Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

BaselWorld 2011

March 25, 2011

BaselWorld 2011

 

 

 

It has been a (long) while since I have written here… I AM SORRY!

As you guys know, WatchFreaks Blog, is a brain child of mine and has never been intended as a commercial medium… Rather I have seen it as an open platform for all WatchFreaks to share their ideas about their passion: WATCHES :)

Unfortunately I really lack time to share my objective thoughts about my passion for watches :( As online activities at AceJewelers.com are booming, all my (online/social media) efforts are absorbed there…

Therefore I have to sadly write that I will not upload an objective daily BaselWorld update this year here on WatchFreaksBlog.com! In case you do appreciate my vision of the subjective side of the WatchWorld, please visit the Ace Jewelers Blog here on WordPress as of Monday March 28th, 2011 for daily picture and movie updates of the watch brands that we represent.

I postponed this decision for months, but as my SIHH 2011 Trade Show Review is still stored as a draft, I had to face reality… Hope you respect my decision.

And this is a trend unfortunately, because all the other contributors are drowning in their own watch activities… Therefore I transforming this post in to a non-profit job opening :)

ALWAYS WANTED TO SHARE YOUR (QUALITATIVE) THOUGHTS ABOUT WATCHES AND THE WATCH INDUSTRY?
PLEASE JOIN WATCHFREAKSBLOG.COM AS AN EDITOR. Applying the “http://five.sentenc.es policy”, please send a short e-mail to info [at] watchfreaksblog.com describing why you want to join us.

Thank you for your support and hope you enjoy all the eye & wrist candies this year as much as I do :)

=Alon

How many lives does Rodolphe have?

January 30, 2011

On October 19th, 2009 I wrote the article here on WatchFreaksBlog.com: “Legendary Watch Designers: Rodolphe” after he announced that he was leaving Franck Muller’s Watchland.

Last week I received a press release that Rodolphe Cattin started a new watch company: Manufacture Rodolphe Cattin together with Thomas Meyer and I could stop and wonder how many professional lives Rodolphe has…

Rodolphe Cattin & Thomas Meyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will spare you and not copy the complete press release in to here, you can download the PDF here.

WatchFreaksBlog.com contributor Motomax summurized Rodolphe’s professional life as followed:

“Rodolphe Cattin comes from Porrentruy and was schooled at the School of Applied Arts in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He worked through stints with watch brands like Omega and Tissot before he started to work for Longines. A rebel at heart, he started first his own design company, Rodolphe & Co., which did design work for other parties. His second company, Rodolphe Montres & Bijoux, presented its first watches, bearing the name Rodolphe, in 1996. In the fifteen years of its existence Rodolphe grew: it was established in Le Bois and in La Chaux-de-Fonds, where a workforce of around twenty produced 1000-2000 watches a year.

In April 2005 the Franck Muller Watchland group (FM) took over both companies (Rodolphe Cattin stayed on, also as minority shareholder). At the time of the take-over the Swiss watch industry was in full bloom. Rodolphe was considered to be another extension of the fast-growing FM and Rodolphe Cattin had great hopes to expand further under the wings of the much larger group. Then the Credit Crisis struck, but even before the crisis FM was already in trouble because of a nasty conflict with the Swiss tax authorities. The crisis made a bad situation worse and FM’s board had other things on its mind then caring for Rodolphe.

In October 2009 Rodolphe Cattin left the watch industry after a series of disappointments, with feelings of sadness. However, someone like Rodolphe Cattin cannot sit still and this month he announced his return to the watch world with the launching of the Manufacture Rodolphe Cattin (MRC), co-founded with Thomas Meyer.”

Rodolphe Tourbillon Watch by MRC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MRC will attach more importance to its ladies’ than to its men’s collections (60/40). The first MRC watches will be presented in January in Geneva, but there will be a single pushpiece chronograph, dual time versions and various tourbillons in the men’s collection and spectacular diamond-studded ladies’ watches with mother-of-pearl dials.

All of us at WatchFreaks wish both Rodolphe Cattin and Thomas Meyer good luck with their new manufacture and can’t wait to see the watches in real life.

Combine Film & Watches: Short Film Competition

November 10, 2010

Take a true look at Fakes
Art and Creativity in the fight to end counterfeiting – Short film competition
By: Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH)

Film maker

Courtesy: phoenixsunmedia.org

As part of its mission to inform, the FHH is actively involved in raising public awareness of the risks and implications of counterfeiting. After its “Fake Watches are for Fake People” campaign (read article by WatchFreaks editor RJ @ FratelloWatches.com), the Foundation is launching a short film competition using the web, where many counterfeit products are sold.

The FHH is convinced that art can give its message greater impact, and is inviting you to make your short film on the theme of counterfeiting.

The shortlisted films will be shown at hautehorlogerie.org where visitors can vote for their favourites and share their selection on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The two winners will receive a timepiece by a Fine Watch brand:

* Jury Prize – awarded by five personalities from the world of art and film.

* Public’s Prize – awarded by online voting (voting open from March 1st to April 15th).

The two winning films will be shown at festivals, and will be the highlight of a gala evening in Lausanne.

How to take part

Counterfeiting: an economic scourge

Counterfeiting plagues every sector of industry. The global market in counterfeit goods is equivalent in value to almost 7% of world trade.

Today’s “second-generation” counterfeits create an almost perfect illusion, making it harder for end customers and distribution networks to identify them as fakes.

Counterfeiting amounts to nothing more than theft. It is the misappropriation of expertise, creativity, continued investment and the image a brand has forged over time.

See “Counterfeiting” on the FHH website.

See “Fake vs. Replica” on WatchFreaksBlog.com.

Fake vs. Replica

October 4, 2010

As a WatchFreak you might have seen this already, but I had to share it with you. Not only is it funny, but I want to pay respect to our fellow WatchFreak who cares… This summer the Australian Watchmaker Nicholas Hacko had an interesting chat with a website selling watches:

Source: Authentics Foundation

“- Hi, my name is Nicholas Hacko. I am a watch dealer. I’ve just visited your website and wonder if you also wholesale watches?

- Hi. Well I am just a watch dispatch person you need to talk to my boss.

- That’s fine. However, it is important that before we enter into any business transaction, I want to make sure I am not breaking any laws…

- What do you mean?

- Well you guys do sell fake watches, right?

- No, not fakes. We sell replicas.

- Replicas, fakes, same thing…

- No, no. Our replicas are NOT fakes!

- Oh sorry, my misunderstanding. So you actually do sell genuine Rolex watches?

- No, no. You don’t understand the difference with fake and replica…

- Huh?

- … not genuine Rolex, just Rolex replica. But definitely not the FAKE Rolex.

- OK I see. You sell REPLICA Rolex!

- That’s exactly right. Genuine replicas which look identical to real Rolexes.

- Very good. So would you be able to accept payments in replica money?

- What do you mean, I don’t understand???

- You know, the replica money. Money which looks identical to real money but it is just replica. Like the stuff I can print on my printer…

- [laughter...] I don’t know, I am just a dispatch worker. You really need to talk to my boss [more laughter...]

- OK – let’s say that I do come into agreement with your boss and he does accept my replica money for his replica watches – which sounds like a perfectly fair deal to me – would you accept that replica money as your wages?

- [upset voice] Are you serious??? I don’t work for fake money!!

- No, no, no – it is not FAKE money, it is just REPLICA money, mate …

- Sir, I am busy, if you have any more questions please send us an email.”

The full article is available on Hacko’s blog: “Aussie website cashes in on counterfeits“.

Although this is a quite funny conversation, the subject is very serious. For additional information about the fake AND replica problem, please visit:

- Authentics Foundation – “Fakes cost more

- FakesAreNeverInFashion.com – “Innovation in brand protection

- My Authentics – “Is it fake

Please share you opinion about fakes, replicas, counterfeits, etc.

Etiquette: Watches & Tuxedos

October 16, 2009

Often I have discussions  if you can or cannot wear a wrist watch while wearing a tuxedo/smoking. My answer is always: depends on the smoking you are wearing… Is it for a black tie or white tie event?

Image: Esquire.com

Image: Esquire.com

Therefore I did some research.

Let start with the word ‘etiquette’… What does that mean? On Wikipedia we learn: “Etiquette is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. The French word, signifying ticket (of admission, etc.) first appeared in English in 1750.”

And, what does it mean if one receives an invitation which states ‘Black Tie’ as dress code? Although it can differ slightly per country, generally we can state: ‘black tie is a dress code for semi-formal evening events, and is worn to many types of social functions. For a man, the major component is a jacket, known as a tuxedo, which is usually black. A woman’s corresponding evening dress is a long evening gown (gala attire).’

If we focus on the men, here are some tips on what makes a smoking:

Unlike white tie, which is very strictly regulated, black-tie ensembles can display more variation. In brief, the traditional components are:

- A jacket with silk facings (usually grosgrain or satin), called the dinner jacket.
– Trousers with silk braids matching the lapels.
– A black cummerbund or low-cut waistcoat.
– A white dress shirt with either a marcella (piqué cotton), stiff, or pleated front.
– A black silk bow tie.
– Black dress socks, usually silk.
– Black shoes in patent or highly polished leather, or patent leather court shoes.

So, what about the watches??? Good question!!!

What would we do without Google :) First thing I did is Google this question and I was surprised how little results I found. I found a comment by the GQ Style Guy about wearing a Tux during a wedding:

“What style of timepiece to wear at your wedding I am getting married soon, and I am not sure what style timepiece I should put on my wrist. I’ll be wearing a very traditional one-button black tuxedo, a white shirt, a vest and a white Windsor tie. My cuff links are sterling silver. The wedding is on a Saturday morning. Would it be more appropriate for me to wear a Cartier rectangular face with Roman numerals and a black leather band or a Rolex with a stainless-steel band? I’m concerned that the Rolex might be too flashy. I am leaning toward the Cartier, with the leather band.

You’re lucky. You must have very few other problems to be so concerned with this. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about what’s appropriate; since you are planning to wear evening clothes in the morning, appropriateness is no longer a consideration. But given your choices, I do think you’re better off with a dress watch—the Cartier—than with the Rolex, which I’m presuming is something of a sports watch. Unless, of course, the wedding will take place underwater, in which case the Rolex will function down to 300 meters. If the Cartier watch is gold, you might consider wearing gold cuff links (and studs?) or even asking your best man to be the timekeeper.”

But, what if the wedding is at night, cause the style guy is rather right, it is not often that you wear a tuxedo before sunset…

Back to Wikipedia… After looking three times, I finally found something of relevance: “Timepiece: If worn, a wristwatch should be slender, plain, and elegant; alternatively, a pocket watch may be worn on the waistcoat. Traditionally, however, visible timepieces are not worn with formal evening dress, because timekeeping is not considered a priority.”

Mmmmm… A bit contradictory. If worn, classic is the key, but then it states traditionally timepieces are not worn. What to do if you don’t own a pocket watch… So, is a wrist watch acceptable or not?

Hubpages says it is: “Your watch needs to be as slim and sleek as your tuxedo. Black tie is classic formal wear, keep your timepiece in the same league with a leather strap and basic black face. Keep those chunky chronographs with the compasses at home or on the fishing boat, you need to be dressy, not flashy here.”

I found this quote on several other sites… Google doesn’t help that much on this subject, so my dear fellow WatchFreaks, please share your opinion.

Who’s the King?

August 16, 2008

We all love ranks, lists, competition and knowing who is the best. In the watch industry many players crown themselves as the king of the industry. Consumers always want to own the best watch. But who is actually the king?

Is Rolex the king of the watch industry, like many people (want to) believe? Or, did Rolex crown itself as the king of the watch industry, and therefore have a crown as their logo?

Rolex Logo

Rolex Logo

Like many people, I always wondered what watch brand was the absolute number 1. But who and what defines the number one? As a small child, I always believed the one that produced the largest quantity of watches, is the number one. Since I was infected with the Swatch virus, that started in 1983 (I was four and had a Swatch on my wrist – I couldn’t even read time), I believed Swatch was the number one. As I grew older, Swatch grew to be a huge international hype. When I grew even older and started to understand the value of money and recognize the diversity of the many brands, I believed Rolex was the number one. Not only because it seemed everybody who spoke about watches, spoke about Rolex; but also because it seemed the ultimate watch brand for many.

When I started high school and started to work in the family business during holidays, I learned there were so many more brands out there. Many of them weren’t even sold in The Netherlands and I started to fall in love with Jaeger-LeCoultre, Patek Philippe and Audermars Piguet. Now that I am working in this industry for more than 10 years, I have the greatest respect and appreciation for the geniuses that are still alive and create amazing, innovative movements (like: FP Journe, Richard Mille, Grubel & Forsey, Renaud & Papi, etc). But also people, like Kurt Klaus, who work for the major brands (I had the honour to have met him on many different occasions and even drove him from one side of The Netherlands to the other – the poor guy, I drilled him for the complete two hours).

At the end of this post I will share my opinion of whom I believe is the king, but first let’s define some means to measure the greatness of a brand. First and foremost, people will always define quantity. But this is tricky, since some Japanese or Chinese manufacturers most probably produce more pieces annually than the complete Swiss watch industry. So, we need to narrow this down. The second definition that pops into my mind is exclusiveness and that is immediately linked to luxury. And, to measure exclusivity one can use recommended retail prices and therefore crown the most profitable watch brand as the king of the watch industry?! But, what about values at auctions? Let’s propose historic and/or market prices as a third definition.
As a fourth definition we could consider is independence as a parameter… We all know “money makes money” and with enough marketing budgets, one can ‘buy’ exclusiveness, market shares, brand awareness and raise auction priceses (Antiquorum Scandal and remember the Omegamania auction?!). So, independent brands should be considered more successful, if they excel in a market that is dominated by huge globalized public listed companies (Swatch Group, Richemont, LVMH and others). And, last but certainly not least, perception is a parameter I want to consider. For my bachelor thesis I did research about brand identity versus brand image of watch brands. This is a very interesting and timeless subject: The self-perception of almost anyone (persons and companies) is different if compared to how we are perceived (but then again, the truth is in the eye of the beholder ;) ).

If we look at these five parameter to define who is the king of the watch industry, we have to analyze each paramter:

1. Quantity
As discussed already, some single Asian brands produce annually more watches than the complete Swiss industry, so we need to narrow it down. In the trade we generalize and split the market in to three segments: Low-end (up to EUR 1.000), mid-range (between EUR 1.000 and EUR 3.000 – some say EUR 5.000) and high-end (a.k.a. Haute Horlogerie – from EUR 3.000 or EUR 5.000) and up. And in the high-end there are many sub-segmentations possible, but we will neglect those for now. In the low-end, Seiko is the king of quantities. In the mid-range, I find it very difficult to quantify, but I personally believe it is Tissot (please share if you have any statistics – I couldn’t find any now). And, in the high end it is indisputably Rolex! Although Rolex does not publicize any figures, there are rough estimates that Rolex manufactures about 1 million watches a year. We can conclude this by the figures the COSC publicizes.

COSC Certificate

COSC Certificate

2. Exclusivity/Profitability
Many watch brand nowadays compete for the title to have created the most exclusive watches. Some say the most expensive watch is the most exclusive (I believe that today this is still the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon). Others say that this is not only one of the most expensive watches, but also a watch that has been produced in a limited series… Of course, a piece unique should win this title… lately people say it is the replica of the Breguet Marie-Antoinette. But let’s not forget the IWC Grand Complication Il destriero scafusia, Vacheron Constantin Tour de I’lle and Blancpain Le Brassus 1735 Grande Complication. Of course there are a few more that belong in this list. But measured overall, Patek Philippe is the brand that creates and manufactures the most exclusive watches in the market (you’ll rarely find discounts on these watches – many models will be sold with a premium). Their aim was from the start to create the best watches in the market and even today they live by this promise. Linked to this, I dare to say it is the most profitable company, if measured by market price divided by quantity sold annually (no numbers know, so this is pure my personal hunch).

Breguet Marie-Antoinette

Breguet Marie-Antoinette

3. Timelessness/Market Values
Although recommended retail prices could indicate how exclusive a timepiece is, but wouldn’t market prices be an even more important tool to classify the exclusiveness of watches? As discussed in the previous paragraph, there are only a few watches that actually sell above the asking price. The first watch that comes to mind is the Rolex Daytona in stainless steel for a watch that is still in production and on auctions almost all vintage Patek Philippe watches break records (In the top 10 of The Most Important Vintage Wristwatches (made before 1990), all 10 watches are by Patek Philippe!). Therefore I believe Patek Philippe is the undisputed king of timelessness and holding its value. Or even more important, proving to be a good investment: It will only go up in price. On top of that, nowadays, almost every new launched Patek Philippe watch sells for a higher price than the recommended list price! But ofcourse the also produces models that make many of us wonder what the designers where thinking while creating these pieces.

Patek Ref. 1415 HU - Most expensive wrist watch (USD 4 million)

Patek Ref. 1415 HU - Most expensive wrist watch (USD 4 million)

4. Market size: Independents vs. Groups
After the quartz-crisis in the 1970s, not many watch companies survived and most of them that survived joint forces. Nowadays, we can conclude that the luxury goods sector is dominated by corporations. And this also counts for the watch industry. Many international watch brands (mostly haute horlogerie brands) are now part of a large consolidated corporation selling watches, jewelry, leather goods, hunting weapons and writing instruments. Although Swatch Group is the only luxury corporation that focuses on the watch industry, it is by far not the largest group, measured in turn over. The top 10 of luxury good companies that manufacture watches is (in 2006 in billion USD):

1. LVMH (Zenith, TAG Heuer, Hublot, Dior, etc.) = 20,2
2. Richemont (Cartier, Mont Blanc, IWC, Panerai, etc.) = 6,3
3. PPR (Gucci, Bedat, Sowind, etc.) = 4,7
4. Chanel = 4,6
5. Swatch Group (Omega, Breguet, Blancpain, Longines, etc.) = 4,2
6. Valentino (Valentino, Hugo Boss, etc.) = 2,6
7. Hermes = 2
8. Giorgo Armani = 2
9. Dolce & Gabbana = 1,4
10. Bulgari = 1,3

Unfortunately all these groups do not publicize the individual figures of the subsidiaries and therefore we can’t analyze and compare individual watch brands. On top of that the individual watch brands also do not publicize their turnovers and profit margins, so therefore we have no clue who is the ‘largest’ watch company by turnover. But if we have to guess what group is the largest, based on their turnover generated by pure watch sales, Richemont is definitely the largest! Although LVMH is more than three times larger, their watch sales most probably do not surpass those of Richemont! We have no clue how profitable Patek Philippe and Audermars Piguet exactly are, but everybody in the watch industry indisputably assumes that Rolex is the largest and most profitable individual watch brand/company. There is no manufacture that produces around 1 million quality watches annually with an average price of approx. USD 8.000! And then we do not even take Tudor in to account, but that is probably pocket change for Rolex S.A.?!

5. Perception
This is a difficult one! As written before, I have written my bachelor dissertation about Brand Identity versus Brand Image. They only way to quantify this is to do a large-scale poll. In this poll one should assess the identity of a brand and compare it with the perception of its consumers. So litteraly compare the image of the consumers with the identity a brand. Again I emphasize that this post is my personal opinion and I am heavily generalizing here. My purpose is to provoke responses, so please do share your opinion. If I have to guess, I believe that Rolex believes they are the king of the watch industry (therefore have a crown in their logo). On the other hand if you ask the majority of the population and ask them what the best watch brand is, probably 80% will say Rolex! Rolex ranks number 72 of the Top 100 Best Global Brands (Newsweek), so that is not very strange. The funny things is two years ago the Swatch Group publicly attacked Rolex (the subject of my next post), by claiming that in three years time Omega will be bigger than Rolex, measured in turn over. So, in 2006 Nick Hayek Jr. claimed that by 2009-2010 Omega will be bigger than Rolex (therefore admitting Rolex is the king) and aiming to be the king of the watch industry.

What about the 20% that doesn’t believe that Rolex is the king… Many people who have decided to by a good watch, go out there without analyzing the large selection of watches available and buy a Rolex. They buy a Rolex, because they believe they bought ‘THE’ best watch out there. But, often they are disgusted by the fact that ‘everyone’ has a Rolex (or Lolex – or any other look-a-like). If their passion for mechanical movements grow, they are obliged to look into other brands. If you want a chronograph (and have a Daytona or can’t get one) you are obliged to look at other brands. If you want a watch that is even more complicated, you definitely have to look elsewhere. So, for lovers of mechanical movements and complications, I believe Patek Philippe is the undisputed king, and I simply base this notion on the fact of the auction results! But even the true WatchFreaks often love Rolex watches too! Rolex has made and still makes iconic/minimalistic/qualitative movements and watches! Personally I have loved Rolex, then the love passed, it come back again and now turned into a love-hate relationship…. Yes, I know: Love is complicated ;) Maybe a nice topic for another post! 

Personally I believe that the King of the watch industry is a watch brand that finds a balance between heritage, innovation, quality and timelessness (read: is of will be a legend). Personally, I believe Patek Philippe is the king of the industry, because:

- Like many other watch brands, has an amazing heritage. It is still a family company (but not the Patek or Philippe family – but still independent).

- It is one of the most innovative watch manufacturers out there. I believe Patek was the first one to create silicium spare parts in their movement. But to be honest, Audemars Piguet and Ulysee Nardin are as innovative. But it underlines again that the independents invest more in the long term, versus the short term profit strategy of many groups.

- I believe innovation and quality go hand in hand, but when Patek Philippe was founded their aim was to produce the best movements and watches out there. This is proven by the results on auctions. Today they also produce one of the best watch movements and watches, this is underlined by the huge waiting lists for models and the premiums people are willing to pay for the new watches!

- In the battle of who produces the largest watches, Patek still sticks to the ‘old-fashioned’ small and thin movements. I believe that is very daring, but then again, that shows vision and faith in their own identity and strategy!

- Last, but not least: Exclusivity/Distribution. Even though Rolex doesn’t really have many retailers compared to other brands, Patek is truly exclusive. It only has a handful retailers and they only work with the best retailers in every city/country! No concessions to quality and service! 

The funny thing is, I believe that Patek is the King of the watch industry, I still do not have the urge to run out and get one particular Patek at this very moment. I do love the 5960p, but still I love my Portuguese Chrono more (sorry!). And I always loved the Nautilus (am a huge fan of Gerald Genta – AP Royal Oak is my favourite), but even though the new 5711/1 grew to a good size of a 43mm, I find the watch thin (case and bracelet)! But what an amazing movement and what a finish on every single detail! 

Yes, when I am a bit older and have a lot more grey hair, I definitely want a Perpetual Calendar in white gold (5140G). But still, 37mm is very small. My wrist is not to big and therefore I don’t wear watches over 44mm, where 42mm is ideal for me. 39mm is really the minimum for me, but just for the love for the brand and this model it is a dream to wear the 5140! But first I want the IWC Portuguese Perpetual Calendar (IW502218).

I am very curious who you believe is the king of the watch industry!

A mechanical greeting,

Alon

P.S. Rolex was founded in 1905 and the Crown-logo was registered in 1925.

The Masters of Haute Horlogerie

August 14, 2008

Recently, I have been watching a series of videos on TheTimeTV titled “The Masters of Haute Horlogerie”. Being relatively new to the world of watches, it was really nice to be able to have a deeper insight about the various positions in the watchmaking world.

Technically speaking, these videos (as well as many other similar videos) can be found in the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie website (which I did try to find), but to me, I found it a little difficult to navigate around. But, there are so many interesting tidbits and I still had a good time reading about them. It is really amazing that there are so many dedicated professionals who are still faithfully producing the watches by hand.

I was watching with fascination about the movement designer, stone setter, the engraver and many more.  I am also beginning to wonder more. For example, in the instance a the stone setter, there seems to be zero tolerance of trembles. Any slight movements seems to be able to cause a failure. In fact, only the skilled stone setter understands how to combine precious stones with metal in a harmonious manner. As for the movement designer, he seems to have the biggest responsibility of all. He has to be responsible for the design and layout of combining all the various components and harmonising them as one.

Nonetheless, I think everyone who is interested in watches should still take a look at the articles or watch the videos at least once. As for me, I have watched them at least twice, and each time, I get more amazed and strengthen my belief that as long as there are these passionate professionals around, the watch industry is only going to get better. Perhaps you really need to take a look to believe my words? You can find them all in Fondation de le Haute Horlogerie or TheTimeTV.

Are brands being diluted?

August 4, 2008

I was reading the statistics by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry a couple of weeks ago, and it appeared that in 2008, Hong Kong is the top watch buyer of swiss watches with more than CHF1.3 Billion from Jan to June. Although it is not surprising to see that Asian countries are becoming more and more important markets in terms of luxury watches, but to see Hong Kong outpacing even America was indeed a surprise. That drew me back to the latest World Wealth Report 2007 by Merrill Lynch. It seems that for the past couple of years, luxury watches are ranked No. 1 in terms of “investments of passions” among Asians.

Countries such as China, Singapore, India etc are all experiencing record growth in HNWIs, and even among the working professionals, many of them have no qualms about spending 10k on a watch or even a dress. Its no wonder why everyone seems to be flocking there now. However, one of my main worries is that many brands will end up diluting their brand image. For example, there is a prestigious brand and it was deemed as an ultra-luxury brand. However, one of my friends recently told me that in Asia it seems that everyone can afford to buy it as it is producing cheaper models. It seems like luxury is no longer so exclusive after all.

Therefore, it was very encouraging for me to see that there are still many watchmakers out there who are still focusing on the traditional aspects of the industry. Companies that are focused on building a relationship, and not focused on building an empire. I had the chance to meet up with a couple of independent watchmakers, and you could really see the fire in their eyes. Some of them are producing just 15 to 20 watches per year, but they are more focused on giving individual attention to the watches even if they are capable of increasing their output. I just wished that there are more out there with this passion.

Meanwhile, check out some of the independents – Académie Horlogère Des Créateurs Indépendants at this website www.ahci.ch and learn more about the passion.

Watch Advertizements

July 6, 2008

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I were on our way to a department store. On our way there, we passed a watch (and jewelry) shop and stopped to have quick look at their watch collection. As we moved on, my girlfriend asked the following question: “Why do watch brands advertize with Brad Pitt and George Clooney for men’s watches? Men don’t want to be like them and probably don’t even like them.”. I just nodded and added “I understand that brands advertize with legends like James Bond or Steve McQueen, but advertizing with Brad Pitt and George Clooney doesn’t make sense to me either”. And it really doesn’t. I don’t have to explain James Bond I assume, but perhaps that Steve McQueen is more or less an actor like Brad Pitt and George Clooney are. However, Steve McQueen has a different kind of cult status. Besides being an actor, he was involved in racing motor bikes and cars as well. And he passed away some time ago (1980), perhaps this helps a bit as well.

I can’t imagine that guys are persuaded to buy a Tag Heuer or Omega watch because Brad and George are advertizing for these brands. By the way, ever noticed that Brad Pitt wears Rolex in the Ocean-movies? Who comes up with these silly advertizing campaigns? Omega should advertize with astronauts, a few sports people and perhaps with George Daniels. Or maybe even legends who wore Omega watches during their life times (e.g. president Kennedy). Same goes for Tag Heuer, let Brad Pitt go and continue advertizing with people like Steve McQueen and F1 drivers. Those are people that guys want to identify themselves with. The only thing men find interesting about Brad Pitt is his wife, as simple as that.

Anyway, I think that the collectors and watch freaks amongst us do not care about advertizements using movie stars and rock stars. Perhaps most of you don’t even care about advertizing with Jacques Cousteau (IWC) or Napoleon Bonaparte (Breguet). I know that I don’t.

I do like the old fashioned Rolex advertizements in National Geographic’s magazine, where pilots/explorers/divers share their experience using a Rolex watch. Or the Omega advertizement telling us that the 100.000 USD suits used by NASA astronauts are complemented by a 250 USD Speedmaster watch.

One of the best (recent) advertizements for a watch has been done by Audemars Piguet imho. A few years ago, the Audemars Piguet brochure included a portrait of an unknown watch collector who collected watches since he was a kid. At one time, he met this guy who was wearing an early model Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. This watch didn’t let him go, and he promised himself to get one. Years later, he found one in poor condition. He bought it and had it fully restored. Why I think this is a good advertizement? Because it is finally about an unknown guy with love for watches, hunting for that special time piece, buying it and admiring it. No show-off, no famous face, no movie star… Great! I can relate to that!

 

 

Show-off-ish?

May 16, 2008

As a watchfreak, I’m sure you have come across people who think you’re just being a show off with your fancy watches. Or, at the least, you must have been in situations in which you preferred to tuck your watch away under your sleeve. I know I certainly have. Of course, watches are luxury articles. Like many such articles, the modesty in most of us urges us to play it down a little in certain situations.

 
In my former career as a tax lawyer, I picked which watch to wear in the office and when visiting clients very carefully. In fact, I have never worn my steel Daytona even once during business hours. Not even my Explorer I. Instead, I often had a Heuer Monza around my wrist. With its black leather band and classic overall look it just seemed like a more appropriate watch to wear in the office than a Rolex, which is in my view THE show off brand in the eyes of the uninitiated.

 
I’m guessing you’ll appreciate my prudence in this respect. You just don’t want to wear a more expensive watch than your clients or even your boss. But also apart from the more obvious reasons for prudency in a business context, I think the most of us just don’t want to be too show-off-ish in general with our watches. So I’ve been asking myself, what makes a watch show-off-ish? Where is the line in haute horlogerie between a fine classic watch and a show off model? Is it the size? The use of precious stones? The material? The color? The price? The brand? It’s probably a combination of things.

 
The funny thing is we all think we recognize a show off when we see one, but we just can’t seem to point out exactly what qualifies it as such. I have compiled a short list of random watches below and took a shot in qualifying these watches as either classic or show-off-ish. You are invited to share your opinion on these watches with us in the comment section!

1. Jacob & Co. Five Automatic Chronograph

Let’s kick off with an easy one: show-off-ish. The bright colors and the excess of diamonds in the bezel (and the face of certain models) are simply too much. Another, at least equally important reason for such qualification is the people associated with this brand.

 
2. Zenith Academy Tourbillon Black Tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A truly beautiful flamboyant classic watch. Yet I get the feeling there would be some occasions I wouldn’t feel too comfortable wearing it considering its distinctive looks (I must admit this is a tough call for me – it’s a thin line!!).

 
3. Chanel J12 Tourbillon

Regardless the discussion on fashion watches/couture watches vs. haute horlogerie, I think Chanel managed to make a beautiful and classic watch. Even though its bright color and stones don’t make it a very easy watch to wear, I’d say somehow there’s still plenty of class. 

 
4. Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon

Another Tourbillon in this list, but this time no question about it: CLASSIC. So high end yet so beautifully modest.

 
5. Rolex Daytona Steel

Although not too shiny, not too big, no crazy colors and no diamonds, it’s not an all-occassion watch to me like I mentioned above. Probably because of the brand perception with (predominantly) the uninitiated and its highly sought-after status. Or is it just me?

 
Again, please do share your opinion with us!


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