06/11/2021
 6 minutes

The World and Its Watches: The Most Popular Models From the USA to China

By Pascal Gehrlein
CAM-1741-Datenartikel-Laender-2-1-v2

The World and Its Watches: The Most Popular Models From the USA to China

Here a Daytona, there a Speedmaster, and be sure to check out the Royal Oak on the wrist of the gentleman walking by (who clearly has great taste). As an enthusiast, you’ve probably been on vacation somewhere and noticed that the “It” watches vary depending on where you are. I mean, when in Rome, right? Or better yet: When in other countries, don’t forget to show love for the watches and brands you encounter there.

Working at the world’s largest marketplace for luxury watches, I’ve had the chance to travel to other countries and see what the people there enjoy wearing on their wrists… theoretically, at least. I mean, I have, after all, taken a glance or two at Chrono24’s internal numbers and statistics to figure out what luxury watch brands people around the world like the most.

Italy: Pax Rolexa

Rolex's reign continues unabated in Italy.
Rolex’s reign continues unabated in Italy.

Daytona or bust. This appears to be the case in bella Italia because our figures show that no other watch is as popular as this Rolex chronograph (or Cosmograph). Rolex dominates the Italian market unlike in any other country. But just what makes the brand with the crown logo the undisputed king there?

Well, I’m no Italian, but it’s no secret that fashion and aesthetics are essential in Italy. Think of how Germany (where I’m from) is known for making great cars: It’s a notion that’s interwoven into our culture. These kinds of ideas are what the media projects outwardly, influencing what people consider fashionable and informing what they purchase. Similarly, when it comes to watches, the media and online community have a strong influence on what people buy (by the way, rumor has it that the Paul Newman Daytona got its nickname from the Italian watch community and dealers).

The Italian watch community was and remains under the influence of fashion icons like Gianni Agnelli, who, back in the 1970s, teamed up with several others to make sure that dealers specialized in selling Rolexes. The brands and dealers worked to keep pace with the demand for luxury watches as the number of collectors grew over the years, which has created a thriving Italian market for vintage watches. The supply and availability of Rolex in Italy undoubtedly contribute to its popularity there. The brand is also a great fit for the Italian way of life: sun, beautiful colors, and enjoying the finer things that stand the test of time.

United Arab Emirates: Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, or Rolex?

In the UAE, Rolex is closely followed by the luxury brands Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.
In the UAE, Rolex is closely followed by the luxury brands Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.

The next stop on our horological journey takes us to the warm sands of the United Arab Emirates. I know, I know: Rolex is the undisputed number one in all of the countries mentioned in this article. The difference between the UAE and Italy is with places two and three. As many of us know, select circles of people in the UAE have very deep pockets. This is seen with the sales figures for Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, who are right on the heels of Rolex. In my opinion, one reason for the popularity of these three brands is the price and reputation embodied by the Royal Oak, Nautilus, and Daytona.

These watchmakers are obviously aware of the purchasing power held by certain people in the Emirates. They have set up several flagship stores in local malls and hotels, offering some exclusive editions (be sure to check out the gold and jewel-studded Royal Oak models if you get a chance) created for this specific market. The biennial Dubai Watch Week is a major global watch event for, according to its website, “celebrating watchmaking.” I think for this part of the world, watches symbolize the West’s luxury, prosperity, and pop culture. That’s not to say that luxury watches are something new to the Arab world. Recall the watches originating from here that collectors love, such as the Rolex “Arabic dials” with their Eastern Arabic numerals; the very rare “Quraysh Hawk” Daytona 6263; or the Day-Date 18238 emblazoned with the crest of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces.

Sporty American Elegance From Wall Street to Miami Beach

The Rolex Datejust and Submariner: classics for any occasion.
The Rolex Datejust and Submariner: classics for any occasion.

We now journey across the Atlantic to the USA, one of the world’s largest markets for luxury goods and watches. Rolex is the number one here as well, and the Americans particularly love the Rolex Datejust and Submariner. I think a major reason for this is the reputations these classics bring to the table, along with the fact that you can’t go wrong with them. Not into spending lots of time searching for the right look? These Rolex steel models have got you covered. They look great with a suit or paired with a polo shirt and khaki shorts. The Datejust and Submariner come in many great varieties, making them the right choice for Wall Street brokers in New York, vacationers at Miami Beach, and everyone in between who loves the sporty elegance of these classic timepieces.

We also see America’s affinity for sports watches with the country’s third most popular timepiece: the Omega Seamaster. It’s a watch that exudes sporty understatement. Another reason for its popularity, I think, is the American love of catchy, memorable advertising and marketing, together with the American market’s openness toward import products like Swiss luxury watches. This makes it easy for brands to market their products to their most-desired target groups. Recall the cooperation between Pan Am and Rolex and the iconic GMT-Master that emerged from it. And although it’s not a testimonial in the classic sense, many presidents have sported Rolexes on their wrists, further underscoring the brand’s reputation as one for the wealthiest and most powerful people on the planet. In the US, Rolex is well-established in culture, sports, and politics. Watch brands tend to focus more long-term in America and less on the latest fads and fashions, which is a brilliant strategy.

Sweden: Understated Functionality

In Sweden, Omega is closer to Rolex in the watch rankings than in other countries.
In Sweden, Omega is closer to Rolex in the watch rankings than in other countries.

Although Scandinavians might talk a little less about prestige and reputation than other parts of the world, they certainly appreciate how a watch can embody exactly these elements. Scandinavian countries tend more towards restraint, which the numbers from Sweden make clear. Here, Omega is closer to Rolex in the watch rankings than in other countries, with the Seamaster more than holding its own against the elegant and timeless Datejust. Specific models – such as the Seamaster 300, 300M, and classic vintage timepieces – offer something for all tastes. However, they all share the sporty, innovative, understated luxury embodied by the Seamaster.

I would say that Scandinavia’s proximity to the water the region’s strong maritime history make Omega (and the robust, low-key Seamaster in particular) a natural choice for its people. Just like in Italy, I believe that watches in Scandinavia are closely intertwined with fashion. Even if they are a little more toned down and less extravagant and self-aggrandizing than their Italian counterparts, luxury timepieces there are still are high-end, timeless accessories with their own story to tell. Furthermore, Scandinavia’s buying power and economic stability ensure that the watch industry can look forward to many successful years to come in this part of the world.

China: Rolex Meets Richard Mille

Chrono24 buyers from China often search for luxury brands including Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Richard Mille.
Chrono24 buyers from China often search for luxury brands including Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Richard Mille.

Our final stop takes us to the Middle Kingdom. China now boasts the world’s largest market growth and sales potential, and luxury brands have made a mad dash to get on board. While other parts of the world have been slower in their sales (if not downright poor performers), the Chinese market has been the saving grace many brands have hoped for. You probably are aware of the increasing demand for luxury goods among the growing, increasingly wealthy Chinese middle class. One exciting development here is the increasing popularity of in-your-face brands with a significant presence in the worlds of Western sports and music.

Along with Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe top the list of China’s most popular watches. Richard Mille, the brand seen on the wrists of some of the world’s hottest celebrities and athletes, is also very sought-after by the Chinese market on Chrono24. Strong brand recognition, reputation, and aggressive advertising seem to have hit the right note in China. It would appear that plenty of people there want to show off the fact that they’ve “made it” and know that the right watch on their wrist is a great way to help get this message across.

I’m sure there will be more opportunities to take a closer look at the sales figures from other countries. One article simply isn’t enough to cover everything going on in watch sales across the globe.

Read more

Classic vs. Vintage vs. Futuristic: What does your watch say about you?

Editors’ Picks of the Week: Certina, Breguet, and Rolex

Chrono24 Buyer’s Guide: Hublot Big Bang


About the Author

Pascal Gehrlein

Hi, I'm Pascal. After spending many hours searching for my first luxury watch on Chrono24, I ended up visiting their "Legal details" page and saw their headquarters …

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