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How can the luxury watch industry survive Covid-19?

By LLM Reporters on 27th June 2020

Words by Matthew Cule, founder of CuleM Watches

We are all living in challenging times – in both our personal and work lives as well as an increasing awareness of our wider human family of seven billion people around the planet. We are all one right now and more connected by technology than ever, yet at the same time largely paused in place or ‘frozen in time’ by the Covid-19 pandemic. As humans, we will survive and thrive again, but things have changed. Many adaptations have been forced upon us that require that we think differently and behave differently than we might have ‘before’. We, the world, are currently on reset.

In a very similar way, I can see a lot of adaptation and new thinking being not, simply necessary, but a requirement of staying relevant for many watch brands. From the large heritage brands to smaller independent watch brands, the watch industry must also reset.

Matthew Cule is the founder of luxury watch brand CuleM Watches

Living in essential times

At this moment in time, a lot of people I speak to are only buying essential items like food and medicine and, for many, it has made us question the priority and volume of essential versus non-essential purchases. In the past twelve weeks at home in Spain, my partner and I have not bought anything other than essential items.

Despite this, I have continued to look at non-essential things, like treat purchases and travel destinations because they are my passions and business interests. Until a week ago, I had not been thinking about buying anything ‘unnecessary’ or booking my next holiday. Now, I feel that I want to treat myself to something after all this time at home.

My feeling is that there are a lot of other people out there who will have managed to make savings by being stringent. These people may not return to the high street in a hurry but are in a position to treat themselves a little if the opportunity arises.

During this time at home, I have also had a lot of additional time for reading, podcasts and videos covering areas of development so I can be in the best position to capitalise on the unfolding landscape. We always intend to do these bits of maintenance on ourselves and our businesses, but they feel more essential now too.

Watch sales are down

As you may have read in the last couple of weeks, luxury watch sales in April and May were extremely low across the industry and, I guess, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. In times like these we will see some big changes where some brands survive and come out the other side thriving, undoubtedly others will cease to exist. At CuleM, we are still seeing sales coming through the website and, interestingly, our online traffic has more than doubled in the last couple of months alone. The surge in online activity and enquiries is encouraging, particularly as we had decided to cut back our marketing spend as a cost saving measure.

Despite many people being focused on buying essential items, we have new customers deciding to buy a CuleM watch. When surveyed, the common theme returned was that they wanted to treat themselves.

Luxury watch sales globally fell sharply in April and May, figures show

Inspired by the world

I created CuleM watches because I wanted to bring something refreshingly new to the same world. I have been so inspired by myself whilst on my journey. I wanted to create meaningful, and beautiful timepieces worthy of exquisite jewellery or of art even – with the most beautiful piece of art being the world itself.

After creating and wearing all 12 CuleM watches in The World GMT Collection for close to one year now, they prompted me to think more about the beauty and fragility of the world rather than just making me want to travel it again in the future.

I have also thought a lot about that future when I look at the world on my wrist and it has made me question what world do I want to create for myself? What impact do I want to have and what do I want my life to look like?

Behind CuleM’s unique design and concept lies deep meaning and connection to mindfulness and the planet we live on. These are things that echo within a movement of people looking to make better decisions around sustainable consumption and buying better quality in a cost-efficient way. Standing for something beyond that of a standard brand can help take your audience on a buying journey that they can really relate and feel connected to.

The luxury watch industry (alongside many other industries) has to reset in order to survive and come out the other side of the post-pandemic ‘new world’, according to Matthew Cule

Business has to reset

The luxury watch industry (alongside many other industries) has to reset in order to survive and come out the other side of the post-pandemic ‘new world.’

I believe that all watch businesses should use this time now to creatively reinvent their business again as if the past never happened and start with the notion of a blank sheet of paper before making urgent cost-cutting measures and critical cashflow decisions. Though, this is easy to say right now as many of these measures may already have happened in some cases.

At the top of the blank sheet of paper and written in big, bold capital letters should be the words: ‘creative innovation.’ Many luxury watch brands start with cost cutting first and part of that cost cutting usually involves the valuable creative ideas that have been gestating for the brand direction. We all have to be more creative in difficult times and this does not necessarily mean increasing costs. It means making small adjustments to the business and welcoming the creativity of all.

This will be more challenging for larger organisations where a change of course can take a long time to fully action or smaller but well-established businesses that are set in their ways through habit. Being willing to test new ways of collaborating or innovating creatively across the business helps gather momentum for the tail end of the pandemic and beyond.

When this pandemic is over, there is high potential for a scramble amongst the household brand names for long term relevance in the post Covid-19 world.

bigstock-Elegant-Man-In-Blue-Suit-Busi-233992744
Switzerland’s watchmaking industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the sector likely to suffer the worst crisis of its history in 2020

Planning the future

At CuleM, we are an independent watch brand with building traction among discerning buyers and big dreams for the future. Since February this year, I have been carefully building a leadership team from very diverse industries and experience sets and looking squarely into the future. With a new board of directors and leadership team consisting of marketing, finance, design and operations, we are embarking on something that feels exciting rather than risky. As a new team that came together during the Covid-19 era, we feel very connected and like we’ve already overcome some adversity together to secure the future of CuleM – what a way to bond!

CuleM Watches is an independent watchmaker founded by watch collector and traveller Matthew Cule. CuleM ‘s World GMT collection of Swiss made dual time automatic watches celebrates the beauty of our amazing world and are designed for people who love to travel and collectors of exquisite timepieces.