The extensive physical coverage of luxury watch and jewellery retailer the Watches of Switzerland Group comprises some 140 showrooms across the UK, just under 50 in the US and just over a handful in Europe, consisting of both mixed-brand showrooms and single-brand boutiques.
As well as its multi-brand showrooms – the eponymous Watches of Switzerland, Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths in the UK, and Mayors and Betteridge in the US – its portfolio includes around 80 mono-brand boutiques in partnership with prestigious brands Omega, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Tudor, Breitling, Audemars Piguet, Grand Seiko, Bulgari and Fope. The group also operates stores at Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Indeed, the luxury-brand powerhouse has made strong progress in replicating its success in the domestic market in the US, where it launched in 2018, and now under the steerage of CEO Brian Duffy is pushing ahead with further expansion into the European market.
Seven transactional websites across the UK and US are also key to its multichannel strategy, with its online presence having been bolstered by the introduction of a next-day delivery option, a ‘by personal appointment’ booking service, and the Luxury Watch and Jewellery Virtual Boutique.
The group’s performance has been robust in recent years and total sales reached the £1bn mark in the latest financial year (FY2021), growing by almost a quarter (+24.6%) to £1.54bn in FY2022, with 87% of sales coming from luxury watches, while pre-tax profit increased to £154.8m with a pre-tax margin of 10%.
Through its brands, the group’s history can be traced back to 1775. The story of its namesake brand, Watches of Switzerland, began in 1924 with a man called Maurice Lane selling watches by mail order. It was originally known as G&M Lane & Co.
The group went on to be called Aurum Holdings until it changed its name to the Watches of Switzerland Group in September 2018 and, following a five year transformation programme, in June 2019 debuted on the London Stock Exchange where it was valued at £647m. Prior to its IPO, the business was owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management.
Innovation rating: 3