How different is it to sell a piece of fine watchmaking online as opposed to high fashion? There are many in the watch industry that think luxury watches shouldn’t be sold online. What would you say to them?

We take the same approach to selling fine watches as we do with luxury fashion – in terms of aiming to be the best in the world and doing so through our own specialized photography, detailed information on the brand, the piece itself and after sales service.

Toby Bateman says the retailer has worked on showcasing its watches

However, we cannot expect a customer to purchase a fine watch based on looks alone as he might a piece of clothing and we know that these customers consider their fine watch purchases and research thoroughly before making the final purchase. This is why our existing editorial content is key to our success in selling fine watches - as it is to our authority as a fashion retailer - so to this end we have developed a series of dedicated features to showcase our fine watch brands.

To those that say these watches should not be sold online I would say that our customers are online more than they are offline, so if these watches are not made available to them when they are browsing the Mr Porter App in the back of a taxi or whilst waiting for a flight then they simply won’t purchase them.  And we know from experience that there is no ceiling to what they will buy pricewise online - having sold pieces at over £25,000 regularly on Mr Porter and over £100,000 on Net-A-Porter.

How do you curate the watches that you sell online? How do you decide on the mix?

Brand history and position is key to the curating process

First we assess the credentials of the watch brand itself - where does it sit in the hierarchy of brands in the watch industry, the kind of customers the brand is geared towards, what is their aesthetic in terms of dressy vs sporty.  We hope eventually to have a complete cross-section so we ultimately become the authority in this category that we are currently for fashion.  Whether that’s an IWC Pilot’s Chronograph, Kingsman x Tag Heuer Connected 45, or a Baume & Mercier Clifton Club.

How happy are you with the response this far?

We are relatively young in the established fine watch marketplace, but extremely happy with how the category is developing, the brands we are launching, and our customer feedback.

Which is your fastest selling/ most popular product in the fine watchmaking category? Which is the most popular price category?

This has been very interesting to see - and also provides interesting feedback to brand - because the pieces that have sold fastest for us have been the special pieces, limited editions and newest releases.  Understandably we have also sold our Connected watches very well too because our customers are naturally inclined towards these.

You recently launched a special Mr Porter edition with Ressence. What was the reason behind this launch?

The Ressence x Mr Porter limited editions from this summer

We have been working with Ressence for a couple of years now and Benoît Mintiens has always been a huge supporter of Mr Porter - we share very similar brand values having both disrupted our industries with new technology.  Knowing that we often work with our fashion brands on exclusive collections he suggested we might develop something with Ressence so we started talking.

What is the biggest challenge to selling a luxury watch online?

So far the biggest challenge has been convincing the brands to allow us to sell their watches - however the fine watch industry is changing and as you can see with all our new launches this year. And with several more lined up intro next year too, this mind-set is starting to change.

Who are your buyers?

Our customers have come from all over the world - US, UK, Hong Kong, the Middle East. It’s interesting to see our existing fashion-savvy clients discovering the world of fine watches, but also to bring in new customers who know their watches but haven‘t previously shopped fashion from us. Also how many women are buying from us (for themselves and the men in their lives).

How do you think eCommerce is going to change the watch industry?

Convenience and content available online has and will continue to change the watch industry. Not only can consumers in established cities around the world, such as New York, London, Tokyo and Milan, but those in more rural areas that aren’t located close to the big fine watch brands – can now buy their favorite pieces and have these products delivered direct to their doors.

Smart or Connected Watches tend to do well online

With a fine watch being such a considered purchase, content becomes increasingly more important for men to make that next step. Whether it is the history behind a brand, the style associated with a brand, what is inside the watch, or how a brand/watch can fit into your lifestyle – men seem  to ‘demand’ and/or rely on these elements before they purchase a watch.