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LVMH’s Hublot to Raise Watch Prices as Inflation Hits Luxury

Hublot and Bulgari have pushed sales above 2019 levels in the past year.
Hublot and Bulgari have pushed sales above 2019 levels in the past year. (Shutterstock)

Hublot’s Big Bang watch, worn by Usain Bolt and Jay-Z, will soon come with an even bigger price tag.

The Swiss watchmaker is boosting prices for all of its timepieces, Hublot Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Guadalupe said in an interview. Rising raw material costs for gold and diamonds will lead to price increases of 3 percent to 4 percent in April or May, he said. Hublot’s products on average sell for about 20,000 francs ($21,500).

“Almost all our suppliers are increasing prices,” Guadalupe said, noting that costs for steel and titanium are also increasing. Diamond suppliers have raised prices by 10 percent to 15 percent, he said.

Hublot’s move shows how even the luxury industry is facing inflation amid rising commodity prices and supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. At the same time, deep-pocketed consumers who crimped on spending during lockdowns are now snapping up high-end goods including Swiss timepieces, driving a surge in demand.

“The main problem is the production and the supply chain,” Guadalupe said, adding that almost all of Hublot’s high-end Swiss watch rivals are expected to boost prices. “We have to do it anyway, and since everybody is doing it, it is acceptable.”

Speaking in a Bloomberg Television interview last month, Dior CEO Pietro Beccari said the couture brand will have to increase prices to match rising input costs, following in the footsteps of rivals.

“It’s true that desirable products have a certain price,” Bernard Arnault, who heads LVMH, the owner of Hublot, said during Thursday’s presentation of the company’s annual results.

Respecting Consumers

The French billionaire said the group will be “reasonable,” and “respect” its customers on price increases. But he acknowledged some of the group’s products have special allure, citing a Nautilus watch model launched by Tiffany with Patek Philippe with 170 pieces. Its retail price of $52,635 was widely surpassed when one sold at a charity auction for over $6.5 million last month.

Chanel has been making headlines recently for the price hikes of some of its best-selling bags, increases which have far outpaced inflation rates over the past two years.

Hublot’s CEO said a rebound in demand made 2021 a record sales year. He expects production will increase by high single digits in 2022.

“We have more of a production problem today than a sales issue,” he said.

Stocks of Hublot watches were reduced by 30 percent to 40 percent in 2021 at its boutiques and retailers, according to the CEO.

“The last three months have been unbelievable from the sell-out point of view,” he said.

Swiss watch exports rebounded to record levels by value in 2021, amid strong sales to the U.S. and a surge in demand for watches priced above 5,000 francs. Hublot’s entry-level watches cost about 6,000 francs.

Hublot, which has a marketing relationship with tennis star Novak Djokovic, said there’s been no change in that after he was forced to leave Australia and unable to compete in the Australian Open because he wasn’t vaccinated.

“For the time being, we support our ambassador,” he said.

The company has been in contact with the Serbian athlete following his departure from Australia and is waiting for him to make a statement regarding his playing future.

“If he cannot play anymore, that could be an issue, but let’s see,” Guadalupe said.

By: Angelina Rascouet and Andy Hoffman

Learn more:

The Luxury Watch Craze, By the Numbers

High-end watches like Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet are flying off the shelves while customers leave their cheaper counterparts behind.

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