INNOVATION DRIVES FASHION FORWARD

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100 Blancpain Watches Sold Out “In One Second”| Luxe.CO’s Interview with Vice President of Blancpain China

August 10,2021

100 limited-edition watches, with a price tag of 77,500 yuan each, recently sold out in one second.

On July 28, the Swiss luxury watch brand Blancpain completed the brand's first online product drop in China (and Asia). The brand launched its new “Fifty Fathoms” series in its official WeChat Mini Program (the limited edition of the “Aurora Green” Bathyscaphe) and sold out of it “in one second”. According to advertising data from Tencent, before the official sale, the watch had more than 10,000 reservations in shopping carts, while the sale attracted nearly 30,000 people seeking to place orders.

Following this blink-and-you-miss-it sales event, Luxe.CO ran an exclusive interview with Mr. Liao Xinjia, a current member of the management board of the Swatch Group and Vice President of Blancpain China. Liao has been deeply involved in the watch industry for many years and has worked for Blancpain since its entry into the Chinese market in 2001.

In the interview, we conducted in-depth exchanges on leading questions:

Who is buying Blancpain watches? Why was the sale conducted online? And what signals and ideas have come out of this process? 

Who is buying Blancpain watches?

The “Fifty Fathoms” watch series was first released by Blancpain in 1952. It was the first modern diver’s watch and is called “the father of modern diver’s watches” by the industry. On this occasion, the 100 entry-level watches were only for sale in China.

Liao Xinjia revealed to Luxe.CO that the user portraits participating in the product drop were basically consistent with Blancpain’s previous user portraits. The proportion of young people, especially those under the age of 25, was very high. Customers born after the1980s accounted for 85%, and young buyers (those under 25) accounted for nearly one-third.

“Today's young people do not look for corresponding brands based on their income, but directly focus on the top brands in each field,” Liao commented. In his interview with Luxe.CO, Liao shared three characteristics of young luxury watch consumers, as observed by Blancpain:

  • The first is their thirst for knowledge, strong learning and analytical skills, and familiarity with luxury watches;
  • The second is that they have strong personalities, and hope to see more personalized products that reflect their personalitiese;
  • The third is that they regard brand values as important and expect more personalized items.

Why was this Blancpain sale conducted online?

This time, Blancpain chose a more localized online channel—the brand’s official WeChat mini-program “Blancpain Limited Time Boutique”, and used the “product drop” form of releasing merchandise, which is a common practice among  street fashion shoe brands and luxury clothing brands.

Although this was not Blancpain’s first product drop on the global scale, it has been the most thorough and the fastest to sell out in its digital retail platforms

In the past, offline physical retail had always been the most important sales channel for Blancpain as well as for the watch industry as a whole. Today, with the digital transformation of retail channels, all watch brands and retailers are facing challenges and must accelerate their direct contact with consumers, expand the scope of retail business and increase direct interaction with customers. All-channel retail has become the general trend. According to consulting firm McKinsey, by 2025, annual sales of US$2.4 billion will be transferred from multi-brand retailers to brands themselves.

Speaking of this digital attempt, Liao Xinjia believes that  “WeChat Mini Program is the beginning of brand e-commerce, which means that Blancpain, as the top watch brand, will begin to build its own e-commerce platform.

Regarding this choice, Liao shared his thoughts: “ Offline is still an indispensable channel for luxury brands to display themselves, but online bandwidth and efficiency are very high, and it can face more consumers and carry more information. Online and offline are only different forms, and experience is equally important for luxury consumers in both online and offline stores. However, online customer experience has often been overlooked.

Luxury service is an important part of value. Online and offline service standards must be consistent. ” Liao emphasized. He believes that the Chinese domestic market still has large room for improvement in terms of service experience.

In the digital age, high-standard products and luxury brands are still rare

From luxury brand service, Liao then discussed Blancpain's multi-generational commitment to high-standard products. “No matter how many generations Blancpain watches have been passed down, we will help customers maintain the parts, because all the movements and craftsmanship are completely self-produced by the brand. Even the smallest and the most complex movements are all done by ourselves. This is the most important commitment and differentiation of the Blancpain brand. ”

Blancpain was founded in Switzerland in 1735. For 286 years, it has insisted on only making mechanical watches, being one of the few high-end watch brands that insists on all watches using fully self-produced mechanical movements. Blancpain has received 28 out of 28 full-point evaluations from experts in the Switzerland Foundation High Horology’s (Fondation Haute Horlogerie) White Paper for the evaluation of fine watchmaking.

Recalling the brand’s entry into China in 2001, Liao Xinjia said that due to the level of economic development at that time and the limited awareness of watches, it was difficult for Chinese consumers to accept a watch of more than 100,000 yuan. Nevertheless, without lowering its high standards, Blancpain has, 20 years later, seen China become one of its top three markets in the world.

Today, China has become the growth engine of the global luxury market. In such an exciting and rapid development window, in the alluring Chinese market, Blancpain remains committed to its“long-term strategy”. For example, when it comes to whether Blancpain will cater more to the preferences of the younger generation of Chinese consumers, Liao said: “Blindly catering to market trends and meaninglessly rejuvenating the brand is a short-term behavior. Brands must be clear about their own DNA and positioning, and stick to their own values. These are long-term behaviors.”

In China, Blancpain has always adhered to a “deep circle” strategy,  telling the brand story in a low-key manner. In recent years, most of the businesses that Blancpain has partnered with also have professionalism in their DNA. Through its multi-generational commitment to high-standard products and brand DNA, today Blancpain has been gaining more recognition and love from high-end Chinese consumers.

Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize

“This era is digitalizing, while top mechanical watches are still selling particularly well. The two are not contradictory. Top mechanical watchmaking still cannot be replaced by electronic products. These works represent the spirit of craftsmanship and people’s endless pursuit of works of art. Top quality, extraordinary creativity and impeccable taste are the essence of a boutique brand and what people who love life need."

| Photo Credit: Blancpain

| Writer: Jiaqi Wang

| Translator: Yanke Zhu

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