Gen Zers are spending like maniacs on watches

Over 41 per cent of Gen Z acquired a luxury mechanical watch this year

When I read the brand new report from Watchfinder & Co. on Generation Z’s watch spending habits, I was not only shocked, but also a little jealous of Gen Z’s social freedom and financial ability to spend so liberally on luxury watches at such a young age. This is not how my Gen X went about things.

Generation Z was born between 1997 and 2012 (making them 18 to 26 years old), and they make up around 20 per cent of the population of the US. These folks are just coming into their earning potential. That’s the same age at which my Gen X friends and I dropped hundreds (yes, hundreds!) on Swiss mechanical watches and went through bouts of moral anguish, because indulging luxury ran against the grain of our flannel-clad, slacker-chic posture. Members of Gen Z, however, unabashedly indulge in luxury watches and the numbers are wild.

In 2023, the average spend on a watch by Gen Z was US$10,870. Photo by Getty

According to the report, over the last year 41 per cent of Gen Z acquired a luxury watch. Their average spend on a watch was US$10,870, with millennials spending around half that much. On the pre-owned watch market, Gen Z is spending between US$7,500 and US$10,000. Astoundingly, Gen Z is buying on average 2.4 new watches per year, and 1.43 pre-owned watches. I don’t use this phrase lightly, but those numbers are totally bonkers.

If you’re wondering where Gen-Z is getting all that money to drop on watches, the report states that these folks are 21 per cent more likely than previous generations to use a dealer’s financing options, and they’re 48 per cent more likely to sell something else before buying a watch. In real-world speak, Gen-Z are watch flippers who are willing to go into debt to get their next horological dose. They’re also far more likely to receive—and I presume ask for and/or appear to want—watches as gifts.

Edouard Caumon of Watchfinder & Co. says that “Clearly, Gen Z are racing ahead of older generations when it comes to watch spend. As they reach landmark birthdays, graduations and even begin to get married, it seems this generation are acting on the renewed interest in luxury watches that we saw over the pandemic—and that is resulting in valuable timepieces being bought or inherited by that age group.”

A Watchfinder & Co. display. Photo by Andrew Werner/Watchfinder & Co.

Gen-Z’s taste in watches is not so remarkable, however, and tends toward the predictable. Influencers also seem to be dictating those tastes to some degree. Caumon says that, “Cartier is experiencing real momentum in 2024, following a wave of celebrity sightings including Saltburn’s Jacob Ilordi and Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s Donald Glover. Especially with small and discreet models like the Crash or the Tank, we are certainly seeing strong interest in Cartier from Gen Z.”

What does seem similar between my Gen X peers and these Gen Z consumers is an alignment of taste in size and style. I imagine this has to do with the younger generation currently indulging in retro-styles more generally, and with the availability of pre-owned watches from classic brands.

Interestingly, the influence of Gen Z could shape watch design briefs going forward. Caumon tells us that, “watch brands looking to capitalise on Gen Z’s attention would do well to keep dial sizes down and consider how the piece as a whole will be paired with current styles.”

Such a fashionable generation, Gen Z, spends plenty of money to accessorise their outfits with watches such as Cartiers. We’ve noted elsewhere that fashion and watches are having a new-found romance. While I have the tendency to dismiss the notion of watches as outfit accessories, most of the Gen Z folks I mention this to reply with something akin to the Gen X classic: “Whatever… never mind…”

Watchfinder & Co. is an online retailer of pre-owned watches that’s been operating since 2002, and the company surveyed 2,400 Gen Z 18 to 26 year olds from the U.S. during March of 2024.

This story was first published on Robb Report USA. Featured photo by Getty