As the original channel for watch distribution, the multiband shop is still essential for most watch brands, as it is one of the most common watchmaking locations. Indeed, thanks to it, they can fully cover the territory of a country and all this at a lower cost. You will discover in this part, everything you need to know about independent and multi-brand boutiques, but also on chains, as well as department stores.
Swiss and world watchmaking has since its inception worked in a very little integrated way. It was common for motion manufacturers not to be the same as watch manufacturers, and there are many more subcontractors as well. So, of course, the distribution was rarely done by the brand itself – by the producer of the watch – but most often by small authorized distributors who had their catchment area, a region or a city where they held the monopoly of distribution.
However, the places of sale were little present in watchmaking before its first democratization, that is to say between 1700 and 1800. Indeed, before that time, most orders came from nobles, crowned heads or large bourgeois. Few were the shops that offered such objects. It was more common to go directly to the craftsman or even to bring him home. Moreover, the kings and the greatest nobles had their own watchmakers who bore the well-known title of watchmakers of the King.
Since the nineteenth century and development, watchmakers have sought to have a distribution network of specialists. Often, they were small neighborhood watchmakers or jewelers who also offered watches. In all cases, they were mostly small independents.
The department stores that opened during the second half of the nineteenth century (Aristide Boucicaut opens his Bon Marché in Paris in 1852), so it is a new distribution channel that appears. Watchmaking will quickly seek to distribute its products in, and today signs like Le Bon Marché, Galeries Lafayette or Le Printemps are big sellers of watches and luxury goods and fashion.
After the Second World War, the distribution is gradually regrouping in France and in Europe. This is the emergence of major retailers in the 1950s to 1970s. The watch industry is no exception with the appearance of several chain stores in watchmaking or jewelry.
Primordial channel, these multi-dealer retailers have a vital role for most brands that sell watches. Their presence throughout a territory makes it possible to target the largest number of customers, especially since they are often placed in the shopping centers or shopping streets of the cities.
The physical stores that sell watches have very diverse and varied forms. There are, indeed, several possible classifications to navigate.
Most independent players will have small points of sale, although some have more space than others. For multi-point retail stores, the point of sale is also often small. However, there are some channels like Bucherer which has real “department stores” dedicated to watchmaking.
Watches, it ranges from 10 euros to several hundred thousand euros, so necessarily the customer is not the same. The different brands will therefore target different customers.
In the entry-level, there are especially the signs of shopping malls like Histoire d’or, Cleor or Le Manège à Bijoux. There are also many independent watchmakers and jewelers.
Other actors such as Louis Pion, Maty or a large number of independents sell both entry-level watches and high-end watches, it will depend on the situation of the shop.
To find specialists in luxury watchmaking, it will be necessary to turn to Bucherer (in France, but especially in Switzerland), Gübelin (especially in Switzerland) and especially high-end independents such as Les Montres, Dubail, etc.
It is possible to classify watch distributors by specialization. Most of the time, it is jewelery-watchmakers, but there are also a large number of specialists in the sale of watches like Bucherer, Louis Pion or independent watchmakers.
The advantages and disadvantages of these different channels will largely differ from the type of shop. A small neighborhood retailer or even a large independent is not at all like a big chain of stores or department stores.
Here are the different advantages for independent and multi-brand boutiques, retailers and department stores:
But there are also some disadvantages:
Of course, I cannot present all department stores, signs and independent watch shops, but only some of the best known in France, and some favorites.