ZURICH, May 16 (Reuters) - Luxury goods group Richemont has launched a new watch brand, Baume, offering trendy time pieces priced in the hundreds rather than the thousands of dollars to lure young people away from their smartphones for reading the time.
Swiss watchmakers have seen sales improve recently, after a prolonged downturn, but are struggling to reach young people who wear no watch at all or a connected Apple Watch and want online services luxury watchmakers have been slow to embrace.
The new Baume brand will be sold exclusively online with prices starting at $560, a clear indication it is aimed at younger customers. It will also try to appeal to their "green" conscience by using no animal-based or precious materials and only paper and cardboard for packaging.
Richemont's watch business consists of high-end brands, such as IWC or Jaeger-LeCoultre, that cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars and are still mostly sold in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
Luxury watch brands have only belatedly embraced digital marketing and distribution and are still seeking answers to the emergence of smartwatches such as Apple's Apple Watch and the younger generation's dwindling interest in traditional watches.
The Baume brand, officially launched on Tuesday, offers unisex watches in a minimalist design with watch straps made of recycled materials. There is also a customisable series where users can choose from over 2,000 permutations through an online configurator, the brand said in a statement.
Baume said it was "drawing experience and insight from the rich watchmaking history across the Richemont group" and was focused on "encouraging individuals to participate in a design-led global conversation".
"Maybe they want to try and become relevant for younger consumers," Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca said.
"They are using selling themes that should resonate well with millennials, at first sight. This could serve as the 'access step' into the category," he said.
Richemont reports full-year results on Friday.
The group recently made an offer to acquire online retailer Yoox Net-a-Porter and has started selling more luxury timepieces online. (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz Editing by Alexandra Hudson)