what did web 2.0 do for horology?

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Long time before the term web 2.0 got widely known (the term became notable after the first web 2.0 conference in 2004, organized by Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media), there were plenty of social-networking web sites for horology fans. Most of these sites started in the second half of the 1990s, think of WatchUseek and TimeZone etc. These sites had (and still have) an enourmeous amount of information on all kinds of wrist watches and all kinds of brands.

However, for the sake of clarity, I will also refer to those pre-web 2.0 days as web 2.0.

It is remarkable that the watch manufacturers and watch dealers didn’t know (and sometimes still don’t know) what to do with this social-networking thing. Part of them still ignores the social-networking web sites because the grey market is a bit too present on those communities for them.

Another part of them has incorporated their own forum (like IWC) to – at least – be in control of what is going on amongst the watch community. Angelo Bonati, CEO of Panerai, some times post a message on the famous Paneristi forum, to show he (Panerai) feels connected to the Paneristi community. It is a great marketing tool for Panerai, to see what’s up amongst collectors and Panerai die-hards.

Most brands (either manufacturers or authorized dealers) still do not participate on those forums. Some of them are ‘reading’, to see what the small group of on-line collectors / adepts have to say about their brand or store, but the whole idea of communicating through these forums/portals/blogs seems to be ignored. It can be even worse though. I still get the shivers when I read on official websites (Ebel for example, see below) that all watches of their brand that are being sold through the internet, are not genuine or have at least a ‘dubious’ origin. Well, to my best knowledge, watches from the so-called ‘grey circuit’ are most of the time stamped by an official dealer. This means that these watches are perfectly genuine and that the original dealer who stamped the watch, made sure you can bring it in for warranty issues or service. Ebel seems to forbid authorized dealers to sell their Ebel watches through the internet, while the sales corners on forums offer new ones (dealer stamped) by the dozen. Or what to think about the watch sellers on watch market portal Chrono24? Authorized dealers are probably having a hard time by these restrictions. It must be frustrating to tell customers ‘no’ when these customers tell them about the percentages they can get off a watch offered through them via Chrono24 or sales corners on forums and asks whether the authorized dealer can offer him/her a similar deal. How can a brand expect an authorized dealer to compete with the grey market when these official channels aren’t allowed to use the internet in a proper manner? Some of the brands seem to use the web technology for their own website only (e.g selling brand related books, handling requests for brochures, handling requests for information on vintage watches). I think it would be nice to see that they will take it to the next level and be a true competitor to the grey markets.

At the same time, web 2.0 is used by brands (like Panerai, Doxa, IWC etc) to check whether the customer is hungry for new models. Web 2.0 is a full functional marketing tool, they only have to keep an eye on the message boards and they know what’s cooking. This information can be used to create new models (even new brands) and can be used to manage a part of the after sales service. Problems with watches are being discussed on these forums, especially when the problems are structural. Let’s take the Omega caliber 33xx for example. This movement had its share of problems since the beginning of the introduction. The problems seemed to be structural, as the Omega forums got flooded with cases of broken movements of this type. Omega COULD have used this information on forums and blogs to take control over the situation, and send out a message to the authorized dealers to pay extra attention on these watches when being sold or when they come in for a service or repair. They even could use the watch portals/forums to send out a message to the watch community that they were working on the problem (or solution) for these watches. I think that such messages would have done good to the (brand’s) image of these particular watches.

Now, for the good things of web 2.0 and horology. I am happy to see that a number of authorized dealers seem to have found a way to use this technology for their business in a positive way. Watch portals and forums like Horomundi, the Dutch Rolex Forum, TimeZone, Paneristi etc organizes so-called Get-To-Gethers (GTGs). These GTGs are meant to get to know the persons behind the posts and contributions and discuss their passion, watches. It seems to become a trend that authorized dealers attend these GTGs as well, to be able to introduce themselves and to demonstrate that they are willing to be ‘in’. I have attended several GTGs and noticed that the on-line watch community really appreciates these visits of the authorized dealers. Most of the time they will bring the latest brochures and tell the on-line watch community about the latest products of the brands that they represent. I have seen Panerai BeneLux presenting their latest inhouse movements on a GTG in Antwerp in 2005. A Dutch authorized Rolex dealer was present at the most recent GTG of the Dutch Rolex Forum in 2008. Besides getting questions from the online watch community, the dealers can gain some information on what’s on the customers mind. This way, a brand or authorized dealer can participate in the customers needs. Of course, the watch community does not represent ALL customers of a certain brand, but since every house hold seems to be online and googling, it should give a pretty good idea of what’s hot and what’s not.

Conclusion: Brands should not be scared and find a way to use the web 2.0 technology. It could probably save on some traditional marketing costs as well ;). It will probably also bring a better understanding between manufacturer and authorized dealer. Because the latter one must be getting tired to sell ‘no’ to the e-aware customer.

Of course, this post is subject to my own thoughts on the matter. I would be interested to hear other opinions on this. Perhaps I am all wrong ;)

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14 Responses to “what did web 2.0 do for horology?”

  1. UpComingCamera.Info » Blog Archive » what did web 2.0 do for horology? Says:

    […] issues or service. Ebel seems to forbid authorized dealers to sell their Ebel watches … MORE >>Creadit By weight […]

  2. Jason Rakowski Says:

    Good Layout and design. I like your blog. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. .

    Jason Rakowski

  3. Horology and the Web « Tick Talk Says:

    […] Horology and the Web Published March 19, 2008 watches Tags: watches Here is a great post at WatchFreaks about how the web and horology are intermingling. Check it out here. […]

  4. JP - Men's Watch Review Says:

    Great article.

    Manufacturers who truly understand how powerful the Internet and web 2.0 are, are definitely using this to their advantage and benefiting greatly from it.

    -JP

  5. alonbj Says:

    Dear RJ,

    excellent post! We have discussed this subject already couple of times and I have several hats on: an authorized dealer, WatchFreak and TechFan.

    As authorized retailer I am VERY frustrated that we are not permitted to sell online. I wrote several posts about it on our companies blog (www.aceblog.info) and we decided this year that we are going to be the first Dutch jeweler that will have a luxury eBoutique. Unfortunately we will NOT be able to sell, all the brands we represent in our physical stores, online.

    As a WatchFreak, I am amazed by the fact that the watch industry is completely ignorant about internet… Especially Web 2.0! Not only is a fraction of their marketing budget allocated to online advertisement/marketing, although almost every consumer starts watch shopping online. Besides that, all the brands stick their heads in the sand like an ostrich and do not want to see what is happening outside the doors of their factories. This in relation to so-called grey-markets, fake watches and/or online sales, but also to innovations in other industries that compete with the watch industry if it comes to consumer spendings (think of Apple-products/Flat-screen tv/etc).

    As as a TechFan (Technology Fan) I am amazed by the fact how watch brands neglect the fact to exploit the possibilities of internet to the fullest! None of them let authorized retailers sell online, but none of them sell online themselves! I understand the fact that they don’t sell online (yet), but at least learn from other (industries). I won’t start about after-sales services… That we can write a complete article about (hint ;) )

  6. Shared Sentiment On Online Watch Sales And Manufacturer Internet Presence | aBlogtoRead.com Says:

    […] and the watch loving/selling community, there is an excellent article on Fratell0watches.com (linked to Watch Freaks) on the topic of “Web 2.0 and horology.” The idea seems to be that watch makers (of […]

  7. Harold Overdijk Says:

    Interesting post. I have to disagree and agree. Agree: In one of our own meetings someone (an older generation type) told us a year ago… “ahhh the internet.. really it will go away”.. after having lived in Silicon Valley for 4 years that was quite an interesting statement. There’s definitely a lot of closed mindedness in the industry, especially by an older, already successful generation. (Either successful (and thus lazy), or in the process of going bankrupt like hundreds of retailers in the USA).. there’s not much in between).

    The whole industry is led by older men who are not always to new ideas. Peter Drucker wrote a cool article with an extensive analysis of the jewelry industry much like the ongoing discussion for the watch industry. I believe it was publised in JCK Journal, Winter 2006.

    I THINK you can find it after the jump (their site was down when I tried it)
    http://www.jckonline.com/article/CA6320875.html

    We think that the younger generation is a very different breed however. Unfortunately they didn’t make it to CEO yet.

    About web 2.0. Web 2.0 goes a bit further than what you describe it is, or could be. While I agree it’s about building communities, it’s equally about creating different business models and I would say “Communication models”. We’re working on some “stuff” ourselves, so obviously we cannot mention all our ideas.

    But think about what a social graph can do for items/topics people are passionate about. Such as sports. Or Fashion. Think about what branding can do: from introducing into a social graph to advergames.

    Or better even.. just give me what I need and I will make my own branding and marketing message by meshing the cool videos, images, information of my favorite brand into whatever I like: from fashion trends to seasonal holidays. Who needs some cookie-cutter marketing bullshit movie anyway ? Perhaps the baby boomers do… brings me back to old men… (jussstt kidding…..)

    Chief Internet Evangelist
    Stealth Jewelry and Watch start-up.
    Amsterdam-San Francisco

  8. Harold Overdijk Says:

    One more thing.

    You know what it really is about ? Control.

    Just like many content producers (record industry, movies, newspapers, photographers), brands are afraid of loosing control of the message, their brand. So.. instead of creating evangelists out of their biggest fans, and letting the internet do the work for them.. they try to restrain it.

    Guess what.. yeah.. you know the answer. Music is never being ripped right ? Watches are never being sold online outside the official dealer network. Right ?

    But you know.. you just need a very different breed of people to try to manage “anarchy”…. or better said: to try to organize yourself in a networked environment. That’s what Web 2.0 is about.

  9. alonbj Says:

    @Harold: Thanks for the reaction. Interesting views! Please do share your new projects as soon as you can.

  10. Harold Overdijk Says:

    Alonbj. It’ll be a slow, incremental roll-out. We should talk perhaps this summer ? Where ?

  11. James Hewson Says:

    An interesting post. The grey market is a complicated thing at times and as far as I can tell revolves around the overall control of the manufacturers to manipulate the RRP of their models. Grey imports (or exports) tend to not have a dealer stamp and it is this reason why unauthorized dealers are able to sell the products at dramatically discounted prices. They are not fake watches, they are the same watches which in most cases will still be serviced by the manufacturer. There are however some brands whom continue to try and control the RRP of thier watches by demanding that unauthorized dealers cannot have their customers send them watches for service – the customer has to make a choice, 50-60% lower RRP and no service by the manufacturer, or much higher prices and full service capability.

    I guess it depends on the brand and how much you are going to be paying for the item. As with everything these days, you can insure the risk of damage on the lowest priced items but you need to weight up the pros and cons depending on the overall risk.

  12. Garry M Green Says:

    Great site and goof information but with all the great looking and expensive watches around, I perfer the Casio brand of wrist watches. They are inexpensive, last forever, rugged, functional, many features and practical.

  13. Garry M Green Says:

    Great site and good ……

  14. תכשיטי יוקרה Says:

    Great stuff,
    Thanks for sharing.

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