Graham Watches’ Patric Zingg: Point-of-Sale Will Save Us!

Independent Swiss watchmaker Graham’s been in biz since 1695. Their recent fortunes have been characterized by disorder, chaos and rapid market disintegration. In short they have a ghastly mess. Over at watchpro.com, we learn that Managing Director Patrick Zingg’s got a plan . . .

To stop the loss and enable Graham to grow again, we had to implement a step by step approach focusing on having the right people for the task, and an in-depth reinforcement of our core products – Chronofighter [above]  & Swordfish [below]; a price realignment and a reduction of the numbers of markets while increasing our presence in the remaining ones.

Translation: Zingg’s downsized the business, fired staff, cut the model lineup, dropped prices, faced-up to the loss of authorized dealers and decided to rely on those who remain.

No matter how you weigh the challenges, it’s a heavy lift. Graham’s watches — many of which are characterized by a Steampunk vibe (thanks to the grenade-style chronograph pusher) — aren’t well known.

And they ain’t cheap. The range’s msrp starts at around $7k and soars up to a scarcely credible $27k. Note: these are not in-house movements.

There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Zingg’s not wrong about the need for a “price realignment.”

The gray market price for a box-fresh Graham has fallen off a cliff. watchwarehouse.com is offering a $11,500 47mm GMT Graham for $5,780 out the door. shopworn.com lists a selection of 40 never-worn Grahams for 50 percent to 60 percent off msrp. Tourneau offering 50 percent off nine certified pre-owned Grahams.

Not a good sign.

Perhaps the surfeit of hugely discounted Grahams available online explains Mr. Zingg’s zeal for retail. He discounts the idea that watch retailers are a dying breed.

I don’t believe retail will disappear. It will merely evolve. All these prime locations currently “for rent” will trigger landlords to reassess their “price tag”; hence generate opportunities for smart retailers or brands to create experiences — whether pop-up stores, showrooms, mono-brand stores, you name it.  

I reckon over-expansion, weak marketing and endless brand extensions hobbled Graham. The Chronofighter accounts for 46 SKUs — excluding dial color variations. And yet I’ve never seen a Graham in the flesh.

If Mr. Zingg can keep Graham afloat in the brave new world of boutique brands reaping online riches with print-on-demand timepieces, he’ll have assured his place in horological history. Watch this space.

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