One of the most talked-about topics in the luxury goods industry is, “what do the millennials want?”.
To answer that question, we need to first define “millennials”.
There is no consensus on exactly how old millennials are, but Pew Research Center has drawn a line “in order to keep the millennial generation analytically meaningful”.
The institute will use 1996 as the last birth year for millennials, which means they are 22 to 37 years old this year.
That also means that most of them are in the workforce, and many are likely to have achieved financial success.
It is no wonder that the luxury brands are paying heed to their needs and wants.
Georges Kern, CEO of Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling, says: “The beauty of today is that you can reach clients quicker than before.
“The millennials have to be taken into account. I truly believe analogue watches will live on – but to sell a product which is perceived as 250 years old, you have to communicate in new ways, which reflect how these millennials are consuming fashion and everything they buy.
“The way you talk, how after-sales are provided, how you communicate, how you sell – all that must be digital even though the product is analogue.
“You have to work with your own digital advertising, YouTube, influencers, online, offline and in points of sale and remember that the decision to buy a watch can take a year to make.”
The watch brand, now with new owners and a new design team, unveiled the all-new Navitimer 8 collection at Baselworld 2018.
Designed by Guy Bove, formerly at Chopard, it is a contemporary watch, but with strong references to the aviation watches and pilots’ instruments of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
“But it is not a new Breitling; it is an incremental Breitling,” Kern tells the South China Morning Post.
“Breitling is one of the most relevant historical brands in the industry, especially when it comes to the chronograph.”
The plan of the Jura-based brand is to increase business incrementally, by introducing new traditional models and elegant models and thus taking market share in Asia. However, the total number of references will be radically cut from 650 to 120.
“We don’t need more of what we already have,” he says. “A reduced number of references is the only way you can create bestsellers.”
The Navitimer 8 collection, which ranges from a steel automatic time-only watch to a
chronograph in red gold, best sums up Breitling’s new direction.
Tudor, another Swiss watchmaker. has recently recruited Taiwanese singer, actor and producer Jay Chou as the ambassador of its 1926 collection, which is named after the year when Hans Wilsdorf registered the brand.
While the line draws inspiration from the early days of fine serialised watchmaking in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, new models have been updated for modern taste.
“We put a lot of attention on the dials,” Ander Ugarte, the brand’s designer, says of the collection, which features silver, black or galvanised opaline dials.
“They have a very nice structure, a stamped kind of waffle honeycomb, with an index combination of numerals and triangles.”
The collection comes in four different sizes – 28, 36, 39 or 41 millimetres (1.1, 1.4, 1.53 or 1.6 inches). An equal amount of design attention has been given to the integrated metal bracelet featuring seven supple rows of links – which together with the slim case and less-is-more approach add fuel to the vintage-inspired fire.
While Chou, at 39, is not technically a millennial based on Pew’s standards, he surely has a lot of millennial fans.
Omega, on the other hand, has recently announced Kaia Gerber, daughter of fashion icon Cindy Crawford and an up-and-coming supermodel, as the ambassador of the new Trésor watches.
The original Trésor was loved for its extremely elegant thin gold case, made possible by the 30-millimetre calibre.
The newest collection offers an even thinner case with a height of 9.75 millimetres for the 39-millimetre models, and 8.85 millimetres for the 36-millimetre models. Other revised elements include the slender Roman numerals, curved diamond paving and straps.
“People now don’t really need a watch to tell the time, so the thing about the Trésor is it’s something you wear every day, not necessarily for telling time, but because of how it makes you feel – and the style of it,” Gerber says.
At 17, Gerber is more of the Gen Z, but her sophistication probably appeals to the younger millennials.
Omega has been proactively engaging millennial customers, with its recent Instagram campaign, Speedy Tuesday, being a great example.
It sold out a limited-edition model of Speedmaster within hours, attracting attention through hashtag #speedytuesday.
“This is very millennial,” says CEO Raynald Aeschlimann. “This is a very new way – there was no Instagram five years ago. But we are respecting [the millennials].
We don’t do an Instagram watch. We don’t do a watch that is a millennial watch. We are creating the buzz around [the watches] by interesting [the millennials]”
“Millennials are incredible savvy clients,” says Hong Kong’s iconic jeweller Ronald Abram.
“Previous generations learned how to appreciate fine jewellery over many years and many visits.
Nowadays, there’s a whole world of information available at their fingertips to help them better understand and discover the jewellery market.”
Asia-based international fine jeweller Qeelin has recently announced a new collection of diamond necklaces featuring a Wulu diamond, shaped in the brand’s signature bottle gourd motif, as the centre stone.
The painstaking work saw five workshops involved before the skilled craftsman achieved the right proportion and brilliance.
As the new gem was unveiled, millennial mainland Chinese actress Guli Nazha was also announced as the new brand ambassador.
Dennis Chan, founder and creative designer, says: “I think millennials have their own demands when it comes to high jewellery; they are not looking for classics or heirlooms like their parents’ generation did.
“They want to have something that is exquisite, but that they can also wear – [for anything] from casual events to formal affairs.”
One of the city’s most prominent international jewellery designers, Cindy Chao, is set to be the only Asian jeweller to be showcased at the forthcoming 2018 Masterpiece London.
She thinks that while millennials have their own takes on style, they also learned much of what they know about jewellery from their parents, and their approach to it is therefore not entirely different.
“They tend to purchase pieces with a distinctive design from independent, niche fine-jewellery houses in a quite early stage,” she says.
“Still, they may be the sort of people who buy jewellery pieces primarily because they want to add an eye-catching piece to their attire.
“When reaching a certain level of jewellery collection, these millennials become even more eager for unique, one-of-a-kind designs ... This is the sort of evolution in collecting behaviour their parents’ generation has experienced as well.”
Nancy Wong, executive director of Lukfook, one of Hong Kong’s most well-known jewellery retailers, says: “Millennials in China enjoy greater financial freedom and have more disposable income to spend on high-priced products.
“They are keen for uniqueness. Making a purchase of ‘bespoke jewellery’ is an expression of their individuality and [helps them] to stand out among their peers.”
Additional reporting by Kim Soo-jin.