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Breitling Expands Into US And China Markets

Luxury watch brand Breitling intends to significantly increase its presence in the sector’s two main markets, the United States and China.

“We also want to develop our portfolio of women’s timepieces,” says Georges Kern, Chief Executive Officer of the Grenchen (SO)-based company.

In China there is an enormous need to recover on the consumption front, explains the manager in an interview published today by the Tages-Anzeiger. The sales trend in recent weeks suggests growth in the coming months as well.

Chinese tourists are also likely to return to Switzerland as early as next summer. However, according to Kern, mass tourism as it was known before the pandemic crisis belongs to the past, as Beijing wants to stimulate domestic consumption. Plus travel to Europe is getting more expensive.

In relation to supply difficulties, the Breitling number one underlines the difference in subcontracting problems in the luxury sector compared to other industries. “It’s not computer chips we lack, it’s capability,” he explains. Demand is so high that production can’t keep up.

Difficulty Facing The Industry

Another difficulty facing the industry is the shortage of skilled labour. This year, Breitling will begin training apprentices for the first time, whereas until now the watchmaker has been content to support training centers in Switzerland. “We receive hundreds of applications in response to vacancies, for both specialist and managerial positions.”

As for inflation, the 58-year-old believes customers who can afford luxury watches are comfortable with the price hikes. “I buy something nice now, because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” The Christmas sales went “very well”.

The share of turnover generated by the online sector is approximately 10%. “Most customers, however, expect a shopping experience in a store, where our products can be touched and worn,” says the former Richemont executive. However, the Internet is the main place where the idea of a purchase develops, which is then carried out in a physical point of sale.

The entrepreneur with dual Swiss and German nationality also expressed his opinion regarding the assumption of a majority stake in Breitling by the investment company Partners Group. “We have known each other for a long time and have a good relationship of trust”, assures the head graduate of the University of St. Gallen. Alfred Gantner, co-founder of Partners Group, “is a great enthusiast and connoisseur of watches”.

However, the shareholder change should not have any impact on the company’s growth strategy, which currently boasts an annual revenue growth rate of approximately 20%.

Breitling was founded by Léon Breitling (1860–1914), who founded the company in 1884 in Saint-Imier in the Bernese Jura. The brand became particularly known as used in the Second World War by airmen of the RAF and USAF, the air forces of Great Britain and the United States.

According to an estimate by Morgan Stanley cited by the Tages-Anzeiger, the company achieved a turnover of 680 million francs in 2021, which makes it the 11th best-selling brand after Rolex (8.1 billion), Cartier (2.4 billion ), Omega (2.2 billion), Audemars Piguet (1.6 billion), Longines (1.5 billion), Patek Philippe (also 1.5 billion), Richard Mille (1.1 billion), Tissot (850 million ), IWC (802 million) and TAG Heuer (682 million).

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