A sure sign that watchmakers are changing their ideas about online sales is the debut of Skolorr.com, an online marketplace for independent artisans and brands.
"We're acting like a matchmaker," said Sky Sit, founder of the London-based site, which went live in July. "A lot of independent watchmakers don't have enough margin to pay for advertising or resources to get out to customers. We need to inspire the younger generation."
Skolorr.com now features 20 artisans and brands, including such well-regarded names as MB&F,Czapek & Cie, DeWitt, Fiona Krüger Timepieces and Manufacture Royale. Prices begin at 1,825 euros ($2,170), for a steel dress watch by Olivier Jonquet, and top out at €197,400, for a tourbillon chiming jump-hour wristwatch by AkriviA. Skolorr handles payments — using currency-conversion technology that factors in tax and customs duties — but each brand handles its own fulfillment.
Ms. Sit, a former communications director for the Danish watch brand Linde Werdelin, does double-duty as Skolorr's online concierge, offering to advise potential buyers as a way of personalizing the shopping experience.
Ms. Krüger said she joined the site because she respected what she called "the care and attention" Skolorr gives potential clients. "Other than that," she added, "online can provide a fantastic platform to showcase the product — not just the piece itself but the story behind it."
David Gouten, co-founder and managing partner of Manufacture Royale, said the biggest reason he has embraced e-commerce — and Skolorr, in particular — is because traditional retailers have failed to support independents.
The company has about 35 sales points but, he said, "only about five to seven are active."
"Part of our strategy will be to cut our distribution," he added. "We'll keep the best ones, the ones willing to do something with the brand because they understand how to treat their clients, but it will be a parallel world with online platforms."
Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook.