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Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to conclude our series on the different classes of watch brand by taking a look at the big boys – the mainstream brands.

Now, when I say “mainstream,” there are really two subcategories. The first category includes a larger holding group or manufacturer responsible for multiple brands (i.e., Swatch Group or Richemont). The second includes brands which are technically independent, but have such brand equity and popularity that they have become mainstream (i.e., Rolex and Patek).

To start, what is a watch group? In short, it’s a corporation that owns several brands that usually serve different segments of the market.Involvement in a larger corporation includes both pros and cons. Corporations have significantly larger budgets and outlets for marketing, resources in place for expansion that independent brands may not be able to access.

Left: Breguet Classique 9068 – Source: Breguet
Right: Swatch Shunbukin (GG215) – Source: Swatch

The Swatch Group is one of the most well known watch groups in the industry and, honestly, a freaking powerhouse. Its brands include Breguet, Swatch, Tissot, Hamilton, and Omega, among others. They’ve got just about every segment of the market covered, from ultra high end with Breguet to super entry-level with Swatch and Flik-Flak, and most of their brands have some serious horological pedigree.

Left: Cartier Tank Louis – Source: Cartier
Right: A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Grand Complication – Source: A Lange & Söhne

Richemont is another powerhouse corporation, comprised mainly of luxury brands. They own a great number of brands that, frankly, are of the most esteemed timepieces globally.hey own everyone from Cartier and Panerai all the way up to A Lange & Söhneand Vacheron Constantin.SIHH is basically a Richemont event these days, with a sprinkle of high-end independent brands.

Source: Timezone

So are there cons to being a part of a major conglomerate like Swatch or Richemont? Perhaps the biggest con is that brands joining groups do, on some level, lose their independence. Whether this means they have to forego some level of uniqueness or quality for the sake of quantity is up for debate, in part because the groups don’t go out of their way to make this information public, but what is perfectly clear is that there is a splitting of profits, as you might expect. Once a brand is obtained by a group, they now have a parent company that funnels resources into them and they, in turn, turn over some of their cash flow as part of the deal. Like I said, nothing particularly revolutionary in that statement, but still worth noting.

Another con, and one that might not seem as apparent upon first inspection, is that when all of the brands are owned by just ten major corporations, any difficulty that one of those brands has impacts the group as a whole. It’s a lot like team work, in that way, since everyone has to kind of pull their own weight to keep the whole ship afloat. If one starts to lose traction, it could, in theory, cause the whole ship to sink. I’m sure that the managers of these groups have more than enough skill and planning ability to counteract such issues, but worth mentioning regardless.

Beyond these two mammoth groups of brands (and many other groups), we have a select few brands that are not groups, but independent brands that pack comparable punch to, and carry similar brand equity as the two watch groups listed above. Rolex is the big one, mostly because they do still own Tudor. Rolex is arguably the single most recognized luxury watch brand in the world, and they own one of the most quickly growing brands in the game.

Patek Philippe is another such brand, one which holds such an alarming amount of brand equity and some serious heritage to boot. Sure, they’ve made some stinkers when it comes to design choices, but even that isn’t enough to turn off a majority of their customers. The biggest thing with Patek, of course, is the price. Their entry level model is the Aquanaut, priced at around $19,000 pre-owned, and it only goes up from there, all the way to pieces like the Sky Moon Tourbillon, which retails north of a million dollars. For a brand to be able to reasonably charge these prices, and still be one of the biggest names in horology, I think is testament enough to the sheer mammoth quality of them.

Thanks for tuning in! As always – keep it classy, watchfam.