February 10, 2017, 7:00 AM

A luxury watchmaker decides it’s time to sell $45,000 timepieces online only

Switzerland’s Vacheron Constantin embraces e-commerce and will sell on watch news site Hodinkee.com.

Lead Photo

(Bloomberg)—Luxury watchmaker Vacheron Constantin will start selling its latest collection online for the first time in its 262-year history as the Richemont-owned brand seeks younger customers.

The Geneva-based company designed a limited edition of 36 Crones de Vache 1955 timepieces with New York-based watch news website Hodinkee—the first such collaboration for the watchmaker, said Vincent Brun, the president of Vacheron Constantin in North America. The $45,000 watches will only be available on Hodinkee.com and not in stores.

“We wanted to make this digital step in order to increase brand exposure in the world and reach out to watch lovers we did not necessarily speak to until now,” Brun says.

Swiss watchmakers have been increasingly embracing e-commerce to reach a younger clientele that’s less interested in wearing watches. IWC Schaffhausen, another brand owned by Switzerland’s Richemont, made its online debut in November when it began selling its watches on the websites of luxury e-retailer Yoox Net-a-Porter Group SpA, No. 78 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide.   Richemont has hired an executive from Google Inc. to bolster its digital push as its brands catch up with Hermes, which already sells its $25,000 timepieces online.

Sales slump

Swiss watch exports dropped the most in seven years in 2016, as high-end timepieces went unsold in Hong Kong, the industry’s largest market. A Deloitte survey in September showed that, for the first time, Swiss watch executives plan to expand more in e-commerce than in other channels such as their own stores.

Vacheron Constantin is one of Richemont’s most expensive brands, with products including a $150,000 platinum chronograph and the world’s most intricate mechanical pocket watch.

Richemont shares have risen 10% this year.

The Crones de Vache timepieces were designed with a more “youthful” look and are available in stainless steel for the first time, said Ben Clymer, the website’s founder.

“The steel case is something that is becoming very desirable to readers of Hodinkee,” he said. “It also brings the price down to below $50,000, making it slightly more approachable.”

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