From sun dials, to pocket watches, to smartwatches, telling the time has certainly evolved over history and today it seems the humble watch has had a new lease of life as a fashion staple. Indeed, new research from Mintel finds that a quarter (24%) of UK consumers who own a watch say they rarely use it to tell the time, whilst over a quarter (27%) say they wear one as a fashion accessory, rising to half (47%) of 20-24’s.

When it comes to choosing a watch, many Brits are fashion forward, with one in five (18%) women and a quarter (25%) of consumers aged 16-24 agreeing they prefer watches from fashion brands.

Additionally showing that time is of the essence, one in eight (12%) say they wear their watch as a status symbol, rising to a quarter (25%) of 25-34’s.

As the watch sealed its status as a fashion credential in recent years, the UK market grew by 4.6% in 2014 to reach £1.08 billion, with sales estimated to reach £1.13 billion in 2015. In comparison, growth of just 1.5% was seen in 2013.

Purchasing over the past five years has been strongest among young men, with over three in five (58%) men aged 25-44 buying a watch in this period, up from the national average of half (51%).

12% of Brits say they wear their watch as a status symbol

Tamara Sender, Senior Fashion Analyst at Mintel, said:

“As people are surrounded all day by technology that also includes the time, watches are no longer being purchased solely for timekeeping. Around a quarter of watch owners rarely use their watch to tell the time, highlighting the growing use of alternative devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops for timekeeping and the perception of the watch as a fashion accessory. Although fashion watch brands have seen a boom in popularity over the last few years, the fashion watch is a fickle market. While a watch is currently seen as a trendy fashion accessory, this could change if a new item of jewellery becomes fashionable and will mean that consumers shift their spend away from watches.”

Ticking the right boxes: Consumers aged 25-34 are twice as likely to own a smartwatch

Whilst Mintel’s research found that just one in 20 (6%) Brits currently own a smartwatch, one in five (21%) would be interested in doing so in the future. Showing that younger consumers are keener to embrace the new technology, one in 8 (12%) consumers aged 25-34 currently own a smartwatch, whilst over a quarter (28%) of this age group who own a smartwatch or would be interested in buying one say they would rather buy a smartwatch than a traditional watch.

“As the smartwatch market develops, it could become the latest desirable fashion accessory, posing a direct threat to the fashion watch market as they both attract a young demographic. While uptake of smartwatches has been slow due to caution surrounding first editions of new technologies, this is likely to change as more companies enter the market and as people get used to their functionality.” Tamara comments.

Furthermore, showing that consumers are keen to use smartwatches in a variety of ways, of those who own a smartwatch or would be interested in buying one, a quarter (25%) say they would like to be able to use a smartwatch to pay for goods in-store. Furthermore, over a third (37%) say they would like to wear a smartwatch so they don’t have to take out their phone.

“As the contactless payments market heats up, one of the key benefits of owning a smartwatch could become the ability to use it to pay for goods without needing to reach for a wallet.” Tamara comments.

But it seems currently price is a factor as half (48%) say that they think smartwatches would be more popular if they cost less.

Time is money: The more you earn, the more likely you are to own a watch

Finally, Mintel’s research has found that four in five (81%) consumers who have a household income over £50,000 own a watch, compared to just two-thirds (65%) of consumers who have a household income under £15,500.

Those with a higher household income are also more likely to wear their watch as a status symbol, with one in four (24%) of those with a household income over £50,000 claiming to wear their watch for this reason, compared to just 10% of those with a household income under £25,000.

“There is a direct correlation between affluence and watch purchasing, with the highest earners and those who describe their financial situation as healthy the most inclined to have purchased a watch for themselves and/or someone else in the last five years. This suggests that as confidence increases and people’s financial situation improves, this is likely to drive watch purchasing.” Tamara concludes.

Press review copies of the Watches UK 2015 report and interviews with Senior Fashion Analyst Tamara Sender are available on request from the press office.

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