Interview The Online Watch Market – Toby Bateman, Managing Director at MR PORTER (Exclusive)

Deciphering the world of online marketplaces.
calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Brice Goulard | ic_query_builder_black_24px 5 minute read |

Following up with our series of interviews with major actors of the online watch market – including watch media such as Hodinkee and Revolution, which not only cover watches but also sell watches – we now get to look at one of the largest and most convincing online platforms, MR PORTER. Unique and luxurious, this successful online retailer has been integrated under the Richemont umbrella in 2018, opening new perspectives to this young company. This is why we wanted to have a chat with Toby Bateman, Managing Director at MR PORTER.

Can you give us a quick history of MR PORTER?

MR PORTER launched globally in February 2011 with 80 brands, positioning ourselves as the global destination for men’s style, and offering a considered edit of the best in product and a fresh eye to content. We are now the leading, award-winning global destination for men’s style, with over 500 of world’s best menswear and lifestyle brands, including our own labels Mr P. and Kingsman, with categories as vast as luxury watches, performance and athletic wear, gifting, home, grooming and more.

Our foray into the luxury watch category began in 2013 with British brand Bremont and has since grown to 20 luxury watch brands including IWC and Vacheron Constantin. Our original content is published through our weekly shoppable digital magazine, The Journal, our bimonthly newspaper, The MR PORTER Post, and our bite-sized, several-times-a-day digital news source, The Daily.

We are committed to providing the best in service to our global customer base and we offer express worldwide shipping to more than 170 countries, same-day delivery to New York and London, and an integrated and quite seamless shopping experience across mobile, tablet, and desktop – with easy returns, multi-lingual customer care and personal shopping teams who are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Toby Bateman, Managing Director at MR PORTER.

What brought MR PORTER into the watch business?  

We found that whilst we were offering a man the ingredients to create a dynamic and stylish wardrobe, we were dressing everything but his wrist. At the time, the online watch world was relatively scarce, so we also saw an opportunity to not only engage the modern male customer but the watch enthusiast as well.

We found an early partner with Bremont who were keen to tell their story and provide their offering with MR PORTER in an interesting way. Several years later, here we are now with 20 global watch brands within the category.

What differentiates MR PORTER? What do you bring to your clients?

Curated products from the world’s best brands, original content, and excellent customer service and shipping available to over 170 countries – with same day delivery in London and New York – all of which we pride ourselves on providing our global customers with. We created the Luxury Watch Guide earlier in 2018, to build a dedicated space for customers to view our offering, and to inform, entertain and educate them through novel approaches to story-telling and watch care.

We carry a selection of limited edition pieces from our brands, which may only be available to those living near a brand boutique or store in a larger city – meaning our service offering extends much further.

What are your key challenges?

The most obvious challenge – initially – is that customers can’t touch or try on a product before they decide to purchase. We’ve felt that we have overcome this by providing our customers with in-depth information and visuals about each timepiece from sizing, materials, photography, video and so forth, alongside direct access to our watch experts or our customer care team who can answer queries around the clock.

In New York and London, we provide secure same day hand delivery – all of which give customers confidence and the ability to make an assured purchase. It will still take time to fully reach these new breeds of online customers, whilst changing attitudes of the established – and it’s our job to show them the world of e-commerce and watches is the future.

What are your plans for the next three years (with regards to your watch operations)?

Our forecasts are for our revenue growth rates to continue to accelerate, to grow our brand mix, our product edit, and further establish our content growth. We want to focus on bringing on-board more brands, whether they be the larger players in the industry or the smaller independents, as we have seen our customers engage and purchase with both type of watch brands.

After the success of our exclusive collaborations with Zenith x Bamford, Ressence and Roger Dubuis, we will continue to work on exclusive timepieces with our growing roster of brands. We always strive to give our customers something they can’t buy elsewhere, and this is what they have come to expect from us too.

YOOX NET-A-PORTER was acquired by Richemont in 2018. What will be the impact on your activities?

The recent acquisition by Richemont doesn’t change our position and we will certainly continue to work with brands inside and outside the Group in an independent manner.

What is your advice for collectors?

Buy what you love and for yourself, and you will always be happy with your decision. If you are starting out, purchase a versatile watch, such as a stainless steel Cartier, which can go with both a casual or formal outfit. Watch collecting goes through its trends similar to fashion, with a new colour or smaller/larger case size being popular at a given time. But if you love it, then how can you go wrong?


More details at MR PORTER and a selection of some of the watches for sale.

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