Business News: Richemont Sales Recover in Third Quarter

Light at the end of the tunnel?

In the third quarter of its financial year – the three months to end-December 2020 – Richemont reported a modest recovery, with sales rising 5% over the same period a year before at constant exchange rates. This modest recovery was enough to moderate its results for the nine months to date, with revenue for the period down 14%, as compared to the drastic 38% plunge in sales for the first half of the year.

Owners of over two dozen watch and jewellery brands including Cartier, IWC, and Panerai, the Swiss luxury conglomerate was buoyed by robust demand in Asia, its biggest regional market, as well as the Middle East and Africa. Combined, the two regions make up approximately half of Richemont’s global sales.

The Asia Pacific enjoyed a 25% rise in sales, driven largely by exceptional demand in mainland China, where revenue rose an impressive 80% for the period, with sales in Taiwan also seeing a marked 29% increase – both consequence of a return to regular economic activity as the pandemic was brought under control, and the inability to travel and shop overseas.

Paradoxically, the results in the Middle East were driven by a revival of tourist spending in Dubai as flights resumed, and domestic spending in Saudi Arabia where citizens cannot easily go abroad. This contributed towards a remarkable 27% increase in sales for the region.

Elsewhere, sales too rose, albeit in smaller, single-digit increments. Bolstered by domestic demand, sales in the Americas rose by 3%. Japan saw a 1% increase, though this figure is expected to drop due to the recent implementation of stricter pandemic control measures in the major cities.

However, demand in Europe remains poor, with sales declining by 20%. Long a market driven by high-spending tourists, Europe is suffering a double blow from both the lack of inbound travellers and harsher lockdown measures resulting in decreased domestic spending.

The Cartier Tank Cintree

Online sales surge

The diverging performance of online versus offline, as well as jewellery versus watches, continued in the third quarter.

As stores remain shuttered globally due to the pandemic, online sales – Richemont owns pre-owned watch merchant Watchfinder and luxury-fashion retailer Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) – surged by 17%, outpacing growth at the group’s brick-and-mortar distributor channels, which are made of of its own stores, known as retail, and third-party retailers, or wholesale.

The increase in the online retails sales offset the continued decline in wholesale revenue, which is mainly made up of sales to specialist watch retailers, which have continued to reduce inventories. As a result, wholesale revenue decreased 8%.

But retail sales at Richemont’s own stores – primarily those of its outperforming jewellery division – remains the largest driver of group revenue and rose 8%.

Jewellers sparkle

Richemont’s jewellery division, made up of Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpel, continues to eclipse its watch brands as a revenue generator. Jewellery sales increased 14%, while watchmakers saw sales falling 4%.

Still, the small decline in sales is a turnaround from the first six months of the year, where sales fell 38%. The recovery was primarily on the back of double-digit growth in the Asia Pacific, especially in China, which played host to the Watches & Wonders fairs in Shanghai and then Sanya.


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De Bethune Introduces the Double-Faced DB28 Tourbillon

The Kind of Two Tourbillon.

Highly regarded for its original and inventive watches that blend high tech and classical, De Bethune’s latest personifies the brand’s twin personalities – literally. Based on its signature DB28, the Kind of Two Tourbillon is De Bethune’s innovative take on the reversible watch.

The trademark “floating” lugs of the DB28 have been reengineered to incorporate a compact pivot for the case, allowing it to swivel in either direction, creating a sleek, symmetrical double-sided watch unlike any other.

Initial thoughts

While the brand got its start with traditional, Breguet-inspired watches, its raison d’etre quickly evolved into pushing the boundaries of watchmaking – both technically and visually – typified by the Kind of Two Tourbillon.

Reversible watches aren’t novel, having been around since the 1930s – the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso was patented in 1931, and the most expensive watch ever is also double-faced – and are often classically styled. Most notably, Bovet has a diverse offering of highly-complicated, double-faced watches, but all executed in the Baroque style its favours. In contrast, the Kind of Two Tourbillon is clearly contemporary – and one of its face is definitely sci-fi – illustrating the technical prowess of De Bethune while expressing its avant-garde house style.

The sci-fi face

But because it is essentially a variant of the DB28, the Kind of Two Tourbillon will be actually wearable despite its mechanical complexity and size. It’s a relatively wide 42.8 mm, but just 9.5 mm high, while the spring-loaded lugs allow it to cling to the wrist, giving it a flat, sleek profile.

Priced at 215,000 Swiss francs, the Kind of Two Tourbillon is one of the priciest watches in De Bethune’s line up. That said, it is quite a lot of watch for the price. Not only is it a double-faced watch, but the movement also incorporates De Bethune’s patented, high-speed tourbillon. The fact that the tourbillon regulator isn’t the highlight speaks volumes about the ingenuity of the Kind of Two.

The tourbillon is visible only on one face

Jekyll and Hyde

On its front, the Kind of Two Tourbillon is stylish and modern, looking very much like a typical DB28. With a tourbillon at six, it has stepped, delta-shaped bridge against an expanse of polished titanium. All are recurring elements in De Bethune design, but subtly tweaked. The delta-shaped barrel bridge has been scaled down and engraved with a linear motif, a theme echoed by the trio of stepped triangles that frame the corners of the dial.

On the reverse is a more formal dial that resembles those found on De Bethune’s earliest watches like the DB8 and DB10, which were heavily inspired by 19th century pocket watches of Abraham-Louis Breguet and his peers. With the tourbillon hidden, this dial has an exquisite, guilloche centre with Breguet-style hands and italicised Arabic numerals, along with a finely-scale minute track.

The dual-faces are the result of the newly-developed DB2579, an in-house calibre engineered to display the same time on two dials. It’s a hand-wind movement with a five day power reserve, as well as many of De Bethune’s technical innovations.

The tourbillon, for instance, is a lightweight construction making one revolution in 30 seconds, travelling at twice the speed of conventional tourbillons. The lightest tourbillon assembly in watchmaking according to De Bethune, it’s made up of a titanium and silicon cage containing a silicon and platinum balance wheel that oscillates at a high frequency of 36,000 beats per hour.

Key facts and price

De Bethune Kind of Two Tourbillon
Ref. DBK2TV1

Diameter: 42.8 mm
Height: 9.5 mm
Material: Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire, both sides
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: DB2579
Functions: Dual front and back display of the time, with a 30-second tourbillon
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 36,000 beats per hour (5 Hz)
Power reserve: Five days

Strap: Alligator strap, with titanium pin buckle

Availability: From De Bethune or its authorised retailers
Price: 215,000 Swiss francs; or 316,700 Singapore dollars

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