FEATURED STORY

Featured stories and updates from our team and trade members

July 2021

The Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers announces findings from the first ever Bellwether survey of the sector.

London, 9 July 2021 – Watch and clock making is identified as a distinct sector of the British economy by KPMG Bellwether survey.

The first ever Bellwether survey of British horology has been produced by KPMG from a commission by trade body, the Alliance of the British Watch and Clock Makers (The Alliance).

 “This first Bellwether survey of our sector is a significant milestone for British watch and clock making”, said Alistair Audsley, co-founding director of the Alliance. “We commissioned this report to establish a baseline for a sector that is clearly in resurgence. Our primary aims were to establish the size, scope and direction of heading for our sector; but, above all, to substantiate the return of watch and clock making as a distinct sector within the British economy”.

 Mike France, CEO of leading watchmaker, Christopher Ward and a co-founder of the Alliance said; “The headline numbers reveal over 100 watch and clockmaking brands producing over a million watches per year. Most companies are niche or micro brands, but collectively they reveal Britain is back as a genuine player on the global stage”.

 According to the report, British Watch and Clock making is “a dynamic sector with an opportunity for development”.

 Chairman of the Alliance, Roger Smith OBE said “We think there is enormous potential, both for growth and to encourage more of the ‘making’ back into Britain. Some British businesses are leading the charge in producing at least some of their components in-house, but now we can prove there is a growing market to further encourage the development of British supply-chain.”

 “This is one of our major goals for the Alliance. Like most British consumer goods sectors, we’re still too reliant on off-shored supply chain,” continued Alistair Audsley; “But, from the outset we recognised that the only possible way to improve that is by working together; by sharing technical knowledge and encouraging British supply-chain partners. A single company can’t meaningfully make a positive difference for the sector, but this Bellwether indicates that, with over 100 companies out there, we might just have a realistic market for British supply chain.”

 The Bellwether estimates the retail value of the market to be at least £125 million once retail margin is applied to wholesale revenues. The sales figures also revealed that the British sector has been built upon predominantly direct online sales, as opposed to traditional retail which, according to KPMG’s Kristan King has yielded the most significant findings of the survey;

 “The general resilience of the respondent businesses to the impact of Covid-19 and the extent to which even the smaller businesses are trading internationally, both appear to be due to the extent of their online distribution.” he said. “This represents an opportunity for the sector, as it has access to many large overseas markets that may be able to absorb greater product volumes if supply is increased and marketing is effective.”

 The Bellwether reveals a British sector ranging from micro-brands to multi-million pound businesses, the vast majority of which expect the market to grow over the coming years.

 While approximately half of the revenues were made from UK sales during the last financial year, the North American market drives a significant proportion of demand, followed by Europe, Asia Pacific, China, Australia, Gulf Cooperation countries, Caribbean, Latin America and India.

 Mike France commented; “This shows that international markets are growing fast for British watch and clock making and are driven by British qualities of innovation, unique designs and personalisation, as well as the stories behind the brands.”

 According to the survey, Britain is the hub of design, 97% of the companies design their watches and clocks in the British Isles, however most of the companies source their components internationally. The survey also highlighted a significant demand for skilled watch and clock makers and experienced people in supporting roles to maintain growth.

 “It’s vital for British horology to have sufficient skilled people entering our sector to maintain growth”,  said Roger Smith OBE; “A focus for the Alliance is to work with British educators to help develop talent and provide opportunities. Watch and clock making is a wonderful career choice and this Bellwether has shown it is also a viable career path for anyone with the right aptitude and training.”

 “Britain has a unique heritage of invention in watch and clock making, but in the twentieth century, our sector almost disappeared” said Alistair Audsley; “What this Bellwether survey shows is that, while we’re a small sector at an early stage, we have exciting potential. Britain is most definitely back!”

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