How Melbourne became the luxury watch capital of Australia

Melbourne has edged its way ahead of Sydney as Australia's luxury watch capital. The demand for top shelf timepieces has inspired Kennedy to open a multi-brand flagship boutique within Chadstone's upmarket precinct and roll out an IWC Schaffhausen store at the New York end of Collins Street. What's more there's two more boutiques to come by September at locations yet to be announced.

A combination of Melbourne's booming economy, attractive retail space availability and a desire for luxury spurred by a new wave of cashed up locals now calling the city home has provoked this demographic shift.

The time has come

According to Kennedy's Managing Director Martin Rainer, the boom has been a gradual one with Melbourne's time to shine.

"The luxury industry has been booming for the last five years right across the country," explains Rainer.

"Social media has certainly played a part, but many international brands are coming to Australia and especially Melbourne which in turn is creating desire for others to join...Opening the Kennedy Boutique in Chadstone has given us an opportunity to capture a different kind of customer stream," he adds.

Tracking time

James Kennedy, whose parents started LK Boutique some 40 years ago (which is now known as Kennedy) says he plans to be aggressive in his bid to be a leader in the luxury jewellery and watches space. They also recently took over naming and sponsorship rights of the Kennedy Oaks Day for the Spring Racing Season.

"When we began this luxury market journey, Sydney was more established than Melbourne," says Kennedy.

"Since mid-2012, the population gap has started to close between Sydney and Melbourne and it's impacting our retail decision to roll out more stores here.

"Once upon a time you had Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci opening in Sydney as their first port of call, but that is changing. Chadstone is arguably the best shopping centre globally and everyone wants in. It's considered to be better than what Westfield Sydney is doing and in turn it's putting a strong focus on Melbourne," adds Kennedy.

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Time and place

Being positioned between Gucci and Jimmy Choo was no coincidence for the Kennedy Boutique who had plans to open by Chinese New Year but made it in time for the Rolex Formula One Grand Prix instead. It's here where aficionados can find Rolex watches fetching six figure sums.

The demand for sporty watches is a strong focus for the luxury chain.  They have a joint exhibition on display in store with Rolex with an emphasis on the Daytona which runs until April 2.

"We had options to show different models, but Melbourne is a sporty city and a demand for sport watches is big," says Rainer.

"With the Grand Prix just in town it was the natural choice for us to showcase the Daytona. It's the perfect synergy between luxury and sporting elegance."

Treat yourself

So why the rise in demand for luxury watches now? Well, according to Rainer men want to reward themselves.

"When men come into our boutique they don't need to know too much about watches," says Rainer.

"That's our teams job to lead you to the right decision. But once a man starts buying a watch it quickly becomes an obsession and collector's fascination.

According to Kennedy, gentlemen don't buy watches to tell the time either. They're buying into a lifestyle, to rub shoulders with the top tier brands and feel important.

"Our phones tell us the time, a watch is so much more than that.

"There was all this talk that Smart watches would kill the Swiss watch industry. It hasn't ruined it at all, in fact it's only made it stronger."

Time will tell

The proof is in the three-month waitlist with premium Rolex watches.

"Demand is stronger than supply but it's better to be in that situation," says Rainer who has just returned from Basel hunting the latest and greatest watch debuts in Switzerland.

"As a new customer, you can't immediately buy certain Rolex watches," says Rainer. "But it's a good problem to have and incredible to see men get excited about being one of the first."