FOUNTAIN HILLS, AZ – FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. – The traditional wristwatch is making a comeback – and it’s mostly thanks to millennials.
The younger generation may have grown up telling time on cell phones and digital devices, but many are now turning back time and returning to the days of the traditional wristwatch. Watch sales jumped 8 percent last year, according to the NPD Group, a market research group.
Tom Lewand, CEO of Detroit-based watch-making company Shinola, said while many are still opting for smartwatches, there’s been a “tremendous amount of enthusiasm” for the traditional timepieces.
“I do think that, even with the explosive growth in the smartwatch space, there still is an appetite for a beautiful timeless timepieces that are classics, things that can be handed down from generation to generation,” Lewand said.
A growing number of millennials are also getting into the watchmaking business, a once-vanishing field that is now also seeing a rebirth of sorts.
Kaitlyn Gagliano, a millennial who is a former school teacher, become a certified watch technician after seeing a job posting.
“I knew absolutely nothing (about watches), I grew up on digital and I knew how to tell time but it was never an everyday thing for me knowing about it,” Gagliano said. “I was always on my phone. I never owned a watch. And now I'm going to build my own watch. So, it’s really cool.”
FTS USA, a watch industrial supplier company, said there's a demand for over 40,000 watchmakers in America. They're specifically looking to hire millennials with no watch industry experience and teaching them to become certified watch technicians.
“I think watch sales probably declined because it was a novelty (with) cell phones and stuff, it was like: ‘Yeah, I've got my cell phone, I don't need a watch,’” said Mauel J Yazijian, a professional horologist and FTS USA chief technical officer. “But, I think it's definitely picking up, especially in the more affordable price range. The $200 to $500 price range. So, definitely we're seeing that.”
But even luxury watch sales are going up in the U.S. NDP Group said U.S. sales for watches above $1,000 has gone up 13.5 percent, according to Bloomberg. Switzerland’s Swatch Group, the largest watch company in the world, said it saw a double-digit increase in the U.S. last year.
Even colleges are noticing the trend. The East Valley Institute of Technology in Fountain Hills is developing watchmaking classes because of a growing interest.
The school is interested in “growing the American watchmaking industry back from the ashes to the prominence it deserves,” said Chad Wilson, the school’s interim superintendent.
Lewand said the watch that what has been here for generations will continue to be here for generations to come.
“There’s – no pun intended – a time for everything,” Lewand said. “And with the analog watches, we think there certainly is still a space.”