When Kartika Winata first agreed to take over the luxury watch brand deLaCour in Indonesia, she did not plan to grow Ebiwatch (PT Eurobutik Bangun Indonesia) to the scale that it is today. Today, Ebiwatch encompasses seven independent brands in total, each with different target markets. Independent watch brands are independently owned and run brands, they do not belong to a larger group like TAG Heuer or Hublot, which are parts of the LVMH Group. These independent brands also feature ingenious design and innovations to differentiate themselves and often only produce a small number of watches. Currently Ebiwatch is the retailer for deLaCour, Hautlence, BRM, H. Moser & Cie, Dietrich, and Reservoir. Recently the company also became a retailer for Grand Seiko, a brand from a major corporation but only focuses on niche and limited-edition models.
“People always wonder why a girl would choose to do luxury watches. But what attracted me to the luxury watch business, if I’m being honest, was just a pure business opportunity. I met the right people at the right time,” says Kartika, cofounder and managing director of Ebiwatch. Kartika believes she knows more about luxury watches than most people, since her father, Rommy Winata is a collector, but it was not a passion of hers. Along her way into the business however, she came to understand the process of watchmaking, which made her greatly appreciate the watch industry and developed her sense of belonging to the people behind it.
She recalls meeting the founder of deLaCour, an independent Swiss luxury watch brand, which at that time had just finished its contract with the retailer that had first brought it to Indonesia. Kartika decided to grab the opportunity, taking over deLaCour’s distribution in Indonesia in 2014, which started the foundation of Ebiwatch. The company succeeded with deLaCour beyond Kartika’s expectations, to the point that other independent brands sought out Ebiwatch.
“I didn’t set out with the idea of collecting independent brands. Those who were not represented in Indonesia started approaching me because they had nowhere else to go. They wanted to be present in Indonesia because we are actually a really big market, and I feel like this is what was lacking in the watch market,” says Kartika.
Having successfully boosted the performance of deLaCour, she gained more confidence to bring in others as well, which gradually led her to wanting to spread the awareness of independent brands among Indonesian watch collectors. Kartika believes that compared to the mainstream brands, independent brands are more flexible in expressing creativity, such as by presenting unique ways to read the time, being more courageous and bolder in marketing, but without compromising in terms of quality.
“People who already have their basic luxury watches look for something different, they’re just bored with all these [big] brands that they already have, and that’s where we come in,” Kartika says.
The luxury watch market has manifested consistent growth in Indonesia for the past three years and is projected to continue this performance until 2023, according to Statista. This year the segment is forecast to make nearly $35 million, a 3.7% increase from 2018. Another report by Ken Research concludes that the rapid increase in the middle class and improved incomes have led to higher demand for lifestyle products, including luxury watches.
In line with this, Kartika believes that both sales and people’s interest have grown surprisingly well over the years. The main point about the luxury watch business is that sales are not overly affected by the economy given its niche market status, even if the economy is slowing down. This is because a client’s spending does not depend on product affordability, but rather on their mood to buy.
Meanwhile, there could be several reasons for the rising interest—from middle-market growth to technology. Kartika feels that customers are very accepting toward independent watch brands and are willing to learn about them. The internet and social media play a major role as immediate and effective marketing tools, which allow people to easily access more information about the smaller brands and these brands in turn have more opportunity to grow because they can reach out to more clients. It also helps since Ebiwatch, which caters to a niche market, does not do mass marketing. Considering the high price point, which starts from $1,500 at the lowest rising to $250,000, Ebiwatch introduces brands through events by gathering the specific people who will be interested, namely watch connoisseurs and collectors. From there onward word-of-mouth about their purchases serves as the most effective marketing tool.
Currently Ebiwatch has two physical stores: the deLaCour boutique at Fairgrounds in the SCBD area, and the newly opened Independent boutique at Pacific Place, which carries all the brands and is believed to have contributed greatly to the company’s growth. Online transactions have also been available since last year on its website and the marketplace JD.id. For now, this is only for Dietrich, which is more affordable and popular on social media, but Ebiwatch is looking forward to including other brands in the future. Currently, actual retailers still contribute up to 70% of Dietrich sales, while the remaining 20% comes from JD.id since it offers installment and promotions.
Garnering a new brand every year so far, Kartika says that the company has been very picky about the brands that it brings to Indonesia. There are three main considerations, for example, incoming brands must support each other and complete the portfolio, instead of competing directly against existing brands in terms of model and price similarity. At the same time, the brands must have good potential in Indonesia to sell the promised quality at the right price. Lastly, the philosophy of the brands must also be consistent within the next five to ten years, because it is important for Ebiwatch to stick with its mission and vision and to create the appropriate marketing strategy.
For its next step, Kartika says that Ebiwatch is still open to carrying a few more brands. Another
plan is to open another store for Ebiwatch, which she envisions bringing more elements of luxury lifestyle, and therefore attracting more people from different aspects, because watch stores can seem intimidating to some people, which discourages them from walking inside.
“I feel like when you bring other elements of other luxurious items—whether it’s art, or bracelets, since people love to pair these with their watch or watch winders—they will open up a new market. Because people will be less intimidated, maybe they want to look at the art, but eventually they will look at the watch. So maybe that’s what’s next,” says Kartika.