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In the new, exciting and precarious economy of the watchmaking world

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Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO of Panerai, evokes “the wow effect of a second”. “The hype is about how much you surprise people,” he says. “If a new product doesn’t create the wow effect for a second, then you fail.”

In September, Panerai removed the covers from a 47mm carbon fiber version of its submersible, created to reflect the aesthetics of a Brabus “Shadow Black Ops” boat. “You have to find a hype that contributes to your brand,” says Pontroué, adding that 90% of his clients are men. “We are bombarded with hundreds of messages every day. How does your brand exist in all of this information? “

This summer, TAG Heuer answered the question by pairing its smartwatch with Nintendo. It is estimated that there are now three billion gamers in the world, many of whom are familiar with the concepts of hype. “The hype is definitely an interesting business driver,” says Frédéric Arnault, CEO of the company. “This allows us to market parts that sell out quickly, generating additional income. But it’s also a way for us to test the market and reach out to a new community. TAG Heuer’s Connected 2,000-coin Super Mario Edition, he says, sold out in less than ten minutes.

TAG Heuer Connected X Super Mario, £ 1,800. tagheuer.com

The dynamics of the hype continue to evolve. In the past, established markets such as the United States and mainland Europe dominated the consumption of luxury watches, and brands focused their marketing efforts on Western mores. But the landscape has changed. China is now the largest importer of Swiss watches, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, which monitors the country’s exports. No one expects the Middle Empire to let go of its grip, even when Chinese traveling consumers once again become the world’s most valuable tourism market.

In July, Zenith introduced actor, singer and Weibo superpower Xiao Zhan as an ambassador. “We had a record relaunch effect following the announcement,” says Julien Tornare, CEO of the brand. “In six hours, we got 342 million views of the hashtag, nine million views of the video that we posted and sold more watches in China than we normally would in a month.” History illustrates how quickly a brand can change too. Before the pandemic, Zenith was so far behind digitally that it didn’t even have its own e-commerce platform.

The digital effect in generating the hype is unquantifiable, but it has undoubtedly played its part in transforming industry attitudes towards marketing – and did much of the groundwork for that. Social media, and Instagram in particular, has made every user into an influencer. Meanwhile, the barriers to entering a conversation about watches have all but evaporated, so much so that brands can leave these users – most of whom are not their consumers – to speak for them. “When long-time influencers and collectors talk about collectible watches on Instagram, when you see a convergence of young, old and new, it collectively creates a lot of momentum,” says Michael Friedman, Head of Complications. ‘Audemars Piguet. “You get a hype effect. “