Watches have become the new status symbol of choice among male African millionaires, according to a study published by research company New World Wealth. ‘Watches have become to men what diamonds are to women’, say the study’s authors, quoting an unnamed African retailer.
“Over the past 10 years the global men’s super-luxury watch industry has grown by more than five times in terms of revenue, whilst in Africa it has grown by even more,” notes New World Wealth.
Overall, the most sought-after watch brand among African men is Patek Philippe. It is followed by Franck Muller, Audemars Piguet, Breguet and Vacheron Constantin. All are Swiss brands with a heritage dating back 150 years or more.
The study lists several reasons for the rapid growth of the watch segment among wealthy African males:
• Watches have become a status symbol for men.
• They can be bought with cash without arousing suspicion, as opposed to cars, yachts and property purchases, which may have tax implications.
• Top-end watches hold their value reasonably well over time and can be a great investment, much like art or classic cars.
• Portability. For instance, a wealthy Angolan individual can buy a watch in the UK and easily transport it back to Angola. This would not be the case for a car.
• Watches are the only notable form of male jewellery.
• Watch collecting has become a prominent pastime for many wealthy men globally.
Referring to the worldwide rise of the super-luxury watchmakers that have superseded brands such as Rolex, Omega and Tag, the study notes: “These specialist watchmakers only make handmade [pieces], which start from a base price of around US$10 000. They are mechanical (either self-winding or manual winding), as opposed to modern battery-operated watches. Most of them have a long history in watchmaking, which dates back to the 1 700s in some cases.
“Their value comes not so much from the materials used to make them, but rather in the precision, expertise and time taken to individually construct each watch. Amazingly, one watch can take a specialist watchmaker over a year to [create].”