first 11 months of 2023, according to figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
According to LVMH’s full-year 2023 results released Thursday, the U.S. accounted for 23 percent of the 10.9-billion-euro revenues of LVMH’s watch and jewelry division. During COP28, it also unveiled a partnership with the Miami Design District to reduce the energy consumption of stores and promote the use of solar power.
With LVMH Watch Week, “a platform to engage with the watch community, to share our plans for the future, and to showcase the exceptional savoir-faire,” Louis Vuitton director of watches Jean Arnault said it was essential to bring designs, archival and new, that encapsulate the DNA of the newly revived independent watchmakers Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta.
The former brought the Daniel Roth Tourbillon Souscription, unveiled at the brand’s relaunch as a 20-piece subscription series and a nod to the introductory watch by its namesake founder 35 years ago.
Meanwhile, the Gérald Genta Golden Gold with its newly developed minute repetition and retrograde jumping hour complication housed in an octagonal case well-known of collectors — and Mickey Mouse on the dial — is a condensate of Genta’s design signatures.
Jean Arnault revealed the new models would be offered through a very select network of retail partners specialized in independent high watchmaking.
Executives agreed that Miami was as much about affirming the U.S. market’s importance to their businesses as it is about showing their watchmaking chops and kicking off the year’s releases.
“We are showing love to the markets and the partners,” said Zenith’s new CEO Benoît de Clerck, who was named to the position in January.
Debuting a Chronomaster Original Triple Calendar, a rare complication even in high-end watchmaking, is “a sign of where the brand is going and capitalizing on what we have,” said the Zenith executive. “And what we have is doing well, i.e., selling well.”
Still fresh in his position, de Clerck was loath to make sweeping predictions but said he sensed pockets of growth, in terms of geography and distribution. “We can have good surprises in the U.S. despite  being an electoral year,” he said.
“Today, what people are looking at in a watch, and probably jewelry, is good value for money,” in addition to authenticity and heritage from brands, he continued. “The brand is super rich in terms of history. Dust off the book and you have an authentic story here. That’s real wealth.”
When it came to distribution, he said Zenith had potential, particularly if it could “express itself in the right environment — boutiques, but not only.”
When models such as the second Samuel Ross-designed Hublot release or the all-sapphire Takashi Murakami tourbillon amount to “a few percent of sales but drive 60 to 70 percent of the conversation,” marquee releases must epitomize a brand that has “watchmaking substance but is not traditional,” in the view of CEO Ricardo Guadalupe.
Cue the MP10 Tourbillon Weight Energy System debuting in Miami, a striking rectangular design that includes barrels to indicate hours and minutes, while vertical linear weights wind the movement as the wearer moves.
“If we came with something similar [to centuries-old competitors], we don’t have that historical legitimacy of 300, 400 years of history of making complications,” he told WWD.
The introduction of such models commanding six-figure prices contributed to a 2 to 3 percent increase to the average price of the brand over the past few years without locking out consumers entering through its Classic Fusion, which is priced around 6,500 euros.
“We want our consumer to be singular, passionate, who wants to enjoy and wear their Hublot,” said Guadalupe. “The speculator isn’t our client.”
The Hublot executive expects 2024 to be a continuation of 2023’s year of consolidation, after the euphoria of the previous 24 months. It will be another “year of soccer” for the brand, with the UEFA Euro 2024 held in Germany in June, particularly through a campaign with star player Kylian Mbappé.
Among upcoming retail projects are a relocation of its store on New York’s Fifth Avenue as well as four or five projects in China, both territories with strong development potential for the watchmaker. Hublot will also lean into a more experiential side in its retail concepts, hot off the success of its chalet in Zermatt, Switzerland, and beach-themed stores in Saint-Tropez and the Greek island of Mykonos.
Although analysts predict a complex trading environment in 2024, the LVMH-owned brands are far from battening down the hatches.
“The appetite [for hard luxury] is there, as long as it becomes an experience and not just a sale of a product,” said Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin.
Though growing geopolitical tensions and continued economic pressure would suggest a more cautious consumer this year, for Babin “the reality says exactly the opposite.”
Coming off 2023’s “reasonably good year,” the Roman jeweler’s focus in Miami and for the rest of the year will be precious metal watches, particularly for two of its masculine designs, the record-making Octo Finissimo and the Bulgari Bulgari, described by Babin as “men’s bestseller and darling since 1977” that’s equally popular with women.
Beyond their appeal, they mark Bulgari’s desire to offer its loyal clientele “a full spectrum of masterpieces and services fitting their tastes and a lifestyle that is often quite sophisticated,” he said.
He highlighted a phenomenon of “self-upselling” that sees such consumers going after ever-more expensive products and services when reassured by a brand’s consistency and coherence. “Brands who have understood this new attitude — selling to fewer but more committed clients — keep growing and gaining market share.”
The jeweler will mark the 10th anniversary of its Lucea jeweled watch and show a new iteration of the Bulgari Bulgari limited-edition collaboration between the jeweler and Lalisa Manobal, aka Blackpink’s Lisa, who has been a brand ambassador since 2020.
The steel and rose gold design with a white mother-of-pearl dial will come in a 23-mm version, limited to 400 pieces, with a 1,100-piece run of the 33-mm size.
With Tag Heuer among the brands highlighted in the 2023 results of its parent group LVMH for having had particularly robust growth, new CEO Julien Tornare, formerly of Zenith, felt he was “joining the brand at a very interesting moment because [its] repositioning has been put in place,” he told WWD. “Now it’s how we accelerate and bring the brand to the next level.”
To start the year in Miami as it means to go on, Tag Heuer is unveiling a Carrera Chronograph Glassbox, with a Dato layout and the glassbox design introduced for the family’s 60th anniversary; a new 34-mm size for its solar-powered Aquaracer and five new dials, as well as a yellow diamond take on its Carrera Date Plasma Diamant d’Avant-Garde.
The reintroduction of eyewear, unveiled in Miami, is another firm step in Tag Heuer’s bid to stretch its offer while keeping to its “always disruptive, always innovative” spirit.
Five designs will highlight innovations including first-ever 3D metal frames, the patented ultra-resistant Dyneema textile rope and 3D-printed titanium alongside natural materials as well as single-screw assembly or the lack of glues to make repairs simple.
With the U.S. a strong growth engine alongside markets such as Europe and the Middle East for Tag Heuer, Tornare said the brand would put its energy and investments in reinforcing Tag Heuer as a global brand.
Case in point: China, which he pointed out as a priority this year and where the approach will be to develop both brand awareness and desirability. The watchmaker will also gradually take over direct control of its distribution in South Korea.
Kicking off the year in North America is also ideal to feel the pulse of what’s to come. “It’s such a strong market for the brand and customers are usually quite reactive to what’s happening in the economic environment,” said the Tag Heuer executive. “This market might go first into a difficult time but also gets out first.”