What’s the Most Valuable Watch Brand? And Just How Valuable Is It?

Top Luxury Brands 2009

Each year the Millward Brown Optimor consulting firm issues a ranking of the world’s top brands. MBO uses a complex formula to estimate a brand’s worth. Only one brand whose primary product is watches made the list: Rolex. MBO estimates that Geneva-based Rolex is the world’s sixth most valuable luxury brand with a value of $4.74 billion.

Top Brands Rolex

Of the five luxury brands ranked ahead of Rolex, four have watch lines: Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci and Chanel. However, those brands made their names with products other than watches. Indeed, eight of the top 10 luxury brands have watch collections (see table), but only Switzerland’s Rolex is known exclusively for watches. (Reviewing the table, one wonders why there are no Hennessy or Moët & Chandon watches. What are they waiting for?)

Top Brands table

What’s the second most valuable watch brand? The Millward Brown Optimor survey doesn’t say. No watches-only brand, including Rolex, appears in its 2010 BrandZ Top 100 ranking. To make that list a brand had to have a value of $7.28 billion or higher.

Cartier, however, can make a strong claim to the number two spot. MBO estimates the value of the Cartier brand at $3.96 billion, which puts it in eighth place on the luxury brand list. However, in addition to watches, Paris-based Cartier produces and sells jewelry and is a major global retailer.

Calibre de Cartier

MBO has issued its BrandZ report for 12 years. It uses in-depth financial analysis and quantitative consumer research in assigning brand value. Its full report has brand rankings for 17 product categories. (The report is available at www.millwardbrown.com.)

The value of all brands in the entire luxury category fell by a consolidated 3% in 2010, according to the report. It’s notable that Cartier (-19%) and Rolex (-14%) had the biggest year-on-year drops in brand value of the top 10 luxury brands. This doubtless reflects the severe slump in watch and jewelry sales globally in 2009.

“Generally consumers did not automatically feel entitled to luxury last year and needed a justification to spend,” the report states. “Even people with means felt constrained in purchasing luxury items. They wanted to avoid appearing insensitive to the general economic hardship…. Many of the luxury brands and categories were buoyed by sales in Asia, particularly China. Watch and jewelry sales at the lower price points of the luxury range ($3,000 to $4,000) were hard hit in the West, but remained strong in China. And while ‘stealth wealth’ characterized shoppers on Madison Avenue and Knightsbridge, Chinese consumers who could afford bling were flaunting it. The appetite for bling among Russians abated somewhat, however, as the oligarchs suffered from depressed oil prices.”

In case you’re wondering, BMO says the most valuable brand in the world is Google; its brand value is $114.3 billion.

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