The Indian watch market: Switzerland’s next big target The Indian watch market: Switzerland’s next big target

The Indian watch market: Switzerland’s next big target

Ricardo Sime

For years, Swiss brands have heavily invested in the Chinese market. Which has made sense, as year after year, the watch market there continues to be the largest in the world. Yet, with the recent pandemic and China’s love affair with lockdowns, many brands are realising some diversification wouldn’t hurt. And as they’ve scoured the earth in search of emerging markets, one has stuck out. The Indian watch market.

TAG Heuer Ambassador and Bollywood celebrity Ranbir Kapoor unveiling TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 smartwatch new face

With a population of 1.38 billion people, the country of India is second only to that of China (1.4 billion).  Alone, these numbers are not the main attraction for the Swiss. What is really catching their eye is the growth of India’s middle class. As WorldDataLab reports, that portion of the population is nearing 400 million people, a figure that will soon eclipse the total population of the United States. And it’s expected to double in the next eight years. This means a huge amount of people entering the consumer market with more disposable income.

But what does that mean for watch sales specifically? Well, the short answer is growth. For comparison, the U.S market, as per Statista, is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.79% over the next four years. In that same time period, the Indian watch market is at a CAGR rate nearly double, at 7.19%. Furthermore, from 2020, to 2021, Swiss watch exports to India also showed the largest growth among the top 30 markets at 61.7% (chart below).

In response to this growth, swiss brands Hublot and Panerai opened new boutiques in the country in recent years. While TAG Heuer and Ulysse Nardin have added Indian brand ambassadors to spread the word.

In terms of the current players in the Indian watch market, the main one is a company called Titan Company Limited (think of a lovechild between Swatch and Fossil). It has nearly 40% of the market share. That consists of in company brands, out of company brands that it sells as an AD, and the Swiss brand it owns, Favre-Leuba. Other companies in the mix include brands such as Seiko, Timex, Casio, Citizen, Fossil, Swatch and Rolex; all mainstream brands who are trying to gain share in the market.

Within that larger market, it’s important to note that smartwatch sales are growing leaps and bounds. As a result of the pandemic, more and more Indians are now health conscious, leading to 173% year over year growth in that subset of the market. Though most of the smartwatch offerings in India are in the affordable range (<$100 USD), Swiss companies such as TAG Heuer are perfectly situated to provide more luxury offerings.

Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry

In the end, all the figures and charts I’ve looked at still show the Indian watch market is nowhere near the top for Swiss watch exports. However, the opportunities presented by such a growing middle class are hard to ignore. While watch markets above it may be reaching their saturation points, the Indian market seems to have nowhere to go but up. And Swiss brands are going to make sure they get their piece of that pie.