Allure of Chinese Market Reshapes Watchmaking Industry

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PARIS — Eager to tap into China’s wellspring of prosperity, high-end watchmakers are shifting their strategies to gain ground with new generations of Chinese consumers. Demand for watches in China has helped pull Swiss watch exports out of a prolonged slump this year and inject optimism into a sector also struggling for relevance as the Apple Watch gains ground. Chinese consumers are not only lifting the spirits of watchmakers, they are also driving deep changes in the industry. “The first generation was buying like crazy, after getting rich practically overnight — spending and spending,” noted Julien Tornare, chief executive officer of Zenith, a brand belonging to French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Those days are over, partly due to the government’s publicized crackdown on corruption, and the industry’s growth is set to take place at a more tempered pace, prompting watchmakers to keep closer tabs on changes in Chinese consumption habits and adjust strategies to meet them. Reflecting broader trends in luxury consumption in the country, watch buyers are keeping a closer eye on value for money and increasingly turning to digital avenues for their purchases. “They go on the Internet, they travel around the world, they speak English, they’re very well-educated and they’re

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