A Tag Heuer store in Kowloon. Photo: iStock

Before the Chinese government launched an anti-corruption campaign, high-end timepieces were one of the most sought-after luxury items by rich (and corrupt) government officials looking to flaunt their power.

The campaign, initiated in 2014, largely curbed that demand, causing the whole market to decline. But the global luxury-watch industry is making a comeback and, according to data published by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, a younger generation of affluent consumers in mainland China and Hong Kong are largely responsible.

Since May, the growth of the watch industry’s exports from Switzerland, the country that is virtually the sole seller of luxury timepieces around the world, has once again gone back to positive territory after nearly two years of decline.

In July, the value of Swiss watch exports rose 3.6% year on year to 1.7 billion francs (nearly US$1.8 billion), with imports by mainland China increasing 22.3% by Hong Kong 16.8%, according to a monthly report by the federation.

The renewed demand from the Chinese market is believed to be helping to stabilize the global recovery of the luxury-watch market and the momentum is expected to continue into the future, the federation said.

Some industry players such as the Richemont group, which owns luxury watch brands including Jaeger-LeCoultre, Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin, confirmed the federation’s findings that the recent momentum from China was sustainable.

Gary Saage, the chief financial officer of Richemont, said in May that the demand from mainland China had been strong for almost nine months.

Accordingly, a number of luxury-watch brands have ramped up their efforts to expand further into the Chinese market in recent months.

Last December, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched a marketing campaign featuring comedian Papi Jiang, an online influencer with a massive following of young Chinese, in order to curry favor with her fans. The campaign had a sensational reception as it was the first time that an upscale watch brand had collaborated with a Chinese online celebrity.

On the social-media platform WeChat, the watchmaker Roger Dubuis recently unveiled a special edition designed exclusively for Chinese consumers. The campaign was successful, attracting about 17,000 engagements and garnering the brand an additional 7,500 followers on its WeChat account.

International watch brands also further tapped into the Chinese market by collaborating with the country’s second-largest e-commerce platform JD.com for Super Watch Day, an event in late August, in which JD.com introduced many new brands to its platform including Chopard, Tag Heuer, Zenith and Citizen.

This article was originally published on Jing Daily.

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Yiling Pan

Yiling (Sienna) Pan is a luxury business and fashion reporter at Jing Daily. She revels in the challenge of working in a fast-paced environment and presenting Chinese consumer trends to Western readers. Her coverage of the Chinese luxury industry combines a native perspective with her background in finance. Yiling is an alumnus of Thomson Reuters News Agency in Shanghai and holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University.

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