Zurich — Luxury goods group Richemont has launched a new watch brand, Baume, offering trendy time pieces priced in the hundreds rather than the thousands of dollars to lure young people away from their smartphones for reading the time.

Swiss watchmakers’ sales have improved recently, after a prolonged downturn, but they are still struggling to reach young people — who wear either no watch at all, or a connected Apple Watch, and want online services that luxury watchmakers have been slow to embrace.

The new Baume brand will be sold exclusively online with prices starting at $560, a clear indication it is aimed at younger customers.

It will also try to appeal to their "green" conscience by using no animal-based or precious materials, and only paper and cardboard for packaging.

Richemont’s watch business consists of high-end brands, such as IWC or Jaeger-LeCoultre, which cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars and are still mostly sold in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Luxury watch brands have only belatedly embraced digital marketing and distribution, and are still seeking answers to the emergence of smartwatches such as Apple’s Apple Watch and the younger generation’s dwindling interest in traditional watches.

The Baume brand, officially launched on Tuesday, offers unisex watches in a minimalist design with watch straps made of recycled materials.

There is also a customisable series where users can choose from more than 2,000 permutations through an online configurator, Baume said.

"Maybe they want to try and become relevant for younger consumers," Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca said.

"They are using selling themes that should resonate well with millennials, at first sight. This could serve as the ‘access step’ into the category," he said.

Richemont reports full-year results on Friday.

Its JSE-listed shares have risen 8.99% for the year so far. It closed 0.43% lower at R121.80 on Wednesday.

The group recently made an offer to acquire online retailer Yoox Net-a-Porter and has started selling more luxury timepieces online.

Earlier in May, the company lost its tech chief — a newly created position — after he’d been in the job for just four months.